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When your teen is set on tattoos. LOTS of tattoos.

Q: ” My 17 year-old is absolutely determined to get a tattoo. She is at me constantly. And she wants … not just a discreet little dolphin or butterfly, no the complete and utter IDIOT, wants a very large sleeve. She is very ADD with all the impulsivity issues that means and to be honest, I just don’t trust her judgment. She says quite a few of her friends already have them, and she’s right. They have. So young! She’s perfectly capable of taking the “Act now, apologize later,” route. I know it sounds stupid but I can’t get this out of my mind. Everytime she goes out over the weekends or with her friends, I prepare myself for her to come back inked. If we fight, I think she’ll do it to spite me. If I haven’t heard from her, I think she’s doing it. She says when she’s 18 she’s going to do it even though I’ve told her that if she does she will not get another cent from me. It’s become such a bone of contention between us. I just want it to go away. Any advice? Can I make it go away? Should I just give in? It’s her body after all. “


A: ” How about encouraging her to start small. There is the most brilliant campaign called Tell – it is to show that you are an organ donor and to start conversations, the tattoo is the “ and is significant.

Maybe ask yourself why you have issues with this? Tattoos done by a master tattoo artist can be art. She’s not a kid anymore, and yep, she’ll get them with or without your consent at some point, I imagine. Best to get your head around it.”

” My boy 16 wanted 3 tattoos. Had them drawn etc. I went with the flow. Called all reputable tattoo places in and out town. Even the organizer of the tattoo convention. He was present when I made the enquiries. All said NO under 18. They all have an agreement. It is not a law but an agreement between all of them. As 16/17 is too young to make decision about something that final. So my son then realised that if he went’backstreet’ he would get a bad job done. Nagging of 6 months seems to have stopped. Let her call the places. They will all decline.. Promise.”

” I’m neither for or against but am curious about what makes it so contentious for you .. is it a principle, religious, aesthetic issue or is it about timing thereof ? You may want to check your biases and see if they are still relevant today as they were in the past and then have the chat accordingly. Truth be told a sleeve is both pricey and painful and will take a long time to achieve so that may deter for the moment.”

” My mother took me for my first tattoo on my 17th birthday. I’d also made the threat of going without her knowing so she caved and took me. Perhaps encourage her to start small and in a place that can be covered up. I waited another 17 years before getting any more. All these years later, I must say I’m relieved that I didn’t get anything bigger, or more visible back then.”

” Engage with her about what she wants to get and why, look at ideas with her and discuss what the long term impacts will be, something she likes now might not be what she likes in 10 years time. Get costing from reputable places. She will quickly see that firstly, most good tattoo artists, if not all, won’t do them before 18. And they are also very very expensive.
Rather get your head around it now and look at why you have such negative ideas about them, as if she’s this keen it will happen at some point. Also, maybe, if you stop resisting, she might not be so keen.”

I have tattoos and I love them. I want more. But. A few home truths.
Depending on what she plans on doing for a living, this may be an issue. Yes, I’d like to believe that ‘no-one judges anymore’. It’s not fair but it is true. I met a beautifully tattooed woman recently and complimented her …she owns a tattoo parlour and has tales of being thrown out of restaurants and all sorts. 17 is young. Start small put it somewhere discreet. There is plenty of time for full sleeves and all manner of ink. What she thinks cool at 17 may well not be cool a few years from now. Go and speak to a tattoo artist or a few.
Good work cost a lot of money…for damn good reason. Cheap tattoos are a danger and ugly.
Speak to her. I have had friends that have required cover ups and removals.
I love tatoos. I want more AND it’s a big decision. Don’t say no but speak. Discuss. Hear her thoughts.
We offered our son a tattoo for his 18th. He declined. He wants a tattoo – has done for years. Wants something special. He says he’s not ready yet.
If she is adamant to get a tattoo now, start smaller.
I think a sleeve is a massive commitment.
No need to rush.”

” At the end of the day, it’s her body, her decision. But you can, as her parent, make her aware of the lifelong consequences getting such an extreme first tattoo, could have. If she wants to work in a corporate environment, as a senior professional, one day then she should get one that’s not so visible and can be covered up.”

” Been there done that. A few screaming matches – The ugliness, the job issues, the costs etc. Didn’t make one bit of difference. She had it done the moment she turned 18. Hate to say it but I love the design. Bigger than I would like, but the art work is beautiful….and when she sat down with me and explained why that design and the meaning it all made sense.
She has had another since then with my birthdate on it. She is not planning anymore – yet. I don’t even notice them anymore
I just see her.
My niece said it best….
They don’t change who she is
They are her.”

” She is only mentioning it, as she wants you to pay for it! As others have mentioned a sleeve will cost thousands That simple butterfly? At least R1000 so you can imagine the cost of a sleeve? Just smile and wave. ” Ya babes that would look awesome.”

I told my 3 kids that they are welcome to get tattoos once they are out of school and when they pay for them. I also tell her to consider job options, so to be careful of where you put it, and think clearly about what you permanently want on your body. My son waited until his twenties and my girls are recently out of school and still talking of them, but I think action will be a while off.”

” You will fight until you are blue in the face. Compromise and use the example of a previous lady who’s tattoo artist said…. Remember how it will look on your wedding day…..
I had 1 tiny tattoo on my shoulder when I married 19 years ago and I had my dress designed in such a way that it was covered…. My second wedding and a big back piece and I didn’t care much as I had already made my mark in the world…. I was also 35. Tattoos are a personal journey and not just a thing to do because my friends are doing it. The first should be small and descret, don’t commit to a big piece that might never see completion if too painful. Regret is a hard thing to remove and even more painful.
A point to remember….. My tattoos are my journey, and my journey is my life….. I’ve had 45 to write my story so far….. She needs to live a little first to find hers….. Good luck, and stand your ground until you feel comfortable.”

” It’s only a tattoo. Let her make her own choice and fund it herself. If she loves it forever, that is super. If she doesn’t then she deals with it one way or another. If that means living with scarring from tattoo removal (that she saves up for and sits through) then so be it, a life lesson learnt with some scarring as a reminder. At least the scarring will not be from something catastrophic. Take a step back, breathe, and try look at the much bigger picture here. ”

” My 17 year-old daughter was always telling me about the tattoo she was going to get when she was older. I was very anti her getting one until I realised she would get one eventually anyway. At this age I am very aware that our time together is almost at an end. I made the decision for us to do a ‘Mom and Daughter’ tattoo outing. We both got small tattoos and it was an amazing bonding experience.”

” Offer a small tattoo as an 18th birthday gift, in a hideable position, spend the next year looking at designs and finding something significant to you both.  My friend’s mom gave her a tattoo of her 2 children’s names, another person had a name tatooed as a small ring on her finger. Two sisters I used to know have matching tattoos designed by the one, inverted designs (If you get what I mean?). I have a D with an infinity sign, symbolic for my son’s name and loving him forever. It’s on my calf. I want my top thigh sleeve done one day, and to hell with what it looks like when I’m elderly. As long as it’s done by the best most talented experienced and hygienic tattoo artist. She can do the sleeve when she’s saved for it, after 21 🙂 You should try it, the pain is addictive.”

” The more you get enthusiastic and up for it and suggest that you go with her and get a matching one, the less she will want one.”

” I really think our generation were told and indoctrinated that tattoos were scummy! I’m 54 if that helps. So I think, like I did, allow a small and discrete one until she leaves school and can afford her own is the way to go! Good luck and try not to get too upset. In hindsight tattoos, are not as devastating as they seem to be at the time our kids make these seemingly bad decisions! Btw most of mine were also ADD and love their tats to this day.”

” No way in hell would I give my approval. So far as I know, legally under 18s may not get a tattoo without parental permission – I would not give that permission. Don’t get me wrong – I have absolutely nothing against a well-done tattoo – some are beautiful. However, I refuse to have someone, anyone, let alone someone I love, be able to blame me in any way for any tattoo that they place on their body – therefore, my kids will have to wait until they can get it done without needing my permission. I would advise them against getting a sleeve, full or otherwise, or any other visible tattoo as I would not want them to compromise their career or job opportunities – once they are moving forward with their careers and know what is and is not acceptable therein, that is the time to consider committing to a visible tattoo. If they go ahead and do it, then it is their decision, made as an adult. Until they are adults and as long as it is my decision, the answer will be no, with the possible exception of cover-up tattoos (such as scar or birth mark coverups) which I hope that they never need.”

” Tattoos are no longer a taboo thing. Before they would caused prejudice and discrimination…. now, they are so common place.
They are a form of art and expression. Rather than letting it eat away at you, I would come to terms with the fact that she is almost an adult that will make these decisions herself. Rather than they be made and placed on her body out of spite toward you – let her know that you are not a fan but that when she turns 18, she can make her own decisions, and while you may not support or pay for them, that you will love her regardless.
At 17 you will push as much as you can against any form of control, you are just about to become an adult and parents are scrambling not knowing how much freedom is too much.
You are in a transitional stage of allowing your daughter to become an adult, it’s so tough knowing how much or little to allow – but soon she will be able to make those decisions anyway. Tattoos are apart of individual identity, refusing to accept them can be perceived as not wanting to accept who she is and who she is becoming.
I know it’s tough. But think about the other perspective….. tattoos may be permanent but they are becoming easier to have removed. If she makes a decision she regrets – some things are permanent, tattoos are no longer.
My kiddos and I have discussed this openly. I have offered to pay for their first small tattoo to avoid them going to the cheapest artist who may not have hygienic equipment, or could result in a bad tattoo. Each to their own, but it’s ok to let her develop an identity that no longer follows what you would want for her….”

” Not entirely sure why it’s such a bone of contention? Tattoos are no longer taboo – they are stories and rights of passage and a way to identify yourself as an individual. It shouldn’t be a subject that causes arguments and threats! If you listen, discuss options, refrain from judgement and accusations, maybe you can guide her decision of what to get where? By the way tattoos are not forbidden in the workplace! People don’t see you as unapproachable and it does not cause you to be unsuccessful….”

” Maybe work with her instead of against her? Do the research with her on the type of design she wants, what it means to her, the cost of it, how SHE is going to pay for it, the artist that’s the best for what she wants to do. Encourage her to start small on her arm, the first design element of her sleeve with a view to growing it over time. She might find that the start of the sleeve is enough for her for now.”

” Maybe work with her instead of against her. Do the research with her on the type of design she wants, what it means to her, the cost of it, how SHE is going to pay for it, the artist that’s the best for what she wants to do. Encourage her to start small on her arm, the first design element of her sleeve with a view to growing it over time. She might find that the start of the sleeve is enough for her for now.”

” Tattoos aren’t everyone’s thing and that’s fine. I got my first small one at 17. I now have 4 and am planning my next one. I would compromise with a small one and encourage her not to rush into a design and to go to someone reputable. She can plan a sleeve as she gets older if she still wants one and can pay for it herself. I love all of mine and they each represent a stage in my life. Here in the US they are very common and there is far less stigma surrounding them.
In my humble opinion there are worse things teenagers can get into other than body art.”

” All 3 of my children have tattoos. The best advice given is that she fund them herself. NO COMPROMISE. (This might delay her wanting them so early, but more than that, it will delay impulsive decisions) Also, she needs to be absolutely clear about any placement as companies are EXTREMELY strict about visible tattoos. Even overseas, in some instances. My youngest, although highly competent, has been denied even applying for certain positions because of this fact.”

” I have a 14 year old who is just as impulsive. So I can relate. On Sunday night his hair was dyed blonde. Last night , it went blue. So yes, I feel your pain. My view. If it is going to be permanent, rather try to distract and let her take a rational decision rather than an impulsive one. Yes. It is her body. But, if she hates it, you are going to end up trying to fix it.
We all go through phases, whether ADHD or not. I would prefer for her to make a decision and pay for it on her own rather than have it, not want it and expect you to do something about it.”

I have told my daughters that while I am paying for university, rent, food etc it is not a democracy as far as tattoos go. They are welcome to get one when they earn their first pay check in a “real” job and living under the roof they pay rent for. So far they have abided by this.”

” Get a temporary tattoo done, remind her of her favourite earrings or necklace from 2 years ago. She wouldn’t be wearing them today… It is permanent and she is still growing and her skin will stretch or shrink. A dolphin tattoo may end up looking like a pregnant fish or more like an eel! These decisions need to be made once they are adults, which is why reputable tattoo artists would not offer tattoos to under 18. Show her pictures of what removing a tattoo entails… She is tooooo young, and perhaps I am too old-fashioned, but as a nursing sister, I have seem many disastrous tattoos.”


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