Punishment for Child Cutting Hair: Is It Really Necessary?

You glance away for a moment and suddenly notice household scissors and clumps of hair that seem to belong to your daughter scattered on the kitchen floor.

Praying the hair belongs to a doll, you walk into the room only to find your little girl with horribly uneven tresses. How should you react?

Punishing your child for cutting their own hair is not really productive. It can be a more effective teaching moment if you calmly ask your child why they did this, offer different outlets for creativity/boredom, and explain the importance of leaving haircuts to the professionals.

Keep in mind that even the most radical haircuts will not cause any long-term pain or damage to your child, so hold on to this perspective if you find yourself freaking out.

Keep reading to find out why children are compelled to cut their own hair, whether punishment is the right way to go, and how to deal with your kid cutting someone else’s hair.

Child Cutting Hair — What To Know

It can be distressing to see your child hack away at their beautiful hair. It can be even more upsetting to know that your son or daughter has been responsible for chopping someone else’s hair.

Let’s understand why children like to cut their own hair in the first place and when punishment may be necessary.

Why Do Children Cut Their Own Hair?

Kids love to experiment, and all parents reading this will remember what it felt like to express themselves as children.

We created with Lego bricks and manipulated Play-Doh to bring our visions to life — cutting hair can be a part of that too.

So what are the possible reasons behind kids taking the scissors to their locks?

1. Boredom/Curiosity

If the opportunity is there, kids will grab it just to occupy themselves.

In a Facebook post, one mom shared that while she was busy feeding her infant son, her daughter found time to push a stool up to the drawer, reach in for the kitchen scissors, and give herself a quirky new style!

2. Autonomy

Mom blogger and writer Jamie Harrington of Totally the Bomb notes that hair-cutting is a sign of autonomy in your child: “Your child is starting to see herself separate from you.”

Harrington continues, “Up until this moment, every single decision about your child’s body has been up to you. This one, though, is all her.”

3. Imitation

Children love to imitate what they see and play adult roles, so a recent trip to the salon with Mom may be all it took for inspiration to strike.

Chances are, your little girl or boy doesn’t know the difference between a pro hairstylist and their own experimentation!

4. Trends

More so than what kids see in the adults around them, the internet and social media play an enormous role in what a child chooses to imitate or be influenced by.

Think back to your younger self. Was there something you imitated despite knowing it wouldn’t turn out exactly as it appeared on TV or in a magazine? Thought so!

5. Dares

As children grow and start to have friends over for slumber parties, they may start to play Truth or Dare for fun, which may result in chopping their own or even someone else’s hair.

6. Healing

If your child is a little older (early teens and beyond), a drastic haircut may be in response to a breakup or a similarly difficult period.

Those first heartaches and disappointments can hit teenagers hard, and a fresh hairstyle can be a way of marking a new chapter.

Should a Child Who Cuts Their Own Hair Be Punished?

It’s understandable to be angry and upset, but punishing your child may not be productive in this scenario.

Even if their appearance shocks you beyond anything else, it’s important to reframe the reason for your angry response.

The most logical thing to stress about with a young child is the safety issue of having scissors near their face.

“I would explain, for children, scissors have a purpose for cutting paper and making school projects” notes Kiddie Academy Vice President of Education, Richard Peterson.

“It’s important not to overreact and instead ask questions to learn what the motivation was for cutting hair: are they acting out and looking for your attention, was it a case of inquisitiveness, or was this an expression of creativity in a normal stage of development?”

Should You Punish Child Who Cuts Someone Else’s Hair?

Assess the situation. Was your child innocently pretending to be a hairdresser with their friend or sibling, or was this haircut a clear act of defiance and part of an ongoing problem with scissor play from your child?

Former nanny Sarah Galle advises that punishment may not be as necessary as a conversation. “If the kid did not want his hair cut, maybe have a conversation about personal boundaries.”

If the victim of the unwanted haircut was a friend, it may be helpful to speak with their parents or guardians to discuss further action.

If your child is old enough to know better, you may decide that punishment provides an effective teaching moment.

A young girl in a striped shirt holding a pair of safety scissors.

Appropriate Punishments

Depending on your discipline style, you may find the following to be suitable punishments if your child gives someone an unwanted haircut:

  • Have them do a few extra chores.
  • Use their allowance to pay for a haircut fix or gift for the haircut victim.
  • Have them write an apology note to the parents of the haircut victim.
  • Enlist them to do chores at the victim’s house.
  • Remove some of their privileges.

What To Do When Child Cuts Their Own Hair

When your child cuts their own hair, experts advise parents not to react with anger.

Owner and consultant of the parenting coach service Miss Behavior, Julie Romanowski suggests the following:

“Explain that you don’t like what she’s done and that there will be consequences. For example, put away the scissors and tell her that she’ll be supervised when she wants to use them.”

If you sense that your child cut their hair as a form of self-expression or curiosity, Romanowski also recommends diverting your child’s attention to other pursuits:

“Offer better ways to be creative – such as crafts, dress-up, dancing in front of a mirror or face-painting.”

Kiddie Academy VP Richard Peterson also weighs in with the suggestion to take a picture of the offending haircut to serve as a funny memory of the damage:

“Tell your aspiring stylist that when using scissors for cutting hair, we always leave it up to professionals who are well-trained in their job.”

What Age Is Appropriate for Scissors?

Children can begin using kiddy, blunt-tipped scissors that open and close easily by 2 1/2 to 3 years old.

As for making the move from child-friendly craft scissors to the big “adult” scissors, 19% of moms said they felt comfortable waiting until their child turned 8, with 17% claiming 10 to be the right age – according to a poll of 1,400 moms.

Related Questions:

Why Does My Daughter Keep Cutting Her Hair?

It’s normal for girls to experiment with their appearance, and changing hairstyles is a common way of expressing individuality.

Recurrent haircuts may be influenced by her friends or social media trends. Consider consulting a child counselor if you’re concerned about your daughter’s behavior.

Is Cutting Hair as Punishment Abuse?

For many, hair is a part of their identity, so cutting your child or teenager’s hair against their will can be considered abusive as the result is likely to hurt and humiliate them.

This is not an effective form of punishment and may breed rebellion and resentment rather than submission.

Closing Thoughts

Discovering your child’s DIY haircut may not be at the top of your parental wish list, but your kid is likely to have been led by innocent imitation, self-expression, or boredom.

If this is the case, an honest conversation about why they did it and safety with scissors is much more effective than doling out punishment and anger.

In the case of your child cutting someone else’s hair, punishment may be the appropriate course of action if your child is old enough to know better and did so without the consent of the other child.