19 answers

Playing with His Hair

My son just turned 10 and when he is watching TV or we are just relaxing, he plays with his hair. It's mostly just gently pulling his hair or scratching
on the top of his head. I haven't spoken to his teacher yet to see if she has noticed.
I have looked at his scalp which looks fine, I think it could be a nervous habit.
He has been doing this for awhile. Any suggestions? MB

What can I do next?

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My son does this too. It is a sensory stimulation thing. He needs to stimulate his finger and/or scalp to relax. He will probably outgrow it. It used to drive me crazy--but the doctor told me not to say anything to him about it. Bringing it to his attention makes it worse.

Hi Meri. Gotta laugh, not at you though. I too tug, twirl or play with my hair, especially when I'm tired, I've done it my entire life, parents said I started it when I was about 5 months old. My 6 month old son rubs his ears when he's tired or trying to go to sleep. You mentioned that he does this when he's relaxing, but does he do it any other time? Could be his way of saying, I'm tired. I don't think you really have too much to worry about unless he's pulling it and his hair starts to fall out. Best of luck.

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seems normal to me.. I'm 28 and I catch myself twiddling with my hair when I am not paying attention..

I have 2 kids (7 & 5). Both of them play with their hair. My 7 year old boy plays with his hair through out the entire day. When he was playing basketball this year, it actually interfered with his ability to play a little. We have recently given him a buzz cut and that seems to help, but he still does twirl on a daily basis. I think it's just a habit and comforting to him. I'm not worried about and don't think you should worry about your son either. Seems pretty normal to me. It may stop if other kids see him doing it and tease him. I've seen my son doing it in class when he's doing school work. Who knows, maybe it helps him concentrate???

I think you should thank your lucky stars. My son is 11 and when he is watching TV or relaxing, he is playing with something else!!! All the time, day and night.


If his hair is cut short or buzz cut anywhere on his head,
it is relaxing to him. My son does the same thing at times, but likes it better when I do it while we watch tv.
I have almost made him fall asleep a couple of times. He has not ever done it at school. THere was a girl at school that was rubbing his fuzzy little head when he would get off the bus, I could tell he reall liked the attention from her. I thought it was cute and harmless. I asked the
teacher if she knew the girl, and she said yes, so I was okay with it. He is in 8th grade. I guess he likes it to because when the kids were little I used to rub their heads when I was nursing them...I guess I just answered why he likes it so much.

Dear Mary Beth; You don't say if your son is artistic. I am & I played with my hair until I was 11 - it just felt good! After that, it didn't, so I stopped. Talk to teacher &/or Dr. re this, otherwise, I wouldn't worry, especially since his scalp & hair look fine, This may bother you but not him, apparently. p.s. I'm now in my 70's. Take care. A.

My son does this too. It is a sensory stimulation thing. He needs to stimulate his finger and/or scalp to relax. He will probably outgrow it. It used to drive me crazy--but the doctor told me not to say anything to him about it. Bringing it to his attention makes it worse.

I have a medical condition called trichotillomania which started at 11. My parents were horribly embarrassed by my hair pulling and the doctors I saw didn't know anything about it, so they concluded I was doing it for attention and didn't know how to deal with stress. It wasn't until I was 20 that I even knew what I did had a name and was a medical condition. Here is a link to the Trichotillomania Learning Center located in Santa Cruz, CA:

Your son may not have trich, but at least you get a little information and have a resource if you do suspect this might be what's going on.

Hi M.,
I actually do this myself (and, no, I do not have a buzz cut!). It seems to soothe mild anxiety for some reason (not because it feels soothing -- it's more like a compulsion). I started doing this in about third or fourth grade out of boredom. Anyway, I agree with you that this is a nervous habit like biting fingernails. Personally, I wish someone had tried to help me break this habit when I was younger. I would recommend asking his teacher to keep an eye out for this and let you know if she notices it. Then I would speak to his pediatrician about who can help him break this habit. It's not that I think his habit is dangerous, or anything, but, from my personal experience with the same habit, I wish that someone had helped me to stop, recongnize earlier the boredom and anxiety underlying this behavior, and develop a different, more useful way to address these issues. BTW, I don't think I really understood at that age why I developed this habit (other than being bored in school), and I would not be surprised if your son cannot think of any reasons or only reasons that are tangential to this habit. Again, I am not saying at all that your son has some big problem. I just wish someone had intervened with me so that I could have broken this habit decades ago and learned better coping mechanisms for mild anxiety and boredom (my personal issues --his could certainly be different).

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