Just how strict should you be as a parent?

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As my kids get older, I find there’s a delicate balance as a parent when employing the word “no”. In fact, it’s bigger than that: it’s figuring out how strict Mrs Adams and I should be.

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My family sit firmly in the “no tattoos” camps. As a result, I got myself inked. Who knows, I could have ended up like this guy? Photo credit: Clem Onojeghuo

To be clear, I’m not talking about homework or allowing your kid a pack of chocolate Buttons. I’m thinking of the big stuff: alcohol, drugs, sex, use of social media and so on.

As my kids are young, some of these issues haven’t really presented themselves yet. When they do, I want to be prepared and know how Mrs Adams and I are going to handle them.

I’m going to use a rather bizarre example to demonstrate this: tattoos. Truth is, I’ve always had a soft spot for tattoos.

Even when I was a young kid, I loved a good tattoo. I still do, but I struggle with the modern trend of covering every part of your body with ink, especially necks and hands. Call me old-fashioned if you must, but I think it’s best if they can be covered up.

In fact, a couple of months ago, I came face to face with a woman with a cupcake tattooed on the right temple of her head. While superbly executed, I couldn’t help feeling this was, shall we say, an interesting choice of tattoo on an unmissable part of the body.

What’s this got to do with being strict and employing the word “no”? Quite a bit as it happens.

My immediate and extended family are not tattoo people at all. Growing up as a boy, tattoos were on the “banned” list. They were spoken about in hushed tones and disapproval of tattoos was made explicitly clear from a variety of directions. “No,” I was never to get one.

I then reached the age of 17. One by one, my friends and I obtained driving licenses. With cheap cars, licenses to drive them, no responsibilities and a six-week summer holiday to fill, a group of us headed up to Blackpool for a dreadful camping break (it seemed like a lot of fun at the time but if I lived my life again…).

It was one of the first times I had been away from home without family. Taking full advantage of this situation, I tracked down a tattoo parlour and got myself inked the moment we arrived in Blackpool.

Needless to say, it was a rubbish tattoo. I’m not going to tell you what I had done, I’m not going to tell you where it is, but to this day I carry that sign of misspent youth with me.

All I will tell you is that it was of an insect. Yes, a fricking insect. In fact, it’s simply the outline of an insect and part of the reason I only had the outline done is because it hurt so much.

No, I am not going doge the awkward truth, this was such odd choice of tattoo and it sits squarely in cupcake territory. I have to face the even more awkward truth that Cupcake Lady showed the correct level of commitment and actually went through with the entire thing so her tattoo was coloured in.

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This cupcake looks delicious. Would you, however, want one tattooed on your face?

Even so, I thought I was the coolest kid around. I didn’t appreciate the derision from my peers was honest and heartfelt. I thought they were either jealous or joking.

As time passed, I came to realise just how daft I had been. A tattoo is for life, not just something that fades after your stupid teenage years.

Some years later, I went through a major relationship break-up. As part of my I’m-rebuilding-my-life process, I found myself at a tattoo removal place on Harley Street in London (don’t you just love the way the post break-up brain works?). I had a free session with a laser removal specialist. A tiny bit was removed but it would have been so costly to get the entire thing done it remains on my person.

The one saving grace is that I only had a small tattoo done in a place that is easy to cover. It’s so small you can cover the tattoo with a standard-sized HD memory card. Believe it or not, I managed to keep it secret from my mother for over 20 years.

I’m obviously casting my mind back a long time, but I know part of the reason I behaved this way is because of the way tattoos were spoken of at home. Sure, it is down to my own character and I take responsibility for my own actions but tell a young person something is forbidden and they may show up at the next family gathering with an insect tattooed upon their person or a sponge-based confectionery tattooed on their face.

It goes without saying my kids get strong guidance about working hard, respecting others, apologising when they upset someone and so forth. These are all big issues in their own right, when we start getting on to behaviours that could truly harm my kids, that’s when things get very awkward.

Even at my kids tender ages, we have had to discuss issues like alcohol dependency because of things they have witnessed (not at home, I should add). Discussing these issues and running your household in a way that doesn’t make them into issues, that’s the trick.

I must also be realistic. If one of the worst stunts I pulled off was to return home with a small, bad tattoo, things didn’t turn out too badly (there were other stunts, but this none of them left me permanently marked). While I am realistic to the fact my kids will pull off the occasional stunt I won’t approve of, I hope Mrs Adams and I can steer them away from the harmful stuff.

While perhaps not harmful, I do include tattoos of cupcakes on the face on that list. Oh, or insects anywhere. No cupcakes or insects please.

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15 thoughts on “Just how strict should you be as a parent?”

  1. Hmmm. Interesting read. Truthful and controversial at the same time… I myself have a tattoo. A rather large one, hidden of course, even I can’t see it 🙂 So I often forget about – how did you put it – my misspent you 🙂 That’s probably a good thing!! I have one question though, you did try have it removed, so do you now have half an insect?? I just had to ask….

    1. No, the removal guys just removed a small part of one line. And yes, I do love to be a touch controversial from time to time.

  2. Your post made me laugh . Yes, we all have to try things that are forbidden by mum and dad.. I got my ears pierced… twice … despite my mother’s disapproval.
    I now voice my own disapproval of my daughter’s tattoo … but it didn’t stop her. And she didn’t hide it for 20 years either ha ha.

    1. I think the fact I hid it shows the level of disapproval at home! I was daft to get it done in the first place, but the absolute intolerance of tattoos just fired me up to get it done.

  3. I’m a fan of tattoos. I have them, my husband has lots including a full sleeve. Our Little Man is grwoing up knowing they are ‘normal’, although I can’t say I will love it if he comes to me in 14 years time telling me he wants one. I wouldn’t say no, but just make sure it’s something he will always love and want to keep. And to be done by a credible artist. #thatfridaylinky

    1. Yes, exactly: something he wants and has given thought to…..not some trash he’s had done simply because he was rebelling against his family!

  4. Really intersting John tattoos is a difficult one me I have a lot but I love them always have. Strictness with your kids for me comes from educating the rights and wrongs of life that way hopefully you are not ramming it down their throats don’t do this or that.
    I am fortunate that my older children are good kids, but I believe that’s me being honest with them. Good luck with finding the right balance I’m sure you will Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

    1. Yeah, it is finding that balance and I think the pendulum was possibly allowed to swing too far in the “strict” direction when I was younger. That’s not a criticism, I was my mum & stepdad’s first and I know full well my second kid benefits from the experiences I’ve had with my first. It’s just about finding that balance.

  5. Tattoos were the same in my house growing up.

    As soon as the parents moved back to the states when I was 18 and the love of my life (I was 18 lol) left me to go back to her ex. I strutted into a tattoo parlour and got my first one done.

    I got another one a few years later and that’s been it. I kept theme hidden from my mother for years. Until it was just too hot on a family reunion in Arkansas and I went I the pool.

    She never said a word!

    I’m firmly in the, make something so taboo and off limits and a teen is going to do it.
    Sithe down and discuss it with them and they can make, hopefully, the correct decision themselves.

    Great post John.

    1. I totally agree Alan. Oddly, whenmy mother saw mine, she didn’t react with horror at all. I am, nonetheless, curious to know what you got tattooed on your body as an 18 year old?

  6. My first tattoo was a big Yosemite Sam on my bicep. It was much cooler 25 years ago than it is now. Our teen has several small ones that I don’t particularly care for, but they are still better than the big frigging holes in her ears. Hard to know when to choose your battles sometimes #thatfridaylinky

    1. Yup, choose those battles with care. I think you make life difficult for yourself when simply declare something like tattoos or body piercings are off limits. your kid will simply do the reverse I think.

  7. I got my first tattoo whilst on a break in college. I had a few hours to spare in between lessons so went and got a tattoo as you do! I picked on off the wall and had it inked upon me. I don’t regret it. It could be worse. As if happens, it’s quite small so barely bothers me. I have 20+ tattoos so couldn’t really say no to my own kids getting inked. All I would say is to think carefully about what they want and where they want, as tattoos are for life, unless you can afford the laser surgery to get them removed, although that’s more painful than getting the tattoo itself! Also…I’m curious as to where this tattoo is Mr Adams. I never would have thought you’d have gotten a tattoo! Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

    1. Oh I like a good tattoo Emily. I certainly wouldn’t judge anyone for getting it done…but I think you need to chose the design and spot carefully and cupcakes on the face should be avoided. The bigger point, however, is making a big thing of somehting. If tattoos had simply been a day to day thing in my family, I’d probably have gone nowhere near that tattoo parlour. I was simply kicking off against the rules!

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