Lucky me, I have 3 kids who are 23, 16 and 10 years old and they have never asked to get a tattoo. If you also believe your kids will never be able to predict what the future holds for them and would like to reduce the chances they will ask to get a tattoo, here is what I have done and I hope it will give you some ideas.
- If you see a beautiful tattoo and you like it, say right in front of your kids that you think it is beautiful. Make sure you separate the beauty from the act of burning the skin. You do not want them to think you are old in your mindset and do not understand anything about beauty.
- Let your kids express themselves. If they want to start putting makeup early, let them do it. Noff has had her own makeup kit since the age of 3. She used to go to daycare with her face full of lipstick (even as eye shadow). Makeup can be cleaned with soap, not with a knife.
- Allow your kids to enjoy face painting everywhere they go. Learn how to do face painting yourself and do it from time to time. Each time their face is painted, ask them if they would like to have it for the rest of their life. Ignore the answer. You are only planting the question in their head.
- Let them get Henna tattoos or airbrush tattoos. Let them learn the consequences of having a tattoo without physically hurting themselves. These temporary tattoos comes off within 3 weeks. Ask them to think if they could live with this tattoo for the rest of their life. Mention things like weddings, graduation ceremonies, standing on stage to receive a big award for scientific research, trying to get a job as a manager, etc.
- Tell them never to hurt themselves to make someone else like them. Teach them that if they need to hurt themselves (smoke, steal, cheat, lie, do drugs, have sex, pierce themselves, have a tattoo or anything like that) to be accepted, they will probably never be accepted. It is emotional blackmail and it never stops. If someone can blackmail you emotionally once, you are their victim forever.
- Show them every old person with tattoo that looks faded and wrinkled. It will help them realize that tattoos do not stay colorful and beautiful forever.
- Whenever you see someone with a name tattooed on them, tell them about the name of your first girlfriend/boyfriend and ask, “Can you imagine how Mom/Dad would feel if I had her/his name carved on my chest”. If they are teens, they may find it an amusing thought, but they will take the thought with them and question the justification for it.
- When buying something that is very expensive, remind them that no matter what we buy ourselves, we change our taste, so in 5-7 years, we will likely search for a new dining room table or sofa. Every time you buy something new, ask them, “Can you imagine if we had to stay with our old sofa forever?” Again, it does not matter what they answer, as long as you plant in their mind that we change, our taste changes, fashion changes and luckily, we do not have to be stuck with one thing.
- Show kids photos of yourself when you were young. Allow them to make fun of the “old” fashion. Your hair style, your glasses, your shoes and pants, and ask the question again, “Can you imagine if we had to be stuck with the same clothes today because they didn’t come off?”
- Suggest to them to walk with their favorite clothes on for 2 weeks (make sure they are washed). Tell them to go to bed with them, play in them, go to school with them. Have a discussion about our need for variety. Make them understand that no favorite thing stays a favorite forever (pop songs are another great example).
- Encourage your kids to talk to other grown-ups and get a variety of inputs. Exposure to other points of view enhances their perspective. The more people they meet and discuss tattoos with, the more they will be convinced it is not just their parents’ conspiracy but there is a high chance that more people will hold the tattoo against them. I am not saying it is right to disrespect or judge someone with a tattoo negatively. I believe that having a tattoo is not an indication of your skills or knowledge. However, as the director of the Together for Humanity Foundation, I am in the business of perception, impression and judgment based on external cues, and I am afraid to say the judgment in our society is really bad. Until we eliminate it, I do not want my kids to suffer the consequences.
- Help your kids understand the difference between permanent and temporary. If they are fussed about their haircut, reassure them it will grow. I always say, “It grows back. It’s not like chopping a finger or getting a tattoo”. A haircut is not permanent, but making a hole in your tooth and putting a diamond in it creates permanent damage. Horrible-looking nail polish can be removed in seconds, but removing a tattoo is a much bigger problem.
- Get your teens to read a bit about the cost and effectiveness of tattoo removals. This will allow them to have in mind the long process of laser or surgical removal and their cost before they make the choice to get a tattoo.
- My favorite tip is to assure them you will provide them with an endless supply of temporary tattoo stickers and that they are welcome to put on as many as they like with the luxury of changing them, having them glittered and even having little bright “stones”. When we lived in Thailand, I bought thousands of temporary tattoo stickers. They are stored where the kids can use them whenever they want. I put them on myself from time to time to show them that you can have a beautiful tattoo but you do not have to hurt yourself for it.
I love tattoos.
I do not love the idea of physically damaging your skin to have a tattoo.
I think that because I work very hard to help kids with challenges overcome the labels our society puts on them, I find it particularly challenging to carve that label onto their skin.
Long live tattoo stickers.