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Bad Baby Haircuts

By Amalah


Hi Amy,

Here’s an interesting dilemma for you that I bet you’ve never come across before. My mother-in-law is a hairstylist. Not one who does modern type haircuts, but one who does old lady cuts, perms, and sets. She’s kind of harbored some resentment toward me from the start since I didn’t have her do my hair for our wedding. I did let her cut my hair a few times before I got married. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my hair, and seeing that she didn’t comb through or section off my hair before chopping pieces off, really bothered me. Eventually I decided to just do what I wanted to do and continued going to my regular stylist.

Unfortunately, however, this routine does not work with our 21-month-old baby boy. She basically thinks she has ownership of his hair. She insists on cutting it, chops it off in hunks, and it looks horrible. She leaves long strands where they shouldn’t be, cuts his bangs too short, and claims she can’t “layer” it because his hair is too thin (it’s not). She gets pissed if we point out a piece she missed, blaming it on him being hyper and not sitting still for her; e.g. do you know how hard it is to cut his hair?!?  And yet, if I trim a piece off myself, she reprimands me for it, as in why didn’t you tell me that needed to be trimmed?? Or even “did you do that, it looks VERY unprofessional!!” I had to beg for weeks last time I wanted his hair trimmed by her. Every time she came over for weeks on end, she magically “forgot” her hair cutting supplies.

So, it seems that she doesn’t REALLY want to do it, yet she doesn’t want to let anyone else do it either. So basically, my adorable baby boy who could look 100% cute has crappy hacked up hair. It breaks my heart. I want to get him a real haircut that looks professional, but at the same time don’t want to cause family strife or offend my MIL, who is a very opinionated, loud, difficult, and unyielding person. I should probably add that my husband won’t back me on this. Help!!


Man, I think *MY* hair is coming out in chunks after reading your question. Which is a tough one. And one of those questions where I really don’t think there’s a secret hidden magical solution that will make everybody happy and revolutionize the mother/daughter-in-law relationship around the world. You really only have the obvious choices:

1. Sit down and talk to your mother-in-law. Tell her you get the sense that cutting your son’s hair is difficult for her, because he’s so “hyper” or whatever the hell she says. That it really grows like a weed and you believe it might be easier if you take him to someone who specializes in kid’s hair and is used to the wiggly non-sitting-still type of client. Don’t bring up her skills or your displeasure with your son’s hair — just approach it from a reasoned, sympathetic angle of making life easier for everybody, perhaps with a promise that she can resume the haircuts once he’s older and sitting still and such. (You can then pretend for years that you never said this.)

I know. You’re probably laughing out loud by now. I’m thinking your mother-in-law is not the reasonable sort, open to reasonable discussions that end in a big hug? Okay. Then your next two choices are:

2. Take him somewhere to get a haircut without telling her, knowing it will probably cause some strife and drama.
3. Live with the hacked-up hair.

I’m sorry. Either you can be honest with her and have a grown-up talk with her, or you can’t. If you can’t, you either buck up and let her continue to butcher your son’s hair…or wait for her to forget her scissors one more time, then take him for a haircut the next day. Because she forgot! And he really needed a trim! Your hands were tied! What’s the big deal, it’s just hair, it’ll grow and she can trim it up next time, etc.

Of course, you KNOW it’s a big deal and it’s not “just hair” to her and she’ll probably NEVER forget her scissors again and complain endlessly about the other hairstylist’s work. In her heart, she thinks she’s helping, and of course it’s going to hurt her feelings (and her ego) if you refuse that help. So…it’s your call, depending on just how bad his hair looks and how long your mother-in-law can hold a grudge.

To be fair, a lot of the kiddie salons might not be able to produce much better results than your mother-in-law’s. Our haircuts have ranged from generally acceptable to full-on terrible. The best haircuts my son has gotten have been when I can convince him to sit still enough for my own hairstylist to give him a quick trim after my appointment. But most of the time he freaks out when we attempt this, so we end up at the kiddie salon with the stupid TVs and he gets another version of the Standard Little Boy Haircut. Nothing special.

So perhaps…

4. Buy yourself some hair-cutting tools — GOOD scissors, not your sewing shears or whatever, and focus on improving YOUR skills at repairing the mother-in-law hack-job. Claim she “inspired” you to give it a try, or you learned the techniques from watching her all this time, or something. She says it looks terrible or unprofessional? Meh. Whatever, you can take that.

The easiest way to cut baby hair IS in layers/chunks/bits, no matter how thin, and for a decent baby boy haircut, work in a vertical pattern — from his neck up to his crown, and NOT from side to side, ear to ear. That’s the Dumb & Dumber haircut we moms of boys all know and fear. You do need to snip a nice neat line across his neck and around his ears, but everything else you just sort of…grab little chunks and snip at the ends. I found a few tutorials online — here’s a good one with photos, though the child is much older and able to sit still. The technique is the same, though with a baby you might need to do the haircut over the space of a day or two, bits at a time, whenever he’s calm and willing to sit mostly still.

Doing it yourself is probably the closest thing to that perfect magical solution — you might never be 100% happy with his hair, but as your own skills improve you should be able to give him a somewhat decent haircut without QUITE so much drama as taking him somewhere else might cause. She forgets her scissors, you claim to not have a choice

(“I…uhh…dropped my gum in his hair?), you re-style his hair as best as you can, maybe let her fix the line around his ears next time. IF YOU DARE.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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