I was asked how to handle a situation where a daughter wants a tattoo, but the parent does not want to see a tattoo on her body.
I responded that the most effective approach is to induce the daughter to influence herself. The key to this approach is asking reflective questions and prompting the daughter to evaluate. Here are some reflective questions that I shared with her:
“How about making a list of all the advantages and the disadvantages of getting a tattoo and then comparing the responses?”
“Project ahead five years. Is the short term fun worth the long-term frustration when you will want it removed?”
“Remembering that the emotion of making the decision will not outlast the emotion of being sorry if you want it removed, what are the consequences if you decide to remove it?”
We so often want to protect our children from something we as parents believe they will regret. But people learn by their decisions. As long as the decision is not life threatening or harmful, the most effective approach is for the parent to allow young people to reap the consequences of their own decisions.
Another way to think about the situation is that it becomes a problem to the parent when the parent labels it a problem. The most effective approach may not get what the parent desires, but is that so critical?
The parent will find that the best chance of the daughter’s not getting a tattoo and retaining good relationships is by (1) letting the daughter know that the parent will love her whatever she chooses (after the parent lets the daughter know that the parent detests her having a tattoo), (2) by the parent’s empowering her with the choice (after expressing the parent’s desires), and (3) by the parent’s prompting the daughter to reflect on the short-term peer influence of external motivation versus the long-term decision of internal motivation over not succumbing to such peer influence.