DEAR NICKY — My 14-year-old daughter and myself are at loggerheads because she is intent on having her belly button pierced. She already has her ears pierced twice and is talking about getting them pierced again. Not only do I think it looks horrible, but I’m also worried in case she has problems with it going septic. The thing is, she is really strong-willed and I don’t know what I can do to stop her — VICKY
DEAR VICKY — Negotiating with teenagers is one of the queries I get asked about most. The point at which your normally agreeable and compliant kids start to state their own opinions can feel like a real challenge. It’s the right age for your daughter to be developing some independent views and it’s also normal that whatever her opinion is, it will be the opposite of yours.
Families that get through teenage years intact are those where the parents and kids learn to negotiate. There are three “roles” we can take in any interaction . . . a parent role which is authoritative and controlling, an adult role which is negotiating and equal, and a child role which can be demanding. That’s easy when the kids are little . . . you are the parent and the child is the child. What you both need to do now is start interacting as adult to adult. That means you treating your daughter as a grown-up and her seeing things from your point of view as well as her own. Sounds easy on paper, but it can take all the teenage years to work this out.
Why does it matter so much to you about the belly piercing? Worries about it going septic won’t put your daughter off . . . you need to give more information about your feelings than this. Choose a time and a place where you can give each other full attention. Show her you are ready to listen and, when it’s your turn to explain how you feel, she needs to listen to you. Agree you’ll hear each other out without interrupting. See what suggestions she has about a possible compromise, such as waiting a month or two to see if she still wants it done. Interestingly, if you agree it may take the rebellious joy out of it for a while! The main thing is to choose your battles carefully. It’s easy to get drawn into saying no to everything before you’ve thought it out, which can make it difficult to put your foot down about issues that really matter . . . school, homework, her safety etc. Talk to her friends’ mums too and check out how they are negotiating with their daughters. One book that might help is Teenagers!: What Every Parent Has to Know, by Rob Parsons. Good luck — NICKY