Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hair There

I've been thinking a lot about Annabelle's hair lately, and the strides she's made. This book made such a huge difference in my understanding of her hair-pulling habit, as well as my approach to curbing it.

The first thing, for me, was understanding what's at the root (no pun intended) of her penchant for pulling. It became clear to me after reading that book that for her, it's not an anxiety-induced behavior, but rather a boredom-induced behavior. She's an antsy kid, often with little impulse control. So the key has been to address that particular trigger, which has taken the form of finding things, through trial and error, to keep her hands busy. We call them her "finger toys." I've had to try a lot of different things, the goal being to find something very tactile that would serve to hold her interest enough to keep her fingers out of her hair. I tried feathers, chenille stems, squishy balls, bath poufs, spiky balls, silly putty, bumpy beads - all kinds of things. And some of them held her interest for a while, but nothing long-term until this:

She loves this ball and has been quite attached to it for a couple of months now. She takes it to bed with her, and I try to make sure that she's got it whenever she's sitting around with time on her hands.

The other big thing is that I don't get on her case about her hair anymore. I don't make her hair the issue. I no longer say things like, "Don't you want your hair to be long? Don't you want to be able to have pigtails?" I try really hard not to make it about her hair, but rather, to praise her for using her "finger toys." If I notice that she's been twirling, I don't say anything, I just hand her her ball. Her hair had become such a point of contention between me and her, and this approach has eliminated that - which is good for her and good for me.

Annabelle is also a girl who thrives on structure, so I was worried that all the progress we'd begun to make with her hair would go down the tubes over summer break when structure goes out the window. But she's done really well. I know she still occasionally twirls her hair, because I sometimes see the telltale corkscrews. But I don't believe she's pulling these days. Her hair has grown out quite a bit:

Here she is in April -

And four months later (it's messy, but you can see that there's quite a bit more of it) -

I haven't had to trim it to even it out in months.

I won't say she's "cured." I believe this is probably something she will deal with all her life, but hopefully giving her the tools to deal with it will be helpful.


Kristin said...

What a blessing that you have found something that works so well for her ( and for you too I guess). I have been pulling a lot lately. This post has got me thinking. Maybe I should take up sewing. That will keep my hands busy. Something that I have been wanting to do anyway.

diane rene said...

SO glad that it's helping!!

Z said...

Hooray! I think you're doing a great job with redirecting as opposed to shaming, which is so important for kids.

On another note: a lot of the ways you describe Annabelle are ways that you could describe me, an adult woman with ADD. I'm not saying you should run her in for a battery of testing (since she seems fine the way she is), but I've found the books Driven to Distraction and Answers to Distraction very helpful in giving myself a framework to understand myself--and antsy person who thrives with structure!

Taryl said...

That makes me so happy to see, I am thrilled you found something that works for both of you :)