Persuading A Daughter Not to Tattoo

A writer for Best Life Magazine asked me how to respond to the following question: "My daughter wants to get a tattoo. How can I persuade her she'll live to regret it?"

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. I gave the following suggestions:

"Project ahead five years. Is the short term fun worth the long-term frustration when you want it removed?"

"How about making a list of all the advantages and the disadvantages and then comparing them!"

"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 for something we as parents believe that they will regret. But people learn by their decisions. As long the decision is not life-threatening or harmful, the most effective approach is for the parent to allow the problem and its consequences to be her daughter's. In essence, the situation becomes a problem to the parent when the parent labels it a problem.

The most effective approach may not get what the parent desires. 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 of not succumbing to such peer influence.