What To Do If Your Child Won’t Brush Her Hair

Photo by Krzysztof via Pixabay

Hair is beautiful. Hair is like a natural crown we wear on our heads. Children are especially blessed with fine, lovely, healthy-looking hair.

What can a parent do with a child who refuses to brush her (or his) hair? Although there are some long-haired boys who won’t brush, I wrote this article from a girl-child point of view since most long, tangled hair is female in origin.

Here’s a list of ideas for dealing with hairbrush-resistant children. Some ideas are better than others.

Evaluate your child’s reason for neglecting hair brushing

Why is your child not wanting to brush her hair? Is it painful? Is it something she doesn’t think about doing? Does she think she’s too busy to take five minutes for hair brushing? Is she just going through a defiant phase?

Wet Brush Happy Hair Collection

The Wet Brush Happy Hair Collection offers several designs – some suitable for boys. They are sold in sets containing both the standard Wet Brush and the Squirt Brush which is good for travel. They are good for any type of hair and can be safely used on wet hair as well as dry. The Wet Brush makes detangling easier.

Let’s see if we can fix the problem or charm her out of a negative stance on the issue.

Dealing with pain

If your child is afraid of hair brushing pain, there may be something you could do to ease her fears. There are products you can use to help make it a simpler process. For example, the hairbrush pictured here is known for easy de-tangling and is safe for wet hair. (Read on, for more suggestions.)

A fear of hair brushing pain really should be resolved. Back when I was a child my mother prepared baths for me with water that was so hot it burned my feet. I still, to this day, dread getting into warm water. I do it, and enjoy my showers once I’m in them, but in getting there, I feel the dread.

If your child dreads hair brushing, you could discuss her fears and be gentle with hair brushing. You could show her this photo and ask if she’d like to have a hairbrush that’s perfect for pain-free de-tangling. You could remember to start at the end of the hair, brushing through only a few inches at a time. That’s much less painful than starting at the top and pushing down on the tangles.

Cut it – a lot of parents threaten to do this

I’ve heard parents say they threaten to cut the hair into a pixie style if their child refuses to cooperate, but I don’t love this idea, and wouldn’t do it unless it is something the child wants.

Here’s why.

All during the time I was a child I wanted long hair, but my mother always insisted on having it cut short. Finally when I was fifteen I had the long hair I’d always wanted. One evening in a fit of rage my mother, who had been drinking, decided to take care of her anger about my hair. She didn’t like the way I wouldn’t pin it back with barrettes, so she grabbed a pair of scissors and chopped my long hair away. She talked my father into helping by holding me down.

By the time she was done I was traumatized and my hair looked awful. I was too ashamed to go to classes at school the next day and instead went to a counselor’s office. He arranged for me to move to my grandmother’s house where I wouldn’t have to attend school with people who knew me before my beautiful hair was hacked off.

Kids don’t forget scenes like this.

So… I don’t recommend cutting the hair, unless that’s something your child wants. After all, it is her hair, and this should not become a control issue between you. Control issues escalate, and to gain cooperation you’ll need to find a way to deescalate the situation. Even a child has the right to make choices about their appearance. Make your child your admirer and friend, not an adversary or victim.

[FYI – I forgave my mom for the hair and bathtub incidents a long time ago. Forgiveness is golden and I love my mom.]

Ignore it – if you can

Is hair perfection really important? How severe is the problem?

Will this child at least brush her hair before going to school in the morning? Or is the hair starting to look like dreadlocks from lack of brushing?

If the un-brushed hair can be ignored in the home environment, that could be a good solution. Un-brushed hair isn’t life threatening in any way. As your child grows she will get feedback from friends and will learn to make better choices.

I would, however, insist that hair be brushed appropriately before school because teachers have been known to call child protection authorities if children show up at school with an unkempt or unclean appearance.

If you’re ashamed to be seen with your child in public when her hair isn’t brushed, tell her you’ll have to leave her home when you go out. That’s what I’d call “natural consequences.” That could be powerful motivation to change her opinion of hair brushing.

Get help from your child’s friends

When your child’s friends are visiting, ask them what they think of her hairstyle. Ask if they have any suggestions for making her hair look better. Your child will be more likely to take advice from her friends than from you.

If you do this, remember, this should not be stated in a way that embarrasses your child. Your attitude should be to find ways to help your child look prettier.

Your child’s friends may decide to give your daughter a make-over. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Make hair brushing fun

Let her be part of the process of making hair brushing a special and fun time. Let her enjoy learning to brush and style her own hair. Go to Pinterest online and look through photos of hair styles, so she can pick some she likes.

✓ Take your child to the store or to an online web store like Amazon, and let her pick out all the barrettes, ribbons, and scrunchies that she’d love to wear in her hair.

✓ Buy her a special hair brushing mirror.

✓ Let her choose her own hairbrush.

✓ Get her a special cosmetics bag to put all these things in.

✓ Let her buy a curling or flat iron, or a hair crimper, for fun styling.

✓ You could also get a little stool for her to stand on if she’s too short to see the bathroom mirror.

Hair photography

Turn your child into a hair model. Keep a camera handy and take photographs of her most beautiful hairstyles. Get her in the habit of posing for these photographs, and put them to good use.

Collect the best hairstyle photos in a little photo album that is kept in the room where hair brushing takes place. She may decide to duplicate her favorite hairstyles for special occasions, or use the photo album to choose what to do with her hair each day.

These photos, over a period of years, could turn into a family treasure, and something she’ll remember for a lifetime.

Moroccan Argan Oil

This product is recommended for softer, silkier, easy to brush hair.

Spray-on conditioners

If your child refuses hair brushing because of pain, she might appreciate a spray-on conditioner formulated for young children. This product, Hot Tot, is a leave-in conditioner. It is unscented, hypoallergenic, gentle, effective and safe. It is getting good reviews from parents on Amazon and is cruelty-free, meaning no animals were used for experiments or formulation. It is also soy, gluten, peanut and dairy free.


If a child with long hair doesn’t like to brush her hair, you could put it in braids, and leave it that way in between washings. This is a good alternative for a girl who doesn’t like hair styling options and doesn’t want a hair cut.

Bedtime hair care

The most damaging thing we do to hair is sleep on it. At night long hair can become very tangled, setting you and your child up for a scene as you try to get the hair brushed out in a hurry before the school bus arrives.

To alleviate the stress, brush the hair at night before sleeping, then put the hair into a pony tail gathered high on her head. That should keep the hair from tangling badly before morning comes.

Professional help

If your child’s long hair is already tangled beyond help, take her to a professional hair stylist, and get it combed out or cut there. If your child cares enough about her long hair she’ll realize the need for maintaining it in a presentable condition.

This was the solution for one young girl I know of. She was embarrassed by having to take her tangles to a hair salon, and afterwards, learned to care for her hair herself.