I would like to help my 2-year-old daughter sleep without smelling and pulling my wife's hair. Every night, my wife gets nervous and headaches, as our daughter pulls her hair for at least 30 minutes. If my wife does not allow her to do so, she keeps crying and crying without stop.

Any help would be appreciated.


3 Answers 3


Your daughter is exhibiting self-soothing behavior, usually more pronounced when the child is tired or falling asleep. From the AAP's healthychildren.org page on common childhood habits:

Their repetitive nature suggests that they serve a soothing or calming process for the brain. Interestingly, even in adulthood many people cling to some of these self-comforting traits during times of stress: sucking on pencil tips or their fingers, pulling their earlobes, fingering their hair.

Since this is a tactile sensation, try to find a soft, silky replacement that your daughter can pull on, like a stuffed animal, a soft blanket, or a long soft-haired doll. I would wash it with your wife's shampoo/conditioner/whatever-your-wife-uses-on-her-hair and dry it before introducing it to your daughter.

With her mom's hair pulled back and out of reach, give her the toy to feel and encourage her to self-soothe on it. Model the behavior. She may not like it much and may cry, but keep trying until the habit is displaced from your wife to the object. Most likely, this will be successful; if it is not, eventually the habit will be broken, but it may take a number of tearful bedtimes.

If your hair is short, you might find it helpful to put her to bed with a book and her toy. If mom isn't there, she may take to the object more quickly. In any case, it will give your wife a break.

  • 5
    Thanks for these advices, previously I bought artificial hair so my wife can give it to her instead of her hair, but the mistake was that we did not wash it with the same shampoo my wife is using.
    – Xin Lok
    Jul 3, 2018 at 6:38
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    also try these things during daytime naps first, when everyone is a little more able to handle everything
    – WendyG
    Jul 3, 2018 at 16:17

"If my wife will not allow her to do so, she will keep crying and crying without stop."

Sadly, I fear that this may be indicative that she has learnt that by crying, she can have her way; and I would be willing to bet that when she keeps crying you eventually give in and let her play with the hair - re-asserting the behaviour.

While crying can be distressing (it's meant to be), and I'm not suggesting you ignore all cries; you must be consistent with yourselves. When you say no, the crying must not sway you. As AnonGoodNurse states, finding an alternative will help, but I would examine other aspects to see if there are places where she cries and gets her way.

  • It is true that She will cry to get what she want, like all child. But the issue that she cannot sleep if not able to smell her mother’s hair. We tried several time, without smelling, we could all stay all night awake
    – Xin Lok
    Jul 3, 2018 at 15:22
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    @XinLok She will learn to sleep. It may be miserable for you for a week (or longer if she is really stubborn. But she will learn to sleep. Jul 3, 2018 at 15:29
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    "It is true that She will cry to get what she want, like all child" I can assure you, not all. The problem is that once you show that crying works, you're just going to make her cry more often. Which is why I say you have to address every case where you give in; not just when she's sleeping. As @zzzBov says, you're the adult, you're the one that must be consistent and tell her what's ok and what's not.
    – UKMonkey
    Jul 4, 2018 at 16:53
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    @XinLok to add to UkMonkey's words: don't forget, as with all cases where you are changing behaviour against resistance, it will get much worse before it gets better. She will escalate what she knows works - crying - and may end up screaming and screaming, and you have to get through that! Be careful not to give in and teach her the wrong lesson. Reward her when she does it right.
    – SusanW
    Jul 4, 2018 at 20:16

Is it possible for her to have sleep overs with a friend or cousins of a similar age? I have found that children very quickly pick up the behaviour of other children.
For example, my daughter used to HATE baths. We took her to her slightly older cousins, who loves them, they had ONE bath together, and now she enjoys them too.

Your daughter might see another child not doing the hair thing, or using a soft toy for the same effect, and copy that behaviour.

Alternatively, have you considered a wig! @anongoodnurse substitution / distraction idea is a good one.

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