Tips to Keep Sanity While Combing 5 Year Old's Hair

Updated on February 15, 2013
M.P. asks from Minneapolis, MN
21 answers

I have a 5 year old girl with butt length hair. I LOVE her hair, and she loves it long. Shes a girly girl. She loves hairbands, bows, and clips. She loves braids and all sort of things done with it. HOWEVER, since I remember combing her hair (was bald till 1 and 1/2) she has cried and whined, it got increasingly worse to the point that she wails like a banshee. Now that she is five, she has some power in those lungs, and its a chore when its time. I put in lots of different products, like de-tangler. I have used hair de-frizzers and conditioners. Her hair is BEAUTIFUL but its her attitude that stinks. It doesnt matter how gentle, she screams at the littlest snarl or even if I comb too hard. YUCK.. I have threatened her with cutting her hair short but I dont think that is the issue. Even short hair has snarls. I have a 2 year old girl as well, and she has mid back length hair, that snarls even MORE than my 5 year olds, but she barely makes a peep. She hardly ever even says OUCH... Any tips?

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So What Happened?

yep she sleeps in braids almost every night... she uses many different products. I fear, like the poster below said, its more habit now. That she is maybe anticipating the snarl and even a tiny snag sends her into screams.

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answers from Dallas on

My daughter (9) has waist length hair. When she began growing it out at age 6, I made it very clear that if she did not take care of it herself, it would be cut. Ever since she has brushed it out herself and put it up in a ponytail for sleeping. In the mornings, she either brushes it out herself and uses a headband or will wake up early for me to braid it. When I braid it, she is not allowed to complain, whine, scream etc. or I remind her of the consequences.

I know this sounds harsh and, really, both she and I love her beautiful long hair. However, I refuse to let it rule my life. Besides my 5 year old daughter, who has no interest in having her hair brushed, has the cutest little sassy chin length bob. She looks very girly and there is zero drama. :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

We had the same thing with both of my girls in the 4-7 age range. I told them I'm not going to brush their hair if they scream and cry so we agreed to get it cut to shoulder length. My 10 year old now has beautiful hair she takes care of and I help her with hair styles. My 6 year old knows when it's time to get her hair cut by how tangled it gets and she prefers it shoulder length. Both girls sleep in braids or pony tails at night.
I'd recommend cutting a few inches and see if that helps.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

I have a daughter that had snarly hair for a long time. Snarls hurt. Even though it was frustrating, I know she screamed for a reason. We used different products as well. Part of it was the texture of her hair is prone to an unruly wave, added to the need for a cut to get rid of dead ends, a style that helped the snarls, and because she swims a lot, something to get the chorine out. She knows now that as soon as she gets out of the tub she needs to put in leave in conditioner and comb immediately or it will be a bear to comb the next day. My advise would be to take her to a hair stylist that knows what they are doing, cut it to her mid back, which is still pretty long in my opinion, and have the stylist give it a style that is easier to work with. And then get the ends snipped every 6-8 weeks to keep the snarls away.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Do you keep her hair in braids at night, use a satin pillow case for bedtime and have you considered buying a satin night cap for sleeping? That should help alot. When combing use a wide toothed comb, an anti-snarl comb (can get them at a beauty supply store) or even a boar bristle brush for just the snags (doesn't hurt as much as a plastic brush).

During the day, look at leave in conditioners and try the following products to keep hair controlled:

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My mom used to torture me like that too! :)

Is there a reason she can't comb her own hair? I would give her the option to start doing it herself or get it cut. You could also do a reward system for not screaming -- a new hair accessory at the end of the week or something for five scream-free combings. It is probably more of a habit at this point, like she is waiting for it to hurt and then flips at the slightest pull.

I would use a conditioner and a leave-in conditioner (just use the leave-in from the neck down). When you (or she) do the conditioner in the shower or bath, comb her hair at that point too. Make sure you are using a wide toothed comb as well and that it has rounded points. Her scalp could be sensitive.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eau Claire on

She may be more sensitive especially on her scalp. Try using your fingers first to give her a scalp massage in order to get her head used to movement and sensations. If the feelings are good it may calm her more too if it is just a habbit. Then get an oversized wide toothed comb like the ones for permed hair that have wavy teeth. Have her get up in front of a mirror and comb through it herself first while you do your other daughter's hair. If she does well combing through it you can use a thinner toothed comb or brush easier when she is done to go over it again and will be easier and quicker. If she is like my daughter was and whines that she doesn't want to do it herself you can make deals with her to try to minimize the crying while you do it. Another thing that I found helpful was to brush her hair with her sitting in front of a mirror. I think I got the idea because she barely made a sound at the beauty parlor. When she could see where I was going to use the brush she could prepare herself more. For a while in order to get her to school on time I would do the whole set up of chair, mirror, and pretend she had just entered the beauty parlor and I didn't know her asking questions like the beautician would to distract her. It was more work to set up but it was much more fun than the screaming for both of us. Don't worry it won't take long for her to grow up and do her own hair. As crazy as it seems you may dread the screams now but one day you will miss them. LOL! Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

give her a hair brush and tell her to do it herself

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answers from Houston on

I just bought a knot genie - and while it hasn't completely cured the whining, it has significantly made hair brushing easier.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from La Crosse on

I had a similar experience with my daughter at that age. Like you, it had become more of a habit than anything. One thing that worked for us was distraction. We hardly ever let this child watch television because she would sit there and stare at it a like a zombie, but during hair brushing time, TV was a great distraction. Sometimes she would read books or sit at the table and color. Anything to set her mind on something else. We even came up with a joke about whose fault it was that her hair had so many tangles (fictional characters), and she would take out her frustration on them instead of me. I don't know why, but this worked for her to release her emotions - poor Buzz Lightyear, he was the worst culprit of all! :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Garnier Fructis hair products are good.
The "shine" serums are good and also makes the hair "slick" so as to prevent tangling and makes it easier to brush.

Do you really want her hair that long????
Just sayin'.
At my daughter's school, some of the girls have long hair like that. But it gets really dirty at the ends especially... because it is so long and the ends touch the ground when they sit down etc.
AND... some of the kids at school, got head lice.
So then, you'd see the girls who previously had real long hair like that... their hair was cut shorter to their shoulders, and it looked more well kept.

Also, make sure to REGULARLY cut/trim the ends of her hair. Because... split-ends makes the hair more tangled.

Or try using a Satin pillow case. It can prevent tangles too.

AND use this detangling hair brush from Sephora:
It is WORTH the money.
My daughter has one.
It helps a lot.

Or get a detangling comb.
You need to use the proper kind of hair brush too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

i agree with below. When i braid it at night then in the morning its so much easier. My daughter wails when I'm drying it because shes impatient so we started singing during it
also when it gets a know hold the hair above and work it out fronm the bottom first

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answers from Minneapolis on

I'd say, ask a professional for a good conditioner for her (that won't leave yucky residue and stuff) and condition the heck out of it so that it's very slippery. Run a wide tooth comb through it when it's still wet with the conditioner. Then I might have a discussion with her about how her hair is a responsibility and something she needs to take care of. I found a book online: perhaps something like this will be helpful. I'd also consider a reward chart for her behavior during these combing/styling sessions. I think some of it is going to be behavior modification, some of it is just being 5. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Cut it shorter and start teaching her how to brush it. It's a lot easier to withstand the snarls if you're in control of the brush.

My hair is mid-back length...any longer is just a pain (ha!).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Hi! In our house it's my son who whines no matter how gentle I am. Granted his hair is curly and long but I am not pulling---really. This had been an issue since he was a baby. Some things that have worked-- never use a brush, doing tiny, really tiny bits at a time and finger comb them first, and run the comb through his hair with lots of conditioner in it and then rinse it out really carefully. He's almost 19 now but still comes to me dripping of conditioner asking for a comb out! I have had limited success with those detangler sprays with my daughter who has waist length hair. The Aussie was best, better then the meant for kids ones. She doesn't bother anymore but will often put her hair in a loose braid to keep it in control overnight or under her helmet or swim cap. Mostly though I think it is just an individual thing with them how much it hurts and the only thing we can do is take a deep breath and remain calm.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Keep it in braids. Let them out for school but then put them back in asap...or put them in after bath or before bed. That is what my mom always did with my hair!

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answers from San Diego on

You are better than me. I cut it OFF any time it became a problem. I can't deal with that. I tell you the truth. I'd leave it messy or risk smacking my girls with the hairbrush. I will NOT sit in close proximity with a child that's screaming at me like that. I have to get up and walk away until they stop. I have 4 daughters. I UNDERSTAND how BAD this can get.

I got really tired of seeing my daughters look like street urchins.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lincoln on

Shave it! No, just kidding. I have the same problem. I have tried braiding her hair at night after she takes a shower, then when she wakes up in the morning, her hair is less likely to be tangled b/c it was in a braid. Sometimes i have to let the de-tangler set in her hair for a bit before brushing.. and remember when brushing long hair, start from the bottom, not the top! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Well, if SHE loves her hair long, she has to understand that you have to comb it in order to do anything with it. I'd maybe start with that explanation.

Can you have her comb her own hair? That way SHE's in control of the pulling? Maybe divide it all into sections and have her comb each section?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rapid City on

My 5 year old granddaughter also has butt length beautiful blonde hair and it gets tangled during the night. Her mom wets her hair down with a spraybottle of water and work from the bottom up. She gives her showers in the morning and fixes her hair up each day. I give her baths at night here and in the morning it would be bad if I didn't braid it after her bath. I don't do a tight braid, just one that goes down the back. In the morning it has a little wave to it that can be combed out with the spray bottle but it isn't noticable when her hair is fixed anyway.



answers from Madison on

My daughter has sensory issues. She wanted to have long hair when she was little, but man, could she scream and cry and fuss when I combed her hair! We ended up getting it cut short. There was no way she was going to cry and ruin my day, as well as getting herself so upset that she almost always threw up.

Even now, at the age of 11 years old, it "hurts" when I comb her hair or try to put it up for dance. She just seems to have a very sensitive scalp. She's old enough now that she combs and brushes her own hair; I just have to help put it up. It goes better now, but we still have our "ouches" and our "that hurts!" moments.

My daughter has to have longer hair during the school year because she takes dance and has to put it up every time she has dance class and also in May for her dance recital. However, the minute her dance recital is over, she gets her hair cut short for the summer (a little shorter than shoulder length, like a bob). Then when school starts again, we let her hair grow longer until she's had her dance recital again.

I don't know what to tell you other than for this daughter, you might have to give in and have her hair cut into a shorter style. My daughter would wear her hair shorter all the time except she needs it longer for dance. <shrug> So the compromise we've come up with works for us, at least for now.



answers from Miami on

As a child with thick long hair, I remember how much it hurt to have it brushed, Everyone's scalp is different and hers might be more sensitive. I now have waist length hair and I could tell you that having long hair take determination and discipline. Firstly you must brush it at least two to three times a day, you must treat her hair like gentle lace. Have patience and softly brush with a wide tooth comb. You could go one of both ways; start from the bottom working through the knots and hold a pressure against her scalp in the area you are brushing, this way if a hair pulls she will feel it less. When you are working through knots use a very gentle rocking motion (almost like knocking on a door) with you wrist. Also you might want to brush her hair in sections little by little, and don't pull it so tight in a ponytail. When she goes out she should have it pulled back in a loose braid in order to avoid tangles. And Finally, never ever threaten your daughter by cutting her hair, she looks up to you for patience and guidance and remember as an adult are scalps are more resistant to pulls and snags. Brush gentle and softly, and try to get her to brush her own hair, because sometime pain tolerance from herself might be better then dealing with you. Its about time she take it into her own hands. Also if its this tangled then her hair is not properly secured during the day so make sure she at least keeps it braided or pulled back at school, when she plays, swims, and sleeps. And never brush her hair when wet, its more prone to snag like a rubber band instead of a string, and it could damage it.

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