View Full Version : Question for all Tender Headed People

December 29th, 2013, 02:09 PM
I babysit a four year old girl who cries/ yells/ complains strenuously whenever someone brushes her hair, even gently. She says "it hurts" and doesnt want to even comb or brush her own hair. It is a very big ordeal to de-rat her rats nest. My question is, do you all think she really is tender headed or is it just an ingrained habit? I can pat her head (rub, massage, play with, etc) and she doesnt seem to be in any pain, she just says to "get off my head" and continues on. She has been like this since she was two and and her hair reached collarbone level. It's now about four or five inches past that. None of her brothers ever had tender heads and they've all grown their hair out long at one point or another (ages 9,7, and 2). Neither does any of her immediately family, grandparents, uncles/aunts etc have any sensitively. The only truely tender-headed person i know cant even have specific spots on her head touched, much less brushed and this girl is nothing like that.

So, my question is- does anyone remember having tender heads as children and no one believed them? Ive never had a tender head so i dont know how to go about cureing her rats nest without making her very very upset. Even with shampoo, conditioner, oil and freshly combed hair- the next day its a mess. The only thing right now that lets even her mother brush it is the threat that they will shave her hair bald if she doesnt let them brush it every day or two. Any help anyone?

December 29th, 2013, 02:47 PM
Hmm.. Maybe the girl has a very tender scalp, or maybe she just really hates brushing. Probably an unpopular suggestion, but if that was my child, I'd cut a pixie. My parents had to do that to me, and it didn't hurt or traumatize me in any way.

I can't remember if it was because of a tender scalp, but I really hated brushing my hair when I was a child. I have some vague memories of screaming and crying and running around whenever anyone came near me with a comb or a brush. No one was allowed to touch my hair, except for a male hairdresser who lived in a city several hours away (I was terrified of female hairdressers). My parents solved the problem it by having him cut my hair really really short, to avoid tangles and matting. I got better with age though. By the time I was six, I allowed regular brushing and was able to have my hair at chin length and later on collarbone length. I still don't like detangling my hair because any accidental pulling really freaking hurts, but I don't actively hate it. I would never allow anyone else to do it though. :)

December 29th, 2013, 02:56 PM
I don't have any children, but I used to babysit a 2-year-old boy who screamed as if in pain every time you picked him up or touched him when he didn't want to be picked up or touched. He was obviously not in any pain but he understood that if we didn't want to inflict pain on him and would stop and baby him if we believed we were. I haven't babysat him in over a year but from what I hear, he still does this :p

My guess would be that she doesn't like having her hair brushed. Brushing hair, teeth, bathing, etc., there are other things that I child would rather be doing with their time :) I can't give you any advice on how to deal with her, but that's just my two cents.

December 29th, 2013, 03:11 PM
I had!
But I think it might have been psychological due to stressful brushing-sessions.
Growing up, I had WL hair for several years, and I remeber how much I HATED the daily sessions of brushing. It always ended with me crying and my mother ripping through it with a ball-tipped plastic brush in anger and putting it up in a ponytail before school. For a while, I even cried when I saw the brush. As long as my father brushed it, it worked fine, even though it DID hurt a little. Not the same negative tension between us and the hair, I suppose.
Looking back, I can't understand why my mother didn't cut it off or had me keep it in a braid to avoid the tangels and daily chaos from brushing and putting up mine and my sisters hair.

Maybe it is the same for her? It's rather psycological than physical?
Have they tried putting her hair in braids? For bed too? That saved a lot of detangling for my mother every morning.

December 29th, 2013, 03:27 PM
I'd definitely cut it if she were mine.

It *REALLY* is not worth the daily stress.

Failing that, wash it daily - comb through in the shower with conditioner, then straight into braids.

December 29th, 2013, 03:46 PM
I imagine she really is tender headed. Tangle teezer has kids versions that can make a huge difference. I cut my oldest daughter's hair into a short chin length bob when she entered kindergarten so that mornings would be easier. It was a good decision.

December 29th, 2013, 03:47 PM
I remember I used to scream and be an absolute nightmare when my parents wanted to brush my hair. They kept it pretty short (just above my shoulders) so it didn't require much brushing, and they used a detangling spray. I'm not sure the detangling spray actually helped that much, I think it was mostly psychological. I thought the spray would make it hurt less, and so it did. That might be something to try. Otherwise I think she'll just grow out of it. When I was about 6 I started happily brushing my own hair and was able to grow it long. I was never actually tender-headed (or am not now anyway), but still dreaded having my hair brushed.

December 29th, 2013, 05:03 PM
I don't *think* of my scalp as spectacularly sensitive. My hair is definitely really tangle prone, and I just do not enjoy detangling sessions. At all.

My mom and dad always made it clear to me that it was my hair. If I wanted it long, totally fine. They'd give me all the conditioner, no more tears detangler, hair ties, combs and brushes I could want. But. I had to keep it combed. (their combing standards definitely would have been harmful if I had 3c+ hair, but mine is more 1c, and neither of them is more than about 2a... so definitely keep that in mind) And well, for my tangle prone hair, sleeping with it loose means torturous detangling in the morning. EW EW EW. Not sure what you mean by rat's nest, but think 60+ minutes of solid work for me.

So I don't sleep with loose hair anymore :P. Part of why I like long hair is it lets me skip a lot of torturous detangling. A sleep braid solved so many of my life problems.

As a kid, mom and dad did not style my hair for me. It was my job. And as an adult, I'm pretty damn sure that the amount I went "ouch" to every attempt (even when it was my idea) had a lot to do with it. They did their best to help me learn, but there just aren't a lot of books available to teach braids and buns. Neither of my parents is all that skilled at hair anyway, so I'd only ask for help if I was desperate. Their help resulted in stuff that was only barely better than I could do on my own.

At 4, she's probably too young to do her own braids. But she's definitely not too young to comb her hair, and if she finds shorter hair easier right now, that's totally fine. Her hair should suit her skills and wants and abilities, not adult tastes. If she likes the look of long hair, definitely help her learn to braid. My life would have been a lot easier if I'd had any adults to help me learn, and to show me *why* twin braids are good. Kids do not need to have long hair unless it's what the kid wants :). And it's ok for a kid to learn to deal with liking a particular look, but not liking the upkeep. Fantasy wish fulfillment through dolls and movies and real live people with awesome hair definitely helps.

December 29th, 2013, 06:47 PM
I have always been tenderheaded. I think that if it is that stressful a situation for her and/or you to deal with, a hair cut might be in order. I would first try the Tangle Teezer and some detangling spray but other than that, I would keep it really short until she is able to take care of it herself.

December 29th, 2013, 09:59 PM
I have a severely sensitive head growing up. Mom finally had to cut my hair into a very short haircut. It was similar to Dorothy Hammel's hair. I think it's called a Wedge cut. Well I didn't build up enough tolerance for mom (or anyone) brushing/combing my hair until I was about 10 years old. My mom's head was just as sensitive as mine was when she was my age. So I have no doubt it's possible that that 4 year old girl has a severely sensitive head. I feel for her. I would try the tangle teaser first and if that doesn't work then it may be a good idea to mention to her parents that it might help with her grooming issues to have like a pixie cut or similar kind of short hair cut. I know it's more upkeep but it would be well worth it until the girl is old enough to be able to learn how to brush/comb her hair on her own and learn how to avoid the severe pain it can cause.

December 29th, 2013, 10:52 PM
I wasn't exaclty tenderheaded, but brushing hurt a LOT (my mom didn't realize conditioner/detangler was a thing.) I remember that I wouldn't let my dad brush my hair, even though he was super gentle, because my child's brain associated brushing/combing with pain.
Also, I just want to caution about hair threats. It's one thing to explain to a child "look, your hair hurts when it's combed and I think we should cut it so it won't hurt you anymore" and another to threaten to shave/cut it all off out of frustration. My mother did just that - she got sick of my refusal to brush and got it all cut off when I was 7. I am 22 now and I have STILL not forgiven her for it. I understand why she did it and we're on good terms and all, but the experience was traumatic and it affected our relationship for years and still does somewhat.

December 29th, 2013, 11:03 PM
My DD was pretty tender-headed as a toddler and HATED having to have her hair brushed, etc. I bought her a tangle-teezer shaped like a flower and cut her MBL hair to shoulder. (She agreed to the cut after a discussion about her hair, brushing, caring for it, etc.). The shorter cut and the tangle teezer allowed her to take more control of her hair. It tangled less, required less maintenance and time, and she could brush it herself. She brushes her own hair out. We're both happy. Her hair is just past APL now and she's very proud that she can care for it herself.

December 30th, 2013, 12:55 AM
I was that same way as a child, mostly because I'd go outside all the time and come in with dirt and bits of twigs and leaves in my hair and my poor mother had to comb them out for me. Eventually we got tired of it and until I was in middle school, sported a very short haircut. My theory is, if I am lucky enough to be blessed with a little girl, and she truly wants long hair then she needs to be able to learn to care for it herself.

December 30th, 2013, 06:23 AM
While it could actually be painful to her I don't think it actually is. My mother detangled me and my sisters curls with leave in sprays and conditioner in the mornings at that age. It didn't feel good because of our curls but it wasn't painful in hindsight. She did our true full on detangings in the show though for our hair washing sessions. So that may of been part of it. We only had minor smoothing with a brush type things most of the week. Either way we hated it so much our hair had to be cut in currly chin length bobs. Which helped

Lonbg hair isn't required for children, it really isn't. Tell her parents a cut may be in order so life is easier on everyone. Less screaming for others to listen to and less trauma for her.

December 30th, 2013, 07:45 AM
Have you tried a Tangle Teezer on her? I used to be very tenderheaded as a child, but the tools were often the culprit. Wrong combs, wrong brushes. Now with the TT? No problem, even for snarly tangles.

December 30th, 2013, 09:04 AM
I had classic lenght hair as a child and HATED for it to be combed. I would run around the house like mad...you had to catch me to comb my hair then. I am not sure why, but no one braided my hair to keep it tangle-free. My grandmother had long hair so she was extra gentle on me, but my mom apparently did not understand that my hair was actually attached to my scalp so she would pull and tug and kept it down to knot up all the time. She also used a fine toothed comb as it was the only comb in existence. Looking back on it now, I think she just did not know how to style it. This prompted the huge chop. I can't express into words how much I hated that pixie I was left with. For years, everyone thought I was a boy and I was teased relentlessly. If cutting is an option, then I would recommend a bob at the chin and use of a detangling spray like the Johnson's and Johnson's one. That worked pretty well. I use KKKT and Monoi Oil on my 9 year old. She is about 2" shy of TBL with beautiful thick culy hair. I keep her hair mostly braided since she doesn't like buns, but the rule is we get the knots out daily or else it will only get worse. This is a compromise she can live with.

In your case, I think it may be mostly attributed to mismanagement of her hair in the past and now she's made some really bad assocations with anyone handling her hair. Since she is so young, she can only verbalize this into telling you that it hurts. It's time those negative associations are turned into positive ones; so cutting back to a more manageable length (please not the dreaded pixie) is certainly an option, but a nice detangler and patient hand along with reassurance and consistency, will do her a world of good.

December 30th, 2013, 09:33 AM
Poor kiddie. I don't understand why her hair is getting so tangled since her hair is not that long. A good leave in conditioner may help and using a baby brush. I used that on my son until fairly recently and we now use a tangle teezer. She needs to learn to keep sticky fingers out of it (if that is what is causing it) and wear it in ponytails. They are cute at that. I don't advocate cutting it. It's horrible her parents threatening to shave it. Perhaps she has been hurt previously, combs can be harsh or perhaps she is fed up of someone fussing her hair.

December 30th, 2013, 09:36 AM
Please believe her about her tender scalp. This was my daughter. It got so bad I would chase her is circles at the morning bus stop with a brush in my hand.

2 things saved us: detangler (worked even on dry hair) and cutting layers (in her 1b mid back hair).

December 30th, 2013, 11:21 AM
I don't remember being particularly tender headed, but one of my daughter's friends was. She used to have me comb it out for her because I was a lot more gentle than her mom. I used a wide-tooth comb, detangling spray, and started at the bottom. Still she would cry while I worked. It was kind of traumatic for me as well as for her! (P.S: She didn't want short hair.)

December 30th, 2013, 12:06 PM
Also, I just want to caution about hair threats. It's one thing to explain to a child "look, your hair hurts when it's combed and I think we should cut it so it won't hurt you anymore" and another to threaten to shave/cut it all off out of frustration. My mother did just that - she got sick of my refusal to brush and got it all cut off when I was 7. I am 22 now and I have STILL not forgiven her for it. I understand why she did it and we're on good terms and all, but the experience was traumatic and it affected our relationship for years and still does somewhat.

Yeah, I'm actively anti threat.

I did wind up with short hair a few times as a kid and teen, and they were always my idea. It wasn't fun, but the area I grew up in had very gendered expectations for kids. Long hair was for girls, short hair was for boys, skirts were for girls, pants were for boys and so on. I was pretty tomboyish, loved pants, loved having my hair out of my way and I didn't really conform very well to gender expectations... and my hair really doesn't work any better short than it does long. Fine, floaty, and prone to helping me look bald no matter what, tangles like hell even when less than 2" long. Add in my clothes and the gender expectations, and I got told I looked like an ugly boy a lot. Not fun.

Thing is, I'd get told I looked like a boy pretty much no matter what :P. I did not conform to the gender norms, I wasn't going to conform, and being called a "boy" was the way other kids tried to enforce the norms on me. Since I'm really stubborn, this did not work out so hot for them. It didn't produce a more conforming me. And it sure didn't work to convince me I was a boy (thank god... for some girls this kind of abuse does work out that way).

But in general, kids do better if they are in charge of their own appearance. The kid is the one living in that body. They should have a pretty large say in what they look like, and they can have definite preferences starting very early. Definitely before four. So if the kid wants long hair, the answer is not threaten to shave it off. It's work with the kid to find a length that is long enough to suit them, but short enough that they can manage. And help the kid develop the skills they need to care for their desired style. No matter what, eventually the kid will grow up, and knowing how to care for your own hair is a basic life skill.

December 30th, 2013, 12:33 PM
Have you tried buying a Tangle Teezer or the Denman Tangle Tamer for her hair? It may be just what you need to solve this problem. Also try braiding her hair for bed.

December 30th, 2013, 01:12 PM
Thankyou to everyone who gave advise here :D I will print this out and give it to her parents. I'd like to keep this thread going for others to use, so keep on posting! :D

I babysat the other day and saw she got a TT for christmas, and i think she will enjoy it. I did notice it took less effort to brush out her hair than with a regular brush.

Dont worry about the buzz cut they arent serious, but she doesnt know that. She loves princess hair and thinks she is one... not sure if she'd want a cut but its worth looking into. She asked me to put her hair up in a ponytail and that is a new thing, so she will probably grow out of this. Conditioner definitely helps, i dont know if braids will work because her hair is babyfine and curly but we will see.

Thanks again!

December 30th, 2013, 02:08 PM
I agree with the Tangle Teezer suggestion. I have (and as a very small child had) a very tender scalp. I am going to go out on a limb and say, yes, the 4 year old's head is tender. Detangling sprays are full of 'cones, but I wouldn't hesitate to use it when dealing with a child's mats and knots, provided their hair was washed regularly. Section the hair if possible before detangling, saturate the knots, attack from every angle with the Tangle Teezer working at the tips first, then slowly detangle until you are able to go top to bottom, then use a medium tooth comb to make sure the knots are really gone. My worst tangles liked to hide in the layer closest to my neck, and mom never noticed they were still matted because the top looked detangled and I was a screamer, so she didn't want to deal with it longer than she had to. When she ripped my hair out with her Denman hard brush, I would wail like a Bansidhe.

heidi w.
December 30th, 2013, 02:39 PM
There's a lot that can be done. First, believe her. And stop pulling her hair. Be patient when detangling. For all children, I recommend a detangler. I can't recommend one. I also recommend braiding or otherwise putting her hair up so it won't tangle too much. Take braids and buns out in the opposite order you put it up in.

Teaching her to comb her hair and HOW to wash and condition it every time she washes, then detangle spray. Takes time but it can be done.

Also get her a wide tooth comb. Likely extra wide tooth which is sold by Madora.
heidi w.

December 30th, 2013, 02:54 PM
Also get her a wide tooth comb. Likely extra wide tooth which is sold by Madora.
heidi w.

I would just call that a WT comb, Heidi, not *extra* wide. Some of the Hairsense combs are actually much wider than that. I have a bone comb that is wider than the Madora comb.

December 30th, 2013, 03:18 PM
I am have always had a somewhat sensitive head, and I cannot wear buns for this reason. I refuse to let anyone touch my hair except for myself. I remember as a very young girl my mom pulling my poor hair back into a bun for ballet recitals. Whenever I have a ballet recital now, I put my hair in a bun that is loose around the roots but tightly sealed in a bun net. It minimizes the pain.