Ear Piercing :: When is it abusive?

Let’s have  wee chat about ear piercings in children shall we?

Recently, Miss Edith declared that she wanted her ears pierced, it was a decision she – in all her infinite wisdom at the grand old age of 3 – had made and she would NOT be swayed. It was happening and I needed to take her to do it. Setting about finding her “dream earrings”, she took to YouTube and started watching videos of little girls with their perfect pretty pink earrings, further reinforcing her point that she could get her ears pierced because Parker from Life with the Yagers has them dammit (she didn’t add the dammit but you get the vibe).

Anyway, as with the majority of my important life decisions, I took to Instagram to have a chat about ear piercing and what to do because what else would a millennial parental type do? Let me tell you, it was a revealing 24hrs, from “you have waited too long, it’s best when they are born to 6 months” all the way to “absolutely not before the teens.” Who would have thought that asking a huge group of people for a definitive answer on a controversial topic could reveal such difference answers… *insert sarcastic smiley face here*

Ultimately, I guess I just didn’t think of it as a controversial topic initially, I wasn’t asking for guidance with my moral compass, or advice on parenting, the question I actually posed was are any piercers following me and what age would they recommend ear piercing from. I was roughly about 7 years old when I had mine done (mum swears I was more 9, so perhaps I was older…) and apparently this is the most common time to see ear piercings in little girls, as well as the most common time to see infections according to multiple teachers who messaged me to claim they hated seeing kids with piercings because they could almost guarantee that they would be placing a call to the parents by the end of the week for infected ears. Lots of piercers from Spain/Latin America got in touch to let me know that their experience was the younger the better and that Edith was probably a little bit old now. They rarely saw infections in babies/toddlers but that they would almost always see children back for re-piercing as the piercing had become infected. English piercers got in touch to tell me that they wouldn’t pierce children under 8 in their salons, even with the parents permission as they just felt it was unethical. The split, even across the professional board, was really interesting and there was a lot of passionate responses.

I’m very much a “you do you” kind of person, but I guess the issue with piercing a child’s ear is that it’s not really you doing YOU, it’s you making a life decision for another human being who may or may not have asked for it. Before you click away, I’m also shying away from the raging “It’s unethical, it’s abuse” crowd because, well, don’t we make these decisions every day for our child that could be life altering and strips away their choice? Decisions that could have a fundamental impact on their health, both mental and physical.

Edith asked for her ears to be pierced, so had we decided to say yes then it wouldn’t have breached any ethical rules for those who believe that it is, in fact, abusive to cosmetically alter a baby without his or her permission, however it would still fall under allowing a child who really can’t understand the consequences of a piercing, to alter themselves in a way that would either scar them or leave them with a permanent hole in their bod. For us, it doesn’t sit right to assume that another person will want their ears pierced at any point in their life, it isn’t a given, it isn’t something that they will one day have to do anyway so we are getting it out of the way for them when they are at lower risk or when they won’t mess about and give themselves infections. I have several friends who have never had any desire to pierce their ears, it’s just not something that they wanted to do. What if their parents had made that decision for them? Surely that would be a grave misstep on their behalf. I also know a lot of parents who have already made the decision and pierced their child’s ears when they are teeny tiny, and whilst their children are absolutely not worse off for it and they 100% are NOT abusive parents, I do have to question if they stopped to consider whether their child would want their ears pierced and if not, what right they had to take that decision away.

Presumably they would consider it the same right that all parents exercise on a daily basis. The right to choose how to raise and care for their child. Take for example how we feed our children, what if they become vegetarians? What if you are raising your child with a certain religious belief, but they decide that they are agnostic or atheist? How many people grow up and shun something or other that their parents hold dear or that their parents do?

I think it’s a little bit harsh to fling around terms like abusive – is piercing a child’s ears before they can ask for it something I agree with? No. Is it something that should probably have a legal age limit? I think so, but it’s not something that I would make an effort to campaign for. When it comes down to it though, it is an individual parental decision at the moment and by all accounts, no one really knows the right answer, varying so wildly depending on which country you are from.

Who knows! For now, she’s changed her mind and I’m happy with that, I would prefer she waited until she is older and as her parent, the one who has to take care of her, I do believe I have a reasonable degree of control over her decisions (all this free choice for kids tends to lead to a whole heap of HELL NO in my eyes). The advice from the pros really seems to be wait (or that we have missed the opening), so wait we will. In the meantime, she will just have to keep on youtube ogling the much desired “pretties” and make do with her Claire’s stick ons.

What are your thoughts?

H 🙂

8 Comments

  1. Jane
    September 25, 2019 / 8:23 am

    I believe it’s a choice they have to make for themselves when they are old enough. My eldest daughter never was interested and at 28 still hasn’t got pierced ears. My second daughter started asking at about 13 but I said she has to wait until she was 16. Part of the reasoning for this was. I knew as soon as she had them done she would be asking for other piercings and I wanted to delay this as long as possible. In the hope she wouldn’t do it. I have a beautiful picture of her with no piercings in her prom dress looking sweet sixteen. She had her ears pierced just after she was 16, and had since pierced her bellybutton, tops of her ears, her chin and a bar put through the top of her ear. Now at the age of 25 she has removed the bar and the chin piercing. So, I am pleased that I delayed her or she would have done all of this earlier and then have gone on to tattoos. But each to their own and you know your child best.

  2. Christine
    February 21, 2019 / 3:50 pm

    I had always told my daughter she couldn’t have her ears pierced until she was 13 (not sure why I made that decision – but it seemed a sensible age at the time!) When she was 10 she kept asking to get her ears pierced and I kept saying ‘no – not until you’re 13’. Then one day she came home with lots of ‘evidence’ that she had collected about the risks and pros and cons associated with ear piercing and had found details of two reputable places in our town that pierced ears. She had also saved the money to get it done herself. I figured that if she was on the ball enough to research it for herself like that then she had considered everything and was consequently old enough to make the decision and have them done.

  3. Kate Harwood
    January 15, 2019 / 5:36 pm

    I think it’s a shame to do it too early. It’s such a fun rite of passage for a teenager and I remember feeling so grown up when I was allowed to have it done at the age of 13 or 14. I adore wearing earrings – wouldn’t go without them. But it genuinely felt like the start of my adult journey having them done

  4. Anonymous
    January 14, 2019 / 9:12 pm

    Disney do great stick ons too 😉

  5. Stacey
    January 14, 2019 / 9:10 pm

    I had mine done at the whopping ages of 6 months. As Calvin Harris says ‘it was acceptable in the 80’s’. I am told the lady popped the earrings in and put my hat back on my sleeping head. Was that true. Who knows? I’ve never had any issues with my piercings and I’ve never had a deep rooted hatred for my mother either. My daughter is almost 3 and I’ve never thought once about piercing her ears. I do however see a massive amount of year 7 (11/12) girls who have had piercings over the summer and they are still infected by the time they return to school and can’t get them in and out for pe. Who know what best? You do.

  6. January 14, 2019 / 6:02 pm

    I always think when they are old enough to ask and understand, my eldest was about 6-7ish when she got hers pierced and thankfully had no infections and still has them in now and she is 16. My 5-year-old has no interest in getting hers done yet, although a couple of girls in her year at school have them done. Not a fan of babies having them in, but I suppose some people do it for cultural reasons etc x

  7. Lizzie
    January 14, 2019 / 11:53 am

    My Mum rolled with the ‘when she wants it’ approach so therefore so did I. Both my sister and I were around the 6/7ish mark – HOWEVER my eldest was 3 when her older cousins had them done and she BEGGED for a fortnight to be like the others!

    This didn’t sit well with me but I felt like a hypocrite. I have loads of earrings PLUS I said when she asks we’ll do it. And I think I was crying over spilt milk, we’ve not had a single problem! Stapling a hole in your child is mega controversial but as you said each family to their own! X

  8. Annie
    January 14, 2019 / 11:46 am

    My little girl told me in October she wanted her ears pierced, she was adamant at the time and told me when I said it hurt more than her injections that she didn’t care and she’s be brave. I left it for a while but she kept bringing it up so I decided with her dad if she wanted them done still in the Christmas holiday’s then we would do it. Even after the decision I was so conflicted, I’m not sure if it was reading posts from people saying it’s unethical and irresponsible and I was letting them get to me but I was still unsure. She ended up changing her mind by Christmas which I was a little releaved about but I’m not sure what I’ll do if she asks again, she will be 4 in March but is that old enough, I still have no idea.

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