A habit is a pattern or behaviour that happens regularly which your child does, eventually, without thinking. If your child repeats the action of pulling their hair over and over again, then it has become a habit.
In most cases this is a phase which your child will outgrow with minimum intervention. However if your child’s behaviour is getting in the way of their regular activities, is causing harm or becoming embarrassing for them, then you might want to take action.
- Some children derive comfort from this habit. In such cases, your child will probably pull hair when tired or sleepy. Gently remove their hands from their hair and substitute it with a soft toy which they can cuddle instead.v
- The tantrum that is accompanied by hair pulling needs a different approach altogether. If you become worried or upset every time your child pulls their hair during a tantrum your child knows it is an effective way to get your attention. Act unimpressed and stand your ground- try to divert their attention elsewhere. If that does not work ignore the situation and walk away. Your child is smart enough to understand that the tactic is not working and will soon stop.
- Sometimes the reason why hair pulling becomes a habit is sheer boredom. That is your child just thinks of it as another way to entertain themselves. Try to get your child involved in activities and games that are interactive. In most cases the boredom is to do with their lack of physical movement.
- Try to think if the onset of hair pulling habit was accompanied by any other change in their life- did they start a new school? Get a new nanny? Start a new daycare? Get a new baby sibling? If that is the case hair pulling could be their way of managing the stress associated with the change that they are unable to communicate otherwise. Encourage them to talk about what is making them anxious. Take measures to resolve their issues.
- Try to involve them in the process of breaking the habit. Give them an alternative like say just touching the hair, instead of pulling it. Reward them and praise them every time they are able to control their behaviour.
- Be consistent with the rewarding programme. If you fail to notice their positive efforts they will more likely than not lapse into their old habit. Once they realize you are taking it seriously, they will be more enthused to break the habit.
- Some other common measure could be to keep the hair short, use a scarf /cap to cover the hair so as to limit their access to it.
Do not worry too much. Hair pulling does not cause hair loss or any permanent damage to the scalp. A little patience and a little tactic will help break the habit for good.