On Friday March 25, 2011, I appeared on the Today show with Matt Lauer. Parenting Magazine surveyed 750 parents and asked them what age should their daughter be allowed to shave her legs, get her ears pierced, wear makeup, and get a tattoo. I was surprised to see how many parents had such strong opinions on the issues.
Most parents felt age 12 was the appropriate age for a girl to shave her legs. Their reasoning was often as random as "that is when my mom said I could shave." Really? Must grandma be the be all and end all on this topic. If your daughter is pubescent, has long dark hair on her legs, and she is self-conscience about it, is it really fair to give her a random age to take care of it? Most girls start puberty as young as 9 or 10. During this time, hair becomes darker and thicker. So, if shaving would make her feel more comfortable and self-confident, why not be her cheerleader, teach her how to do it properly and not make such a big deal about it. After all, who wants to wear gym shorts or a a cute skirt with hairy legs?
Parents were all over the map on ear piercing. In some families, they do it at birth, while others have their own traditions. I think this is truly an individual preference, however, I think it is a bad idea when they are toddlers and are touching their ears with dirty fingers because this can cause infection.
63 percent said age 14 was the right age to let your daughter wear makeup. Many parents I spoke to felt adamantly about this and would not hear of anything different. I think moms make a big mistake by forbidding makeup until 14 years old because they are not listening to their daughters and shutting the door to a bigger conversation. If your tween comes to you and asks to wear makeup, listen to her, ask her why she wants to wear makeup and find out what her friends are doing. Makeup doesn't have to be red lips and black eyeliner. Make a girls day of getting her a little sparkly pink blush or a clear lip gloss. Better yet, check out the Projects page on my website and make some lip gloss at home. Remember, she will not come to you later with bigger issues such as boys alcohol, and drugs if she felt you would not even listen to her about a little gloss.
Getting a Tattoo
The majority of respondents felt 18 was the right age, because they were legal adults. I think when a parent is faced with the issue of a tattoo, staying calm and having a conversation will yield better results than threatening to kick your child out if they get one. Hear her out and listen to what she has to say. Then, explain to her that she won't even wear the same shoes from a year ago because they are "so last year" so the tattoo she likes now might not be what she likes later. A tattoo is permanent and it is painful and costly to remove. Encourage her to wear fake tattoos for awhile to see if the novelty wears off. Finally, explain how difficult the job market is and encourage her not to do it in a visible place as it could turn off a potential employer. On the TODAY show, Parenting magazine editor Deborah Skolnik had a great idea. She advised parents to take a piece of silly putty and put it on a comic strip, stretch it out and say, this is what its going to look like when you are older.
However, we know teenagers can be headstrong and they do not always listen, so the best thing you can do is stay calm and firm but try to make them feel you don't view it as a rebellion, just a poor choice for a teenager. It becomes less interesting if mom does not yell about it.
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