TO TATTOO OR NOT TO TATTOO: PARENTING TEENS

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I know most of your are thinking what do tattoos and parenting teens have in common. I have to say when I was a mom of 3 toddlers I would have been shocked by such a title. This title would have brought on comments such as, “If she was a good mom she would not have to worry about tattoos.” Fast forward about 15 years and boy has my perspective changed. Raising teens in this generation is far different than when I was a teen. These kids are bombarded with media images and the peer pressure they face is suffocating. Most teens are in fast forward. My mom would have freaked out if she would have had to talk about teen pregnancy with me at the age of 10, but that is the new reality. Let’s just face it with shows like MTV’s 16 And Pregnant on the TV you have to be up front with your kids or they will find the information out there somewhere. So where do you start? What limits do you put on your child? More importantly what are realistic boundaries?

I think I have raised good kids. They take their Christian faith quite seriously and try to live a life that makes their Savior happy, but they are teens. They are curious. I see my kids struggle everyday with who they want to be.  As a parent I try to let them explore, but I definitely put a leash on their curiosity.  This brings me to my tattoo dilemma.

TO TATTOO OR NOT TO TATTOO: PARENTING TEENS

My son is wise beyond his years, with a unique perspective on life. Although he is only 16 he is very well accomplished. He is about to finish his first semester of nursing school in a couple of weeks on track for the Dean’s List.  Nathaniel is very independent. He has gotten his first job, enrolled in college, and signed up for many scholarship opportunities without a bit of assistance from his father or myself. So when he came to me with the declaration that on his 17th birthday he was going to get a tattoo, his continued independence did not shock me. All he needed was me to sign the consent and he could get his tattoo. Alright, hold up. Let me step back and take a breath. My son is a musician, a rock star, and has always followed his own path when it comes to his appearance.  I have to say I have been quite lenient when it comes to his look as well. The earring, hairstyles, clothes…it has all been his choice. But a tattoo, that is  permanent and requires  more of my guidance.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with tattoos. If that is how a person chooses to express themselves, good for them. I just think a teen needs to have some adult guidance when it comes to something that will be applied to their body permanently.  Up until now all of his fashion statements were not so terminal, earrings could be removed and hair grows back. So my husband and I sat down with my son to discuss the tattoo matter. We explained to my son that everyone is not as open minded as his family. Tattoos can change a person’s first impression of him.  He also needs to remember he will be entering the medical profession at age 19. It will be hard enough to convince an employer to have confidence in a 19 year-old RN, add a few visible tattoos, and the job search could become even more difficult. Nathaniel told us he never thought about those issues. He still says he wants a tattoo, but he has to put a lot more thought to content and location.

TO TATTOO OR NOT TO TATTOO: PARENTING TEENS

I still don’t know if I am going to give my permission for the tattoo. And you do have to remember even though he is very mature, he is a teen and he may change his mind a thousand times between now and then.  However, I feel like I did my job as a parent. We sat down and discussed his request. His father and I listened to his concerns and we brought up points he had never considered. I really think that is our job as parents to teenagers. I have found guidance works so much better than, “because I said so”  approach.  I am no “expert” on raising kids, but I hope my tattoo experience helps you remember to start  a conversation with your teen when they have an eyebrow raising request. Wish me look on the whole tattoo thing.

Comments

  1. Here is my thing about tattoos. Have you ever seen an older man or woman with tattoos? They get really, really bad looking and we look bad enough when we get older.

  2. My 17yr old daughter wants to have one as well. I told her straight up “no”. Now when she’s on her own and can make that decision on her own it’s something she will have to think about. I’ve also given her the why not because of jobs etc. She wants something like a little star and although I have two tattoos you will never know because they’re in places that is always covered.

  3. I have a tattoo and love it. It was a gift on my 25th birthday and has stood the test of time. When my kid asks for one she may certainly get one…when she’s 25!

  4. Maybe it is my age-but I never even wanted a tatoo–and honestly I think some out there have far too many-covering almost every inch of their bodies! A couple of well placed ones-ok-times have changed–but I sincerely hope, that like you-parents will explain the pros and cons of permanent tattoos.

  5. Well, I have a bunch of tattoos myself and my husband has three, so I am assuming that when my boys are old enough, they will choose to have some, too. And that’s fine as long as they are tasteful.

  6. My daughter got a tattoo when she turned 18, on her own, without telling us about it until a couple of months later. It is on her shoulder so it can be covered easily enough but sometimes people come up to her and tell her how trashy it looks. She gets mad because people do not mind their own business, but I told her when you have something that is considered controversial then people make it their business.

  7. Having a teen is had!! I have a 13 yr old and decisions are very hard to make because we know they are good kids. I hope you find your answer soon and both of you are at peace with it. :)

  8. I have seen so many people in the medical profession (paramedics) get turned away for jobs because of the tattoos. The people hiring them did have tattoos (or at least most of them), but these people had them in areas that could not be covered while working. They would be responding to a lot of elderly people who are just not ready to be saved by someone who’s appearance – tattoos, piercings would cause more stress. It is something to definitely be considered, these people that were turned away came with glowing recommendations and knew their stuff but you never want your patient to be scared when you walk in the room any more than necessary.

  9. I have three tattoos and I have often discussed with my husband how we will address this issue when the kids are old enough to ask for one. I think that explaining to them that it is permanent is very important because they may not want the same thing later on in life that they wanted when they were teenagers.

  10. Personally, I think a tattoo is great. But it depends on the size of it. If it just covers the wrist, it’s okay. But if it goes across the body, it’s too much

  11. I don’t personally have a tattoo, but am planning to get one in a few months. I think guidance will go a lot further with your children then telling them yes or no… you are exactly right. My parent guided me, when my friend’s parents were the the yes or no type…. I was the only person in my group of friends that was married before having a child. Guidance goes a lot further!

  12. What a great conversation to start up. We haven’t hit that era yet and I have to say I am grateful! My son just turned 14, so I am sure there is a lot to come. Right now it’s just open dialogue about cell phones which I can handle ;)

  13. Very good parenting. My granddaughter got one and did agree to change the location since she was wanting to go into nursing.

  14. This is a hard call. The only person I knew that got a tattoo while in high school was a friend of mines who lost her mother and she got her mothers name on her at 15 for that I could see it for a lost loved one but I don’t know. I have two I wanted one while 16 but my mom said in two years you can get whatever you want without my consent but I had to wait so I got fake ones until I could get the real one lol

  15. I’m actually also dealing with this right now, my daughter is 16 and wants a memorial tattoo honoring her biological father (he passed away 5 years ago). I personally love tattoos and my husband and I both have them – but I won’t allow her to get one before she turns 18!

  16. I think you handled it well with a discussion and making sure he was aware of things he hadn’t considered. It’ll be interesting to see if he decides to go ahead with it in the future.

  17. This is such a tough dilemma. It definitely sounds like you have raised a wonderfully mature son, but like you said, with him being a teen it is a decision he will have to live with forever. Having two boys, I can understand the desire to help foster their independence and sense of adventure along with guidance.

  18. My kids aren’t at this stage yet but I know that it’s a lot more common these days for teens to get tattoos. I think having a discussion about what the tattoo is and the location is the way to go.

  19. I would strongly encourage him to wait. I got a tattoo when I was 21. It wasn’t an impulse – I searched a long time before I found something I liked, a sun and moon design. I don’t really regret the tattoo, I just wished I would have waited to get something more meaningful. If I had to choose again it would be a cross. The good thing is, I got mine on my shoulder so it’s easy to conceal it if I want to. I will be 40 at the end of the month and my tattoo is starting to look faded. So now I am considering whether to get it touched up or get something else to cover it up.

  20. I think your open discussion went well. I am glad he is putting a lot more thought into it.

  21. Not the tattoo type but I wouldn’t mind my child getting a small one once they are an adult.

  22. To get a tattoo or not is a personal decision. For your son and your family so I won’t give me $.02 :) But I do like that you were able to discuss it. That’s such an important parent and child ability

  23. I love what you say about guidance instead of saying “because I said so” lol My son is 5 and I always tell him “because I say so” heheh he hates that.

  24. I am a member of the no tattoo group. I told my children from when they were young they could not have tattoos while living in my house. That is something they can do for themselves when they are off on their own.

  25. First of all, tattoos are expensive. Second, as a nursing student, he should look at the cleanliness and the reputation of the tattoo studio and the specific artist. Discussions should also focus on disease if the place is not clean. Third, placement is big. I have one son who now sometimes regrets one of his tattoos is a bit below where a tee shirt sleeve would come. He has to wear a long sleeve shirt to ensure it is covered. Fourth, kids change their minds a lot. As with ear piercings, I would suggest a waiting period of six months from the time you decide, if you do decide yes, until you are willing to sign the permission form. Just to be sure.

  26. I think you are a very wise Mom and will make the right choice for you kids! I don’t have problems with tattoos, I have one myself and my husband has several. I do think that anyone no matter what age should take some time to really think over what type of tattoo they want and where, since it will probably be there forever lol.

  27. I think you and your husband are handling it perfectly… My niece got a huge tattoo of a shotgun on her upper thigh and it looks horrible… I have 6 tattoos myself and wish that the one I got on my chest wasn’t there and have paid a lot of money to have it removed, yet it still looks horrible… Tell him to take his time and not rush into anything…

  28. I don’t think I could give my permission..I don’t want my kids to come back to me one day and ask me why I let them do it. You are right, all of the other things can be undone (hair, piercings, etc)…..tattoos just are too permanent and I know too many people regret them.

  29. i’d rather my kids pierce stuff or color their hair than a tattoo. and not until they are an adult!! i want serious thought into those tats if they get them

  30. I love tattoos, but I’d rather suggest temporary ones, not permanent and definitely with good quality paint. For permanent request I have an article, cut from out local newspaper saying people were infected at tattoo store(I may sound dramatic but it works). Now we can get temp tattoos, different varieties and colours, they last for longer time so good reason to try many of them.

  31. I don’t have tatoos myself and don’t like them much. But some “invisible tattoos” aren’t bad either.

  32. I don’t have tattoos but my kids dad does. I am going to take it as a stance as I am x years old and I don’t have them you should wonder what they will look like when they get older. Their dad will be older by then so he will be a living example of what they don’t want their tattoos to look like in the future. Once they are grown they will be making their own decisions but while in my house it is not happening.

  33. DO NOT consent! I am a 34 year old female who got a tattoo at 18 years old when I was able to do it myself and pay for it myself. I regretted it so much. The tattoo maybe cost $100 but I spent $1k getting it removed. Let him make that decision on his own.
    I am very impressed he is in nursing school at such a young age. I am also in nursing school and it is sooo hard!

  34. I got a tattoo on my 18th birthday just because my mom said I wouldn’t (I was a pretty SQUARE kid) and I have regretted it ever since. I’m glad you took the time to talk to your son because otherwise he may/might have done it without your permission.

  35. Honestly… I would say no I’m the parent and until they are 18 I would not allow it; like you said they make changes, different decision and what not and just because they beg for a tattoo at 17 doesn’t mean they want it at age 30… You are soo right about the workforce, I keep telling the same things to my kids; I don’t mind tattoos, but I do see how people are being treated differently especially trying to land a good job, not that it should matter, but unfortunatly it does …

  36. Amy Desrosiers says:

    At his age his brain is far from mature. I don’t knock tattoos, but I think he should really think about this as it is permanent.

  37. My husband and I both have them, and I’ve always worked in a very professional corporate setting where everyone had them. Even visible ones. They’re so mainstream now…my only issue would be making sure he gets one that will really stand the test of time.

  38. I love the way you and your husband handled the tattoo discussion. I think giving him more things to consider instead of being authoritative is probably going to be more beneficial in the long run. I still have a toddler so I have some time until I deal with a plea like a tattoo!

  39. I think you did a great job with the situation. I don’t have any tattoos but I don’t mind them. My kids are littles but I’d like to think I would have a rule of being 18 years old.

  40. My daughter got a tattoo when she was 16, with my permission. Like you we had a long discussion about where and what. I think kids need to be able to express themselves, but understand that they do need to conform to society somewhat. I think you handled this situation well.

  41. everyone has their own tastes, personally I do not have a tattoo and I wouldn’t get one but that doesn’t meat it’s right or wrong.

  42. I have no issue with tattoos for adults but I think that they should really be considered strongly before getting them.

  43. I waited till I was 19 and I was 36 when I got my second.

  44. Hi Chrishelle,

    My husband and I both have tattoos from our younger years. While I don’t regret mine, my husband has a few that he thought were a great idea at the time (although I tried to talk him out of those and he didn’t listen….) I think there are a few thinks people need to consider when getting one.

    1) NEVER get a tattoo because it looks cool. What I mean by this, is never go and pick out a tattoo out of the artist book and run with it. Always, always, always have meaning behind it. So, for instance, if your son wants to get a cool guitar tattoo – that guitar had better have some meaning in it… his initials on the finger board, the notes to the first song he ever mastered, his favorite hy, a mini replica of his first guitar… meaning. There needs to be meaning behind it.

    2) Always take location into consideration. The only people who can get away with having visible tattoos is a tattoo artist or rock star. Everyone else needs to realize that employers aren’t too keen on having them visible. If they can’t be covered with a long sleeved shirt and pair of slacks you need to pick another location. (If you live in a warm climate, take short sleeves into consideration instead of long)

    Hope this helps,

    Victoria
    Mommy’s Playbook

  45. I would never allow them, ever, but that’s just me!

  46. I have tattoos and I have two teens. Luckily they haven’t asked for a tattoo yet but they definitely think that tattoos are cool. For me, they will have to wait until they are at least 18 and don’t need my permission to get one.

  47. I have 2 tattoos. I got the first one after 12 months of staring at the design I wanted and “Testing it out” aka having someone draw it with washable markers in various places. I wanted to be 100% sure I could live with it for forever!

    I’m glad I did that!

  48. As someone who has and loves *most* of my tattoos, I wouldn’t sign it.. I’d make him wait. I say this because I have one tattoo, that I hate and that I wish I could just turn back time to my 18th birthday and take it all back :)

  49. I think you did a great job in how you handled this. Your son seems smart enough to do something with those concerns you brought up and I think he’ll make a wise decision in the end.

  50. I’m not a “tattoo person” so my answer to the kids would be no. Once they’re an adult and can legally make that choice on their own, I’d still counsel against it.

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