By Helen Sugarman Schicketanz–“ATFT Update”, Issue 16, Autumn 2010:
My four-year-old son Max has always been a very happy, outgoing child whom nothing can phase; nothing, that is, except getting a haircut or getting his fingernails or toenails cut.
When he was a baby, my husband would literally have to hold him down while i cut his nails, and he would be screaming the entire time. Not only was i afraid that i would traumatize him for life (clearly something already had, but we had no idea what it was), but i was half-afraid that someone would hear the screaming and call child protective services on us.
When i took him to the barber shop, he would have to sit on my lap while the barber (who was very patient) used the scissors or the clippers. He alternated, hoping that something would make the experience less traumatic. During every hair cut, my son would scream and i would cry. it was horrible.
We tried different barbers, different places, and were told by one barber (who told me when we arrived that he had never had a child whose hair he couldn’t cut, regardless of the child’s anxiety) that my son’s hair was impossible to cut. i finally gave up on his nails, relying instead on his daycare provider to do it. After he had been going to her house for about nine months, she greeted me at the door to tell me that he had let her cut one toenail.
Things seemed to be looking up— but they weren’t. it was traumatic for her to cut his nails too because he was so squirmy. she was afraid she was going to hurt him by mistake. Of course, not being a hair-stylist, she didn’t cut hair at all.
This situation continued for several months until my parents came to visit us. My mom, Dr. Lois Sugarman, immediately started TFT with us. At first it was not clear that the treatment was helping Max, although i felt less anxious. We agreed to leave it for a while and see what happened.
it finally got to the point where it was getting dif- ficult for my son to see because his hair was so long. i had to bite the bullet and take him to the barber. This time, it was a little better but not as good as we (Dr. sugarman and i) had hoped it would be.
Mom treated us again and the next time we went for a haircut it was great! Max played happily with some cars while the hair stylist cut his hair. He wasn’t crazy about the hair stylist trimming around his ears, but he put up with it. He didn’t even cry— and i didn’t either!
Now it was time to tackle the toenails. Having witnessed Max’s toenail fear, Mom agreed that something must be done, so she treated us with voice Technology. When she finished, we cut the very longest toenails. Again, no trauma and no anxiety for either Max or me.
The thing that truly amazed me, though, was that the next morning, my son came to me and asked me to cut the corner of a toenail that was digging into the toe next door. if i had realized that the issue was so easy to resolve i would have made time to work with Mom on this issue much earlier! (clearly the moral of the story here is to listen to your mother!)
Mom was able to treat us without knowing why the hair- and nail- cutting was an issue, and she was able to treat Max while he was sitting on my lap, using me as a surrogate. it would have been impossible to treat a high-energy four-year-old otherwise because his attention span is too short. All i had to do was hold him and concentrate on the problem.
Now, however, Max has become so confident about cutting his toenails that he uses it to stall before bed. if he’s not quite ready to go to bed he asks me to cut his toenails—or, even better from his point of view—he does it himself!