How to Deal with an ADHD Teen’s Tattoo and Piercing Behavior


    In my last post, we discussed some of the reasons a child or a teen might get a tattoo or have an ear, tongue or nose piercing.  Usually, these behaviors not only irritate parents, but cause so much frustration and anger in both the parent and child that their relationship is often damaged for weeks or months.

It’s difficult for kids to talk with their parents and for parents to avoid yelling at their teenager when they obviously don’t agree that what the teen has done is either acceptable or intelligent.

Today we’re going to review other causes of these behaviors….plus talk about what a parent is supposed to do to deal with this problem behavior.

The most common reason for teens to get a tattoo or pierce their tongue, nose, eyebrows  or other body parts is to make themselves unique or so different that someone in their age group (or near their age) pays attention to the “new them” and recognizes and accepts them for what and who they are.

Other reasons include:

  • The follow the leader syndrome (The teen wants and needs to be accepted into a group)
  • True self-expression and the desire to be an individual with freedom of choices
  • To deliberately irritate a demanding and controlling parent or guardian
  • To seek parental attention (As my Uncle Frank always says: bad attention is better than no attention at all.)

So, what can a parent actually do once the damage has been done?

First of all, a parent must decide “Has there really been that much damage or is it something I can live with?”  After all, if it’s a tattoo, it’s not going anywhere. Currently, laser therapy to remove a tattoo runs about $1000 a square inch- ouch! If it’s a piercing, just removing the ring doesn’t close the piercing, which can cause $350 to $450 to do. (If piercing holes aren’t excised, they will eventually get infected or cause scarring!)

Others things a parent might want to do…

  • Avoid destroying your lines of communication with your child
  • Do not say mean or derogatory remarks about the behavior (What is the real difference between piercing your nose or say…piercing your ears?)
  • Point out your reasons for disappointment (Unless you have a tattoo or piercing…then you’re stuck! You should not imply “Do what I say and not what I do!” Consistency and parenting by example are absolutely necessary to raise a child to a successful adulthood.)
  • Remind your teen that you love them, care for them, want to protect them from all harm and are ultimately responsible for their behavior. This would be a great time to discuss the infections that can occur with tattoos and piercings, such as hepatitis B & C, HIV-AIDS, MRSA (staph) and fungal diseases. Additionally, you should discuss scarring, how difficult tattoo removal is and the possibility that tattoos and piercing might keep them from getting a good job.

A parent’s goal after-the fact should be to help the teen deal with what she or he has done, understand the implications of what has been done and reach the right decision about whether to get another tattoo… or another piercing in the future.

I’ll repeat the most important thing a parent should do…. Be a consistent, loving parent that reminds his or her teen that while you might not agree with their behavior and are disappointed with it, you still love them regardless.

If you have any other suggestions we can share about handling tattoo-piercing behavior in teens, please share.

Dr. Frank 

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