What happens when a teen feels one way about a particular issue or problem and the parent has a very different take? At Your Teen, we understand that sometimes you need to look at a problem from multiple perspectives. It can also be helpful to hear from a neutral third party. That’s when we bring in a parenting expert to provide the practical advice you need to bridge the divide and help restore harmony.
In this situation, a mom and daughter wrangle about belly-piercing.
When my daughter turned four, we let her get her ears pierced. The earrings served as her reward when we were potty training her, after she went several nights accident-free.
“You are a big girl now,” I told her. Fourteen years later, that coming-of-age event would come back to haunt me.
“I want a belly button ring,” my almost-18-year-old daughter announced.
“No way,” I said without hesitation.
“Well, I’ll be 18 soon and almost an adult, so I will get it done then.”
I had to laugh. “Adults are financially independent people. What happens if something goes wrong? You don’t have your own medical insurance to fix it.”
I thought the subject was closed. A few weeks after her 18th birthday, there was a large cash withdrawal from her account.
“Where did the money go?” I asked her.
Yes, you guessed it. My “adult” daughter went and got her belly button pierced. Going against our wishes, even at 18, came with a punishment.
In less than a year, the piercing got infected and had to come out. The adult consequences were money down the drain and an investment in medication to clean up the infection.
Pam Molnar is a freelance writer, game designer, and mother of three. Her articles and essays have been published in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. She blogs about everything party at www.pamspartyplace.com.
When I turned 18, I was ready to embrace my status as a legal adult. I was at the mall with some friends when we made our way into a Claire’s accessory store. Looking at all the body jewelry they had on display, I told them that I wished I could get a belly button ring.
“What are you doing?” I asked my friend as I saw her reach for her phone.
“You’re 18 now. It’s time you enjoy some of the freedom that comes with it.” Without hesitation, she started dialing the number of the tattoo parlor closest to my house. With an appointment made, we left the mall and headed that way.
An hour later, my belly button was pierced, and I finally felt free. When you’re an “adult,” you have all this independence and responsibility thrown on you. So, what better way to enjoy my new freedom than keeping a piercing hidden from my mom and dad?
Well, with adulting comes planning, and I didn’t plan for an excuse as to why I had deducted almost $100 from my account. I was caught, yelled at, and grounded. So much for that adult freedom.
Michaela Molnar is an elementary education major, vice president of the speech and debate union, and a regular contributor to HerCampus.com.
I understand Pam’s frustration with her daughter’s impulsive decision to get a belly button piercing and her concerns that Michaela did not take time to think about the money or her health. I also hear that Michaela feels excited and eager to exercise freedom as a newly legal adult, where her choices are much more her own than they ever have been.
Michaela does have legal authority and responsibilities as an adult, even if it seems crazy that one day she didn’t, and the next—her 18th birthday—she did. She can now vote, sign her own forms, and make decisions in life without parental consent or permission.
The truth is, though, that until about age 25, young adults’ brains are still developing executive functioning abilities like good judgment and slowing down impulsive behaviors. So yes, they will make mistakes. Instead of a sudden overnight transition, parents can help prepare their adolescents by giving them more decision-making power to practice making adult choices, even before their 18th birthday.
When Michaela told her mom she wanted a belly button piercing, Pam could have discussed possible health consequences and whether the cost would be a good use of money, without saying “no.”
The more Michaela feels like decisions are hers to make, the more likely she is to give them some additional thought. Maybe she will even make a different decision in the end, one that’s hers. This kind of communication will likely encourage Michaela to seek guidance from her parents in the future when making big decisions.
Emily Edlynn, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist specializing in children and adolescents, as well as the author of the Art and Science of Mom blog and website. You can find her at emilyedlynnphd.com.