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How We Finally Got My Toddler To Stop Pulling Our Hair

My sweet little 1.5 year old threw us for a loop when he decided it’d be really fun to start pulling hair. And I mean everyone’s hair, not his own. We’ve had 3 other kids that have all gone through a hitting stage, but this one is our first I can recall pulling hair. It was awful!

Thankfully we switched tactics, because the initial things we tried just didn’t work. It was to the point where the big kids didn’t like being around their baby brother and I was going nuts trying to intervene all day while homeschooling multiple kids.

I realize each baby is different, and what worked for us might not be what works for you. But my hope is that you’ll have one new strategy to try and hopefully it works for you like it did for us! Good news, what worked was the opposite of any type of punishment or discipline. Rather we discovered the opposite helped for our little guy.

A toddler next to a couch with text over the photo saying, "How to stop a toddler from pulling hair".

What caused him to start pulling everyone’s hair?

To be honest, I don’t really know.

It could be that he wanted more attention.

We have a lot going on between homeschooling, homemaking, and just having 4 kids. I can’t give my 18 month old my whole attention all day like I could with just one baby. I’m with him all day, but am often trying to get something else done the moment he lets me. And with school, I’m often trying to keep him distracted or content so I can teach the big kids.

It could be that he liked the reaction we gave him…screams!

I’m almost positive this one explains it. He quickly found that his siblings would scream if he walked up to them watching a show and pulled their hair. He definitely found it funny, as he’d often giggle afterward!

And to top it off…one day we were in the car and from the carseat my 18 month old was acting out the whole scene. He pulled his hair and let out a scream! This happened several times on different days. He was recreating the action and reaction!

We all couldn’t believe it. He’s smarter than we think.

We told our kids to be on the lookout if he was near. To protect themselves by being watchful. And to try not to scream because it was spurring him on to do it more.

I don’t think he could comprehend that it hurt…more that it got a BIG reaction!

How we finally got my 1.5 year old to stop pulling hair

I was getting pretty worried. A month had gone by and it wasn’t getting better. None of my other kids had done this…so what was going on?

The kids were developing bad feelings about their previously adorable and sweet little brother. All of us were missing small chunks of hair from these surprise attacks.

Nothing was working. Telling him to stop…that it hurt…flicking his hand right after the offense…removing him from the situation… we kept trying new things and they didn’t decrease the surprise hair pulling.

So what changed?

I decided to completely change tactics. After each offense, I’d jump in to release his grip. Then I’d take my hand on whatever kid he tried it on and gently rub their hair. Then I’d say, “We have to be so gentle“.

Or, “We love our sister, we have to be soo gentle with her.” (while softly rubbing her hair).

I started modeling what we wanted to see. Every time.

Sometimes we’d do that before any hair pulling and guess what happened? He’d occasionally start copying us! He’d reach his hand out to rub his siblings head or arm. We were equally shocked and worried he’d pull hair any minute.

Of course my hand was right there in case he tried anything naughty. We worked on this for about 2 months, with a few hair pull surprises mixed in.

What we did after our toddler copied gentle behavior

We cheered till the windows were shaking! No, but really, we clapped and said “Good boy!” and “Yay!” and “That’s so nice, what a gentle boy!

Sometimes he’d clap for himself just because we were clapping for him.

This was a game changer! He really loved the positive cheers and wanted to whatever seemed to get more of that. He’d smile and clap for himself.

But I didn’t trust him enough to leave the room, even after these sweet “gentle” teaching moments. So just in case this is something that helps you, I’ll share part two of what I focused on doing.

The second thing that I *think* was really helpful

After a hair pull and practicing “gentle” (assuming it went well), I’d then pick up my little guy away from any siblings hair.

We’d then go wrestle on the floor, snuggle, tickle him, but something one on one. I felt like if he was pulling hair he was perhaps begging for attention. Anyways, I think if I ONLY modeled gentle and then left him to himself…he’d probably start pulling hair again.

How long until our toddler stopped pulling hair?

I would say this phase lasted about 2 months. One month of terror for everyone, and then one month of trying all the things in this post when he’d pull hair. But that second month things improved and hair pulling decreased drastically.

For about another month after we started modeling gentle hair touches and telling him how nice it felt to have soft touches on the head.

But it got less and less.

We had a peaceful 3 months of so with no incident and then he tried it again while the bigs were playing video games. Again, I removed him and went and played with him. My hunch is that it was him asking for attention.

And when he’d try pulling hair we’d grab his hand away and I’d model gentle and see if he wanted to try too.

We kind of stopped talking in a firm, mad voice at him and mainly tried to focus on modeling to him what we liked with LOTS of cheers.

To our surprise, it worked. I am SO thankful we are over that evil little stage! Sometimes I wonder…how long would it have lasted if we hadn’t switched tactics.

Please pin this post to refer to later, and the best compliment you could give if you found this helpful is to share this post for others to find! Thanks and hope you find peace from toddler shenanigans!

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