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Child's behavior jeopardizes friendship

Dear Abby: I'm a licensed cosmetologist with 27 years of experience. My friend "Kara" brought her 4-year-old son in for a haircut two weeks ago. "Damien" would not sit still. He kept pulling the cape over his head, so I finally removed the cape and put it in a corner. As I leaned in to cut his bangs, he spat directly in my face. I told him never to spit on me again, and that I wouldn't cut his hair until he could behave.

In the past Damien has hit me in retaliation because he was in trouble. He once tried to kick me in the head as Kara carried him past me. His parents enforce no consequences for his bad behavior. "Time-outs" consist of him violently kicking the door and throwing things around his room while screaming at the top of his lungs.

I apologized to Kara for becoming upset. It was unprofessional. She apologized for Damien, saying he was just trying to make a funny noise and be silly. I told her I'd like an apology from him, but she told me he was sorry.

In all my years, I have never encountered a kid who behaved as badly as Damien. When a child whips his head and thrashes violently, he could be seriously injured during a haircut. I carry insurance in case of injury, but I'll be darned if I allow him to be my first claim.

How should I handle this? Our friendship seems to have cooled since this incident. Please help me.

-- Disrespected Stylist in Washington

Dear Disrespected: You handled the situation with more grace than many individuals would have. You should follow through on your statement that you won't cut the boy's hair until he can behave. There are salons that cater to small children, equipped with all kinds of distractions so the process isn't intimidating or boring for them. The next time Kara calls, you should pleasantly direct her to one within a 100-mile radius that will "suit her needs." If your friendship with Kara is based upon your willingness to tolerate her child's misbehavior, you'll be lucky to be rid of her.