Talking Tattoos with the Kids: An Indirect Approach is Sometimes Best

How I Influenced My Kids to Not Get a Tattoo

Yahoo Contributor Network

President Obama said on Wednesday that if his daughters dared to get tattoos, he and Michelle would get the same tattoos, in the same place - and "family tattoo," if you will - and show it off on Youtube. On the heels of that creative warning, Yahoo asked readers what strategies they've employed to keep their kids from getting inked. Here's one.

FIRST PERSON | I influenced my kids to not get a tattoo by taking them around someone who regretted getting a tattoo, my father.

The first tattoo that I ever saw was my father's tattoo, and first impressions last. A veteran of WWII, my father, Neil, got his tattoo when he joined the Navy. It was a rite of passage for him and his fellow sailors before they shipped out after completing basic training.

"Everyone was getting one!" he often recalled.

The tattoo was on his upper arm. It was a large anchor entwined with rope. The black hair on his arm grew in irregular clumps over its spidery, blue green lines. As he aged, the skin stretched and later sagged on his arms, further disfiguring the hideous tattoo. To his dying day my father regretted his tattoo. Not so much because of its appearance but because his tattoo became a symbol to him. It was a symbol of the part of his past that included unwise decisions, tragedies and difficult hardships.

My father never wasted an opportunity to show my four children -- now 18 to 24 years old -- his tattoo.

"Never get a tattoo," he would often admonish them, "whether it's to fit in, to celebrate a success, or commemorate a loss, a tattoo is a permanent reminder of the past. Living life should not be about living in the past, it should be about what you are doing today, and making plans for your future."

Recently, one of my children told me she was thinking of getting a tattoo. As her justification she exclaimed, "Everyone's getting one!" I didn't argue with her, I just smiled and said, "That's what your grandfather said -- and we know how that turned out." The look on her face as she remembered the hideous tattoo and his regret was priceless.

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