Recently I took my little son to a kids' hair cutting shop for the first
time. He thought he was there to play on the little horse that was really the
hair cutting chair. The minute the hairdresser started cutting his hair he
began crying, looking at me so plaintively to rescue him. I didn't know what
to do. The hairdresser told me to go outside. I was in anguish as I heard his
crying become louder and louder. I feel so bad about the incident and my
intuition tells me that was not the way to handle it. What should I have done?
If we'd been in your shoes, we would have tenderly and lovingly picked him
up off the horse as soon as we realized he was frightened. Then we would have
paid the lady for a haircut and gone home, later finishing the haircut
ourselves as he was used to having it done. Clearly, he was not ready for
that experience. Sometime it is tempting to become caught in the "getting my
money's worth" syndrome. Don't! Whatever it costs, it is well worth it to
protect a child from frightening experiences. The money can be replaced;
damage to the emotional core can be long lasting.
It is often difficult to judge readiness, but it is always wise to immediately
abort an experience as soon as the lack of readiness becomes obvious. This
must be done with no irritation or scolding of any kind, because it is not
the child's fault. Rather, you are lovingly protecting him as quickly as
possible from experiencing emotional trauma caused by a frightening
experience. When in doubt, provide more time before trying new experiences.
In fact, that is a fine parenting principle.
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