Hair Brushing in School

Updated on May 08, 2017
B.A. asks from Dublin, OH
19 answers

My five year old usually has bed head in the morning. I do what I can to wet it and brush it, but it usually turns into a battle that I'm just not willing to fight. Today was one of those mornings. I did as much as I could and sent him on his way. I figured that eventually peer pressure would motivate him and he'd start cooperating. His hair was clean (he showered last night), his clothes were clean, and his teeth were brushed.

I noticed when I picked him up that his hair looked a lot better. I asked him if someone brushed his hair, and he said yes. He said that some lady that he didn't know came in the class, asked if she could brush his hair, brushed it, and then left. She didn't brush anyone else's hair.

My husband doesn't think anything of it. But I'm really bothered by it. First of all, who was this person, and who else has that brush been used on? He's only in school 2 or 3 days of a week, and he's only got 6 days left. Why would someone feel the need to brush his hair today, when it's been messy 50% of the other days that he's been there.

I'm tempted to contact his teacher and ask what happened, but I don't want to overreact.

Any thoughts?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for your feedback and for helping me see the other side of the issue.

I have a hard time believing that in a school with 1000 kids, he's the only one that had messy hair that day. It's not that I didn't do anything with his hair that morning. I did wet it down and attempt to comb the cowlicks down. But I find it a bit difficult to explain to him why every hair needs to be lying flat (its less than 2 inches long) so that others don't make fun of him, when we've taught him for years that what people look like and wear doesn't matter. What matters is who they are inside. He'll learn the harsh truth soon enough. He always has a comb in his backpack. He occasionally uses it.

I also wasn't upset so much by the fact that someone brushed his hair. It just seemed peculiar, because I wasn't aware that schools regularly perform grooming functions. Do they brush kids teeth and clean their finger nails in the classroom also? Our son wasn't aware of any pictures that were taken that day, but he's oblivious to a lot of things..

Granny G, I've had a positive relationship with his teacher and the school staff all year. I've spent a lot of time volunteering there. If me asking his teacher for clarification causes the school staff to ignore my son for the remainder of the year, then there's a bigger problem there.

However, based on the feedback that everyone has provided, I'm going to let it drop. I can't change what happened, and I'll just hope he doesn't start scratching his head soon!

We've taught our son from a young age that he's not allowed to share hats, brushes, combs, or anything else that comes in contact with his head. (We went through a lice outbreak in kindergarten.) I told him that if anyone wants to brush his hair again, that's o.k. But he needs to give them the comb that's in his backpack. .

Thanks again for your help!

*** ETA: Again, thanks for your feedback. Honestly, I never really thought about it from the perspective of people judging me. Mostly because I know most of the staff, and I know how much time is spent on his hair. He's far from being neglected. A shorter cut really isn't an option because he's self-conscious about a surgical scar on his scalp from when he was an infant. But, I did switch to an aerosol water bottle, and that made a huge difference this morning. I noticed several kids at the library today with bed head, and I had to grin.

However, I received an email from the school last night that there's a lice outbreak. Not sure if they were just discreetly checking his hair that day. Or if the person brushing kids hair to be helpful made the situation worse. (Brush, not comb, so it most likely wasn't disposed of between uses.) I have the lice removal companies phone number in my contacts just in case! I've reminded him again that he always has a comb in his backpack and he needs to insist that no other combs or brushes be used on him.

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answers from Los Angeles on

If it were me and I had a good relationship with the teachers and staff, I would casually ask. Emphasis on the word "casually."

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5 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I would ask, I would not be comfortable with a shared brush being used so I would have to get that kind of information.

And don't let others make you feel judged, it is perfectly normal for little kids to sometimes have messy hair, it is really no big deal at all.

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3 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

I don't think it's a big deal that someone brushed his hair, but it might be worth asking who it was and what brush s/he used. Ask the teacher about that, because you don't want your child to get lice.

A special ed teacher friend of mine recently brushed a child's hair (and it needed it) and the parent freaked out on her. So don't be THAT parent.

Other than that, no big deal.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Maybe they had some surprise mother's day photo thing happening and they were being kind to your son.

They had some random photo in class at the beginning of the school year and my daughter's hair looked crazy. I wished some woman I didn't know would have combed her hair that day.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

No good deed goes unpunished.

Personally, I would say nothing but I would make sure my child never went to school with messy hair again. (Btw...I have 2 girls that had very long, practically waist length hair through elementary school. Not having their hair brushed was just never an option.)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

It's odd. For sure.

For me, it's the calling attention to your son's hair in front of his peers that seems odd. Why come to a classroom and brush his hair? You'd think they'd be more discreet - and anyways, provided it wasn't a rat's nest - kind of odd for someone to do. I've not heard of kids being groomed before in school.

The only thing I can think of is 1) did they maybe have class pictures done (informal ones) or 2) were they somehow checking for lice and didn't want to alert anyone to it? Although I think that's done more discretely.

All in all - odd.

As to whether I would contact the teacher - I've not been in this boat before (ours get cowlicks but nothing crazy) - but I have contacted teachers before on other odd stuff. Just make light of it and don't voice your objection right off bat - more "Just wanted to double check as (son) said someone has asked to brush his hair today - thought I'd check in to make sure everything was ok" or something like that. Let teacher fill you in.

Then - if you feel like it, say the whole brushing hair in front of kids isn't really something you're comfortable with. I'm sure the kids could care less at 5, but it's not really necessary for them to do that.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Is it a public or private school? Sometimes private schools have pretty strict regulations in place about neatness, and someone may have thought that your son wasn't up to the standards that day.

Otherwise, it doesn't sound like it should be an issue. He's five, has fairly short hair - as long as it's clean and not long enough to be in his eyes or dragging behind him, why does styling matter so much in class?

I'd casually ask the teacher about it. I wouldn't approach it from a "what happened" perspective, but more of a "my son told me something unusual that I just wanted clarification on, so could you just tell me what went on?". Then you'll have more info to go on. It could have been for photos like someone said, but if someone reported that your son was unkempt and needed checking up on, that's more serious. Or maybe the nurse came in to check for lice in general and he didn't notice the other kids getting checked.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I guess I can't relate.
Our son's had a brush cut since he was 3 yrs old.
(Hubby has been wearing his like that too - we live in an area with many military families - brush cuts are very common here.)
He never has messy hair.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I would be concerned about lice, honestly. Does this person brush other kid's hair in the classroom with the same brush? My daughter's kindergarten and 1st grade classroom had lice going around for half the school year! So gross...and annoying to deal with. I would send the teacher a quick email personally...or teach my child to say "my mom says no". I taught my daughter to say her mom says no to sharing brushes, sharing hats, sharing headbands. I do NOT want to deal with lice again! PS - Our kids brush their own hair starting at age 4. Can you buy your son his own brush and remind him to brush each morning? My daughter likes doing it herself, but hates when I do it!

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answers from San Francisco on

Uhhhh... yeah you should talk to his teacher. Why would you even hesitate? I don't understand why parents feel like they can't talk to a teacher about a concern. I e seen this several times on this board and I don't get it.

And if there is a lice outbreak, a note needs to go home with the kids or a sign posted near the door or whatever. There are home care steps to take to treat or prevent lice, but you can't do them if you don't know what's going on.



answers from New York on

Yes, some school nurses will distribute a toothbrush "if needed".

"What people look like and wear doesn't matter" - until we enter the thin-ice world of teachers, mandated reporters, making subjective determinations about appearances that evince parental neglect. Forget "peer pressure" on the child - think about "legal pressure" on the parent!!

I am NOT suggesting that your son's hair looked THAT bad, but I am suggesting that someone else might have thought so.

A parent can send a child to school in a teeshirt on a snowy day, to avoid a battle about clothing with a child who really wanted to wear a teeshirt, but that parent/child should not be surprised to be called out by the school.

"What people look like and wear", sometimes really DOES matter.



answers from New York on

Is it possible they did Spring or class pictures and so they neatened him up a bit? Here, they do spring pictures without telling us (they tell us about the Fall ones) because they send the pictures home and then you just buy what you want (or nothing at all). Ours was last week.

As far as the general idea of "pick your battles" I'd have to say that this should be a battle. As of mom of 6 kids, 3 girls with long hair, my kids never went to school with "bed head". I get that boys can kind of get away with this, but honestly, there is some judging that goes on when your kid arrives at school messy - sorry, but it is true. I'd rather not have a teacher/room mom thinking that I can't even get my kids' hair combed in the morning.

Cut it short or tell him he has to sit still each morning for the combing. He can pick, but not grooming before leaving the house isn't an option.

I'd let it go - someone combed his hair, so what. Unless he said this person took him to a private place to do it (which would raise some red flags for sure), I'd not worry about it. I'd be embarrassed, but not worried.

Good luck!



answers from Miami on

Well, I guess I would wonder why the school never contacted me about this issue, if it bothered them so much, but at the same time, if it's a lady he doesn't know, perhaps it wasn't even a teacher, maybe it was another parent, or a teacher's aide. I guess I would tell him that he has two options: 1 - he either brushes his hair himself in the mornings and gels it so it stays in place or 2 - he will need to get a brush cut or a buzz cut if he doesn't wish to brush his hair or gel it in place, as these are low-maintenance cuts and always look neat.

Instead of gel, you could try pomade. My friend uses pomade because he doesn't like that sticky hair look that gel gives him, and all the white flaking from brushing or combing gelled hair. The pomade has a softer, more natural hold, kind of like a small spritz of hair spray. Let him know that he is not to accept anyone brushing his hair due to the risk of lice. If he wants to carry a brush in his backpack, let him do so. That way, if someone offers to brush his hair, he can hand over his own hairbrush and not risk getting lice from a shared brush.


answers from Boston on

Go ahead and ask that teacher, then watch how your son gets ignored or given a wide berth to be as messy as he desires. You are embarrassed and want to put your hurt on to someone else.



answers from Baton Rouge on

I would be pissed at the idea of a stranger taking it upon herself to groom my kid. I too would be concerned as to the possible unsanitary condition of the brush.

I would inform his teacher that this was NOT to EVER happen again, AND tell him that IF she comes back and asks if she can brush his hair, he is to say ,"NO!" and if need be, push her hand away from him if she refuses to take "no" for an answer.


answers from Los Angeles on

I read this and though "How nice. An adult saw the little boy had messy hair and helped him fix that. How nice of her."



answers from Oklahoma City on


Give him a quick shower in the morning. For the rest of his adult life he'll shower in the morning. It's not a big deal. You just pop him in it and rinse him off quickly. I'd wash his hair very lightly so it's good and wet. Then put a tiny bit of hair gel or mousse in it and spike it up or something. So he thinks it's really cool.


They might have come in to check your child for lice. I'd ask the teacher what happened. It's not a big deal at all.

As for brushing his hair. Why is it a choice at all? Is his hair long? Then braid it at night. If it's straight then you are the boss and you sit him down and brush it. This is a battle that needs to be won because next thing he wants to do that you don't want he knows what he has to do to get his way.

You can get some real Tea Tree Oil at Walmart in the essential oil section. They have some in hair care but it's not pure. Then add a few drops to a spritz bottle. Add water to fill it. I recommend the tiny spritz bottle, maybe 4 or 8 ounces.

Then each morning you shake the bottle up and spritz his hair. Brush it and done. Lice and other things don't like Tea Tree Oil so he's protected that way too. The oil will help it stay brushed down and tidy too.


answers from Boston on

Personally, I'm opposed to anyone putting undue influence on kids to "look" a certain way.

But I don't believe in over-reacting either. I'd ask "out of curiosity" what grooming help is being provided to kids so you can answer your child's questions. Perhaps the brush is an issue, if it's been used on her kids, but perhaps it was a question of a class picture being taken with lots of help provided for different kids.

Since you have no idea, the best thing is to email the teacher saying that "Johnny seems confused about personal grooming help with his hair combing, so I wonder if you can let me know what went on, why and when so I can answer his questions.

For there, if it truly makes no sense, ask for clarification and then you can reply more intelligently.



answers from San Antonio on

To me grooming was always a battle worth fighting. If my daughter wanted long hair then she had to let me brush and style it for the day. (Ponytail, braid, etc) My son knew part of the morning routine is wetting his head with a spray bottle and combing his hair.

I have worked for years at an elementary school and I will admit almost daily I would see a child that I would have LOVED to have tackled their head with a brush or comb. They would look so horrible....literally like they just got out of bed....the girls, some of those knots were going to have to be cut out because it would be that way for days.

That being said...I would NEVER actually have done it. As much as my hair OCD goes on with my own kids...other people's kids are off limits.

I have worked picture day where they provide a fresh and clean comb for every child. Then I would help touch up some stray hair to have a nice picture then throw that comb away and get a clean one from the bag provided for the next child if needed...

Good luck with the hair battles....wait until he is around 11 or 12 and the showering battles start...

Next question: Daughters Curly Hair....

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