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.
When my 8th grade son wanted a piercing, I asked some college students (who had tatts and piercings) where they would recommend I take my son. Everyone pointed to a business near campus. With great trepidation, I took my son to this shop under the guise of researching the possibility.
This was the BEST thing I could have done. The salon had a policy that anyone under 18 had to have parental permission, and had to wait 7 days before they would consider doing anything. The young man working there talked with my son for over an hour about the procedure, aftercare, possible complications, and long term consequences of piercing. He talked about how people feel about other people with piercings, and the stigma he himself has had to over come (OMG this guy had HUGE holes in his earlobes and piercings/tatts EVERYWHERE- I was stunned) This young man was well versed and treated my son with respect, he never talked down to him or made him feel small or childish.
After a long discussion with my son, he gave him a study sheet (double sided, written in 6 point font) with all the facts he had just outlined with him. He told him he had 7 days to study it, and when he returned he would have to pass a quiz.
On the way home my son’s response was “Forget that!” I put the ball in his court, and he made a decision that fit my thinking. Admittedly, not every tattoo parlor has this policy, but they should. I was thankful that this gave my young son a chance to think for himself and make what I think was a good decision. To me tatts/piercings are a decision best made when you are old enough to understand the consequences.