“I don’t know if it’s because he’s watched too many Disney movies where the bad guy has one, but for some reason, my son doesn’t like mustaches. This isn’t a huge deal…except when he goes up to people with mustaches and tells them he doesn’t like them. I’m sure he’ll grow out of this eventually, but what can I do to speed things along?”
First of all, there is no reason to be concerned. This is actually not uncommon, and it’s completely normal that your child might feel scared or nervous.
It’s possible that he has associated mustaches with certain movie characters (Jafar and Captain Hook, to name a few) or he might be curious about the texture. Whatever the case, you’re right that this behavior won’t last forever. But what can you do about it right now?
Reassure your child that he’s safe. Let him know that if he gets nervous when he sees someone with a mustache, he can hold your hand until he feels better. And explain to him that some people let their mustache grow because they like it. Once he associates safety with the mustache, he will transition out of this phase.
He may also be intrigued by this fuzzy thing on someone’s face and try to touch it. Don’t sweat it if he does—this behavior is developmentally appropriate (if a little awkward). Just gently tell him that the face is private and he cannot touch other people’s faces without their permission.
One last piece of advice: This might feel like a weird phase, but keep in mind that your toddler is learning how to communicate his feelings. And that’s always a good thing.
Karen Caraballo, Psy.D., is a child and family clinical psychologist in New York City.