A Hair Combing Incident

Lessons Learnt About Parenting From A Typical Hair Combing For My Eldest


7/27/202312 min read

woman holding white and black hair blower
woman holding white and black hair blower

Parenting is an intricate and rewarding journey filled with moments of joy, love, and challenges. As parents, we play a pivotal role in shaping the emotional well-being of our children. Our actions and responses greatly impact their growth and development.

In this article, I want to share a deeply personal incident involving my eldest daughter and how it profoundly changed my perspective on parenting.

This incident made me reflect on the importance of empathy and unconditional love in fostering a strong and loving bond with our children.

Empathy in Parenting

One morning, my eldest daughter woke up feeling a bit down and moody. As I began combing her hair, she started complaining about her new monitor at school.

My initial reaction was to find out why she disliked her monitoress and then offer solutions on how to handle her situation.

Then she got more whiny and said that my solution would not work for her and stated why.

Frustration took hold as I tried my best to manage her tangled hair, only to hear more complaints about the pain it caused her. In my ignorance, I failed to fully understand the extent of her discomfort, having never experienced the pain of combing tangled hair myself.

Looking back, she rarely complained about me combing her hair. It was just one of those rare occasions where she was affected by her mood and her hair was probably more tangled than usual as we had not washed her hair for a few days (a conscious attempt to see whether washing hair with shampoo is actually bad for their hair). Plus she had been sleeping less hours because these days she kept staying up to wait for me to go to bed with her.

When we are unhappy with something, we often amplify its occurrence by a dozen. Like “You always don’t listen to me!” or “You always forget to flush the toilet!” when the fact is while they may not do it regularly, it definitely does not command the word “always”. We are truly driven by emotion rather than facts.

Looking back, I realize that my lack of empathy was a significant flaw in my approach to parenting.

Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in another person's shoes and genuinely understand their emotions. It is essential for parents to be empathetic towards their children's experiences and feelings, even if we haven't personally experienced the same situations.

Listening To Children Actively

girl in blue and white tank top
girl in blue and white tank top

By acknowledging their emotions, we create a safe space for our children to express themselves openly.

Often, what our children need is a patient and non-judgmental listener, not an immediate problem solver. I realized that I could have better supported my daughter by simply allowing her to vent her frustrations and share her experiences without offering solutions right away.

Through active listening, I would have gained a better glimpse into her school life and the challenges she faced.

It's intriguing how we often prioritize active listening when communicating with other adults, but we tend to overlook the importance of doing the same for children.

Instead, we often find ourselves eager to impart our knowledge and advice, believing it will make them "better" individuals. However, true growth and understanding stem from active listening and empathetic communication.

Children, like adults, have their unique thoughts, feelings, and experiences that deserve validation and attention. When we engage in active listening with children, we open the doors to a deeper understanding of their perspectives and emotions.

By doing so, we create an environment where they feel heard, respected, and valued.

I have an in depth article on active listening for children if you are interested.

Upon reflection, I understood that my approach to combing her hair could have been more empathetic. I could have combed more gently or, if the pain persisted, opted to tie her hair up temporarily and comb it later after washing.

Such actions would have shown her that I cared about her comfort and well-being.

Parenting is a journey of growth, both for us and our children.

Cultivating empathy and active listening within ourselves enables us to build stronger connections with our children and foster an environment where they feel safe to share their feelings openly.

By embracing empathy, we can support our children through their challenges and help them navigate the ups and downs of life with love and understanding.

I intend to have an after school talk everyday during meals or whenever we are free to build a better bond. I really like to know everything that goes on in the school. Not just what sucks or goes well. Just be genuinely curious about her life.

Never Ending Expectations

Parenting comes with a myriad of challenges, one of which is navigating the expectations we have for our children.

Often, these expectations are unspoken but can significantly impact our children's emotional well-being and self-esteem.

In the morning, there is an unspoken expectation from us for our children to wake up uplifted and ready to face the day. Additionally, they are often told to handle their emotions properly, as if it's a simple choice to be happy or unhappy.

However, it's important to remember that children, like adults, have a range of emotions that are valid and need understanding.

During the incident, I made the mistake of comparing my daughter to her sibling, saying that my younger one doesn’t complain when I comb her hair, which only added to her distress.

Unfair comparisons can be hurtful and damaging to a child's self-esteem.

Each child is unique, with their strengths and weaknesses, and it's crucial to celebrate their individuality rather than setting unrealistic expectations based on comparisons.

Furthermore, I realized that my expectations of my children's pain endurance were influenced by my upbringing, where corporeal punishment and suppressing emotions were the norm.

It's important to recognize that every child is different, and their emotional responses may vary. Instead of expecting them to behave like me, I should provide them with a safe space to express their feelings openly and without judgment.

Also as parents, we often unconsciously set expectations for our children based on their age and maturity. Like I often expect my eldest to be more mature than my younger one because they are 4 years apart. Forgetting that regardless of the age difference, she is still a child.

Also each child develops at their own pace, and it's essential to provide them with guidance and support rather than expecting them to behave like adults.

Emotional Development

brown and gray building under construction
brown and gray building under construction

As parents, it's natural to want the best for our children, including their emotional well-being.

However, it's essential to recognize that expecting children to handle their emotions like adults is both unrealistic and unfair. Even as grown-ups, we often struggle to manage our own emotions effectively.

I can personally attest to this, as my own experiences have shown me to be less than perfect in handling emotions. There are times when I feel like a volcano, erupting for seemingly no reason. My wife will tell you how I often seemed to get angry for reasons that she couldn't understand during the earlier days of our relationship.

Acknowledging that we, as adults, have our emotional challenges, should remind us of the complexity of emotions and how they impact our lives. Just as adults can struggle with emotions, children, with their limited life experiences and coping mechanisms, are bound to encounter emotional challenges too.

Wanting them to feel good immediately as if pushing an ON button is really just fool errands.

Instead of expecting children to handle emotions like adults, let's focus on providing them with the tools and support they need to navigate their emotions effectively.

This includes creating a safe and open environment where they feel comfortable expressing their feelings without fear of judgment.

Safe Environment Scenario

Imagine a scenario where a child, let's call her Sarah, comes home from school looking visibly upset. She drops her backpack by the door and heads straight to her room without saying a word.

As a parent, you notice her change in behavior and decide to approach her with empathy and understanding.

Instead of immediately bombarding Sarah with questions or assuming the reason for her mood, you give her some space to settle in.

After a while, you knock gently on her door and ask if she would like to talk about what's bothering her. You reassure her that you are there to listen and that she can share her feelings without any fear of judgment.

Sarah hesitates at first but eventually opens up, tearfully explaining that she had a disagreement with her best friend during lunch break.

They had an argument over a misunderstanding, and Sarah feels hurt and confused about the situation. She admits that she feels worried about losing her friend and wonders if it's her fault.

As a parent, you actively listen to Sarah's concerns without interrupting or offering immediate solutions.

Instead, you validate her emotions by saying something like, "I understand how upsetting that must have been for you. It's normal to feel hurt and worried about your friendship."

You assure her that disagreements happen in friendships and that it doesn't mean the end of their bond. You suggest that it might be helpful to talk to her friend and clarify the misunderstanding when she feels ready.

Throughout the conversation, you remain non-judgmental and empathetic, letting Sarah know that her feelings are valid and that she can always come to you to share her worries.

You emphasize that it's okay to feel vulnerable or upset and that you are there to support her through difficult moments.

By creating this safe and open environment, Sarah feels comfortable expressing her feelings and seeking your guidance.

As a result, she gains the confidence to work through her emotions, address the issue with her friend, and develop healthy coping mechanisms for future challenges.

This approach to parenting nurtures trust and strengthens the parent-child relationship, allowing Sarah to grow emotionally resilient and secure in the knowledge that her feelings are valued and accepted.

Children need a safe outlet to express their emotions.

Encouraging creative activities like drawing, writing, or talking about their feelings can be therapeutic for them. By allowing emotional expression, we enable them to process their emotions in a healthy way, reducing the likelihood of emotional repression or outbursts.

Let's remember that children are still learning and growing, and it's our responsibility to guide them through this process with patience and understanding.

Rather than expecting them to handle emotions like adults, let's offer our support, empathy, and a listening ear whenever they need to talk about their feelings.

Perils Of Withholding Affection

In the heat of the moment, frustrated with my daughter's complaints, I told her to comb her own hair, and I withdrew affection from her. I let her carry her own bag and did not hold her hand. I was hoping that she would learn to be less whiny in the morning.

However, this action had a significant impact on her emotional state. It hurts me so much to see her feeling destitute while afraid to approach me again to avoid rejection. Even though I hugged and kissed her at her school entrance, it did not dim the guilt I felt when she kept turning back to look at me apologetically and at loss.

Children rely on the love and support of their parents to feel secure and confident.

Withholding affection can be emotionally damaging and create a sense of insecurity in children. I personally experienced the lasting impact of such actions, and it made me now realize the importance of unconditional love in parenting.

What’s wrong with silent treatment? Isn’t it the best way since there is no shouting or screaming, no verbal abuse and no physical abuse. It seems pretty effective. And that is also what we do to our friends if they have wronged us. Should be good right?


It is said that silent treatment is one of the worst forms of punishment that you can do to a child. In fact, it can be worse than verbal abuse and it is often a manipulative means to get children to behave in the way we wanted them to.

I have written an article on how silent treatment is damaging to children and what we can do instead.

We should aim to foster open communication and understanding with our children. Children need to feel loved and supported unconditionally, regardless of their behavior or achievements.

Love should never be used as a bargaining chip. Unconditional love fosters a strong bond between parents and children, providing a sense of emotional security.

Rather than withholding affection, let's strive to create an environment where love is freely given and readily available, even during challenging moments.

When we show our children that we love them unconditionally, we teach them that their worth is not tied to their actions or how they make us feel.

Do remember that parenting is a learning journey for both parents and children.

Instead of punishing or withdrawing affection, let's use difficult situations as opportunities to communicate, understand, and grow together as a family.

Encouraging open dialogue will not only strengthen our relationship with our children but also teach them valuable emotional skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Parents As Examples

lego minifig riding on bicycle
lego minifig riding on bicycle

It is important to remember that children learn from us by how we act, not what we preach.

Asking them to eat healthily doesn’t work if you are stuffing junk food in your daily diet and are overweight. Telling them to keep trying new things make them confused if you are always struck in your old way of living.

As parents, we can play a crucial role in teaching emotional intelligence to our children. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand emotions, both in oneself and others.

By being good role models in managing our emotions, we can show them healthy ways to cope with various feelings. Moreover, we can teach them strategies like deep breathing, talking about their emotions, or engaging in creative activities to express themselves.

As parents, we can nurture emotional intelligence in our children by modeling emotional awareness and helping them identify and express their feelings. Teaching them constructive ways to handle emotions will benefit their personal and social development.

Vulnerability is often perceived as a weakness, but it is, in fact, a sign of strength and authenticity.

As parents, showing vulnerability and being open about our feelings can create a deeper connection with our children. They learn that it is okay to feel vulnerable and that sharing their emotions with loved ones is a healthy practice.

Parents are not infallible, and there will be moments when we make mistakes.

Acknowledging our mistakes and apologizing to our children when we are wrong demonstrates humility and accountability. It also shows them that we value their feelings and respect them as individuals.


To express my heartfelt sincerity in asking for forgiveness and create a lasting reminder of my love for her, I decided to craft a small heart-shaped card.

This gesture was inspired by my eldest daughter's beautiful habit of making cards and drawing pictures for us, always expressing her love.

In a touching moment of reciprocity, there was a time when I wasn't feeling well and had to rest separately from my children.

To my surprise and joy, my eldest had prepared the bed for me and left a heartfelt paper heart beside me, wishing me a speedy recovery and expressing her love. It was a heartwarming gesture that touched me deeply.

Experiencing such tender moments with my daughter makes me realize how fortunate I am. Her pure and genuine expressions of love, be it through her cards, drawings, or thoughtful actions, bring immeasurable joy to my heart.

When I presented her with the heart-shaped card I made, she was absolutely elated.

The joy on her face, the warm hugs, and the tender kisses she showered upon me reaffirmed the immense value of these simple yet meaningful gestures.

It serves as a beautiful reminder that our children ask for so little from us – not extravagant trips or expensive toys – but rather, they long for our time, our appreciation, and the affectionate love we openly express.

Reflecting on these precious moments, I am reminded that the most significant gifts we can give our children are our love and undivided attention. Their hearts are filled with boundless love and a desire for genuine connection.

Cherishing these fleeting moments of innocence and affection, I am grateful to be blessed with a daughter who has taught me the true essence of love and the beauty of cherishing life's simplest treasures.

Parenting is not without its challenges, but with empathy, love, and understanding, we can shape our children's lives in ways that foster emotional well-being and a deep sense of belonging.

I also intended to establish a daily after-school talk during meals or whenever we have some free time to strengthen our bond.

I genuinely cherish the opportunity to get to know every aspect of my child's school life. It's not only about hearing the ups and downs but being authentically curious about her experiences.

By setting aside this special time each day, I hope to create a safe and open space where my child feels comfortable sharing her thoughts, emotions, and experiences. I want to be there not only for the good times but also to support her through any challenges or difficulties she may encounter.

I believe that genuine curiosity about her life will not only deepen our connection but also show her that I genuinely care about her well-being and happiness.

These after-school talks will not be about prying or intruding but about being a compassionate and understanding presence in her life.

As we share these moments together, I hope to celebrate her achievements, empathize with her struggles, and offer guidance and encouragement when needed. I want her to know that I am her biggest cheerleader, and my love and support for her are unconditional.

By fostering this open and honest communication, I hope to build a strong foundation of trust and love that will last a lifetime. I want her to know that she can always count on me to be there, listening, and supporting her no matter what.

I am excited to embark on this journey of discovery and connection, knowing that it will enrich both our lives in countless ways.

Let us embrace empathy as we walk this beautiful journey of parenthood, sowing the seeds of unconditional love that will flourish and bear fruit in the hearts of our children for a lifetime.

With love,