The babysitter cut his hair!

by Rebecca Odes & Ceridwen Morris

August 12, 2009



I got home from work last night and found that our nanny had cut our son’s hair. It wasn’t his first haircut or anything but still . . . We were not happy about it, and I hate how he looks. But we love our nanny and she’s very sensitive so I’m afraid to say anything. Do you have any advice on how to handle? – Snipped, and Snippy about it

The unexpected nanny haircut is a relatively common occurrence. Some nannies seem to have a low threshold for dishevelment. Or they consider grooming to be within their purview, and feel responsible for maintaining the coifs of their charges. These attitudes are not always discussed…and not always shared by the parents. So when the caregiver takes it upon herself to freshen up the child’s ‘do, it’s often entirely out of the blue. Whether it becomes a big deal or not usually depends on the feelings of the parents and the quality of the haircut. It also depends on the parents’ relationship to the nanny.

Your concern for your nanny’s sensitivity is considerate but it’s also smart: you don’t want to lose her. Or make her feel miserable and unappreciated. These things are not good for morale in the workplace. It’s likely that your nanny cut your child’s hair out of a sense of responsibility or concern. She was most likely unaware that this would cross a boundary for you. So while she may have acted in error, she probably wasn’t irresponsible, or disrespectful of any rules you’d made clear to her. Your response should take that into account.

Whatever you say, it might be wise to start with something like, “It was very thoughtful of you to cut X’s hair. His hair was starting to get in his eyes . . .” Then, if you’ve got a straightforward back-and-forth thing going, you might be able to get away with a simple “but I’d rather deal with it in the future.”

If you feel further explanation is necessary, just try to be as low key and un-dramatic as possible. This is a simple clarification of boundaries. Be honest: You like to be a part of the hairstyling? Fair enough. Just tell her you love going to the barber and it’s a special time for the two of you. She’ll probably understand. You’re a control freak about hair? Tell her you’re a control freak about hair. You can make fun yourself if you think that’ll break any tension.

You can also say you want to control his hair while you can: Soon enough you won’t have much of a say in the matter. You suffered through a childhood of too-short bangs and seeing them now on your son brings up bad memories? Hey, neuroses are as good a reason to dictate hairstyles as any. You will probably want to withhold judgment on her actual handiwork. If your real message is that you’d like to take care of it from here on out, stick to that and avoid any unnecessary judgments.

Some go for the truly confrontation-avoidant option: Don’t say anything, then at the first moment it becomes remotely reasonable, take your son for a haircut and rave about it. We don’t necessarily recommend this approach. She’ll get that you didn’t like her haircut but she won’t know why. Plus, it’s pretty passive-aggressive.

There’s always the outside chance she truly does have boundary issues and she fights you on this topic, demanding she knows best. Then you’re dealing with more than an unwanted haircut. And you’ll need to consider whether you can live with her terms.

However you handle it, remember that it’s okay to want control over your son’s haircut (at least now, before he starts controlling it himself). And it’s okay to be clear with your employee about your expectations. In fact, it’s expected. Just be nice, be specific and remind yourself (and her, if she feels bad once she realizes she goofed) that the hair will grow back!

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