Rebellion is a funny thing.
It started this wonderful country we live in. It is a cornerstone of many faiths and religions. Rebellion shakes up the status quo and can lead to very positive outcomes…but it also can include pain, discord and chaos.
Parenting is creatively managing rebellion and it is your job.
Think about it. From the time your little angel is born, he or she begins the process of separation. Separation from mother’s womb, from father’s protection, from home and many other things along the way.
In a PTA meeting presentation I attended long ago, Child Psychologist Dr. Carl Pickhardt said, “Children are people in a small box, kicking methodically at the sides to make a larger space inside until one day they are completely out of it.”
“You, my friends,” he said, smiling broadly at all of the parents in the room, “are the box.”
He went on to say that the parental boundaries that we set and consistently enforce are the walls that children both rely on for safety and have an overwhelming imperative to overcome.
I will tell you from personal experience that the walls will come down. It is up to you whether they fall gradually, with negotiation and love that cushions all involved, or whether they fall with a mighty crash that can break relationships and take safe decisions with them.
So, on to the title of today’s post. Will your child want to experiment with hair color or style, piercings or tattoos?
How can you help your child make appropriate choices that they won’t regret for years to come and that you can live with now?
Here are some agreements we made and conversations we had with our daughters which may help you.
Our agreed rule: No permanent inking of their perfect little bodies until they were eighteen and did not need parental consent. We discussed all of the risks and pointed out folks who had forever compromised their appearance, possibly their ability to find some kinds of employment, and how poorly many tattoos seemed to have aged on older folks who had them. But the strongest argument was this one:
I asked them what they liked the best in the whole wide world when they were six and nine. “Unicorns!” “Fairies!”
I asked them what their favorite thing was right now (at ten and thirteen). Needless to say, it was not unicorns or fairies. 🙂 We talked about how their favorite colors had changed as well. In perfect agreement on the subject, I took them further down the logic path and asked, “Can you think of a single symbol or color that you like now, that you are sure you will like as much ten years from now? Twenty years? Fifty years?” It dawned on them that tattoos are indeed, forever, unless you enjoy the smell and feel of burning flesh to have them removed.
If you have boys, you will have to discuss among yourselves what your attitudes about men wearing earrings are. However, that will only inform how you negotiate this, because odds are that if their friends are getting them, they will want to as well.
If you have girls, culture and fashion will get there far before you will, so talk about it with your parenting partner while they are in elementary school and get your negotiating skills ready.
Our agreed rule: We equated ear-piercing with rites of passage. At 13 (teenager, officially!) they were allowed to have one piercing of their ears and we would both allow and pay for it so that it was done well. This came with a small pair of gold studs that marked their transition into the teen years. At 16 (usually another landmark birthday) they were allowed to have a second piercing in their ear, if they chose, with the same arrangement.
Any other piercings of any other part of the body would be their choice when they were 18 or older and no longer needed parental consent. Again, we talked about the pain, infection and damage that can be done by some body piercings (tongues, in particular) and came to agreement that the ear cartilage or nose was probably the most invasive thing they would ever do, and that they could grow back if they decided that any of these piercings just wasn’t for them.
3. Hair Color and Style
Ah, my favorite! Why? Because hair grows back, plain and simple. Whatever they choose to do to it, no matter how outlandish you may find it…it is temporary.
This is the one area where we gave them free rein, total control and the choice to have wince-inducing school photos that would last a lifetime! 🙂
At 21 and 23 – no tattoos, one nose piercing (a small, tasteful diamond chip), and pierced ears.
At 23 and 26 – one small tattoo, the nose piercings are gone, and pierced ears.
We can live with that!