"Mom, I want a tattoo."
If you're one of those fabled "cool" moms, your response might be, "OK--let's go!" Not so "cool" with the idea? Here are some tips for helping your child think this through, without throwing down the "Not while you live in my house!" gauntlet.
- Listen. Before trying to persuade your child that this is not the right time for such a big commitment, listen. Ask, "Why is this important to you?" Ask that question not just as the conversation starter, but throughout your discussion. "Why is getting a tattoo important to you? Why is that image important to you? Why is doing it now important to you?" Listen without interrupting. Use these questions in the pauses.
- Discuss implications, particularly passing trends and professionalism. When I look back at my high school yearbook and see the "Sun-In" highlights, giant bangs, and Guess jeans rolled tightly into my bright socks, I feel pretty fortunate that tattoos were not a trend, because goodness knows what I might have ended up with. Talk to your child about the trends you followed, and whether or not those fashion trends would fit into your style now. And, of course, career implications should also come into play. Discuss where your child sees himself in the future, and whether or not a tattoo might negatively impact his career. Ask your child to do some research. This may be an area of compromise, where you agree to the tattoo as long as it's covered by a dress shirt, tank top, or whatever criteria you think will keep a tattoo from being an impediment to your child's future career.
- Health concerns should also be addressed. Asking your child's doctor to address the reasons why it's important to work with a reputable tattoo artist, the pain involved, and the healing process could provide information for your child to consider in a more neutral, authoritative light.
- Discuss the image your child is thinking of having tattooed. If she hasn't chosen one, it's likely that she's just following the fad. If she has chosen something, ask not only, "Why is that image important to you?" but also, "What will that image inspire others to think about you?" This may help your child realize that something he or she finds funny or ironic might cause others to misjudge them.
As tattoos become more mainstream, you may have a tougher argument convincing your child to remain tattoo-free. A 2013 Pew research poll found thirty-six percent of Americans aged eighteen to twenty-five have at least one tattoo, and forty percent of Americans aged thirty to forty-five have one or more tattoos. However, choosing ink is not a decision to be made lightly. The Pew research poll also found that seventeen percent felt some degree of regret after getting a tattoo, and eleven percent have had one or more tattoo removed.
One of the most interesting compromises I've ever heard came from a parent whose sixteen-year-old wanted a tattoo. He offered her this deal: Bring me the image you want and I'll keep it for a year. At the end of the year, if it's still what you want, we'll go together, and I'll even pay for it.
We're curious. How have you addressed this issue with your children? Please comment!
Written by Jennifer Reynolds, West Michigan Woman staff writer.
Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.com.