Ear Piercing For Children: When Is The Right Age?


I can honestly say I did not expect the many different reactions I encountered when I allowed my daughter to have her ears pierced for her 11th birthday.

Call me naïve, but I was completely taken aback by the polar opposite viewpoints we were subjected to – often unasked – when Emma unveiled her mutilated/pretty/disgusting/fabulous (delete as per your preference) ear lobes.

Before going any further, I should be absolutely clear that we are not a family where ear-piercing is a cultural norm. We are what Alastair Campbell would probably call a 'bog standard English family'.

I have no strong opinions (I know, unheard of) either way where it is accepted practice to have your baby's ears pierced at birth – indeed, I don't know enough about the reasons or ideology to make an informed comment. All I know is my daughter begged for almost a year to have her ears pierced.

"PleasecanIhavethempiercedpleasecanIhavethempiercedpleasecanIhavethempierced?" seemed to be the only conversation we had on a daily basis.

My husband was against it. His own very elegant mother has never had her ears pierced, and nor had his sister, so for him it was an alien concept anyway.

That said, when he met me I was supporting the rather (un)attractive three holes in each ear look (that's the 80s for you), so maybe he had a point about our daughter not following in her mother's footsteps.

To be honest I held out for a while. My 15-year-old daughter is adamant she won't ever get her ears pierced, so it wasn't as if Emma already had a precedent in her older sister.

But in truth Emma having her ears pierced provided me with a great - I really mean easy - 11th birthday present.

We were in the middle of a hugely traumatic time looking after my seriously ill mum, and Emma had been pretty much side-lined as I spent increasing amount of times with her Nanny.

One night, lying in bed, I thought what an easy option it would be to let her have her ears pierced – we could have a special "mother daughter" outing and I would once again be lovely mummy, not grouchy snappy tired mum who was always rushing between work and home and Nan's.

But the lovely warm feeling I got when Emma opened her birthday card to read we were off to get her ears 'done' after school that day trailed away when the deed was complete and we came face to face with a world post-Operation Ear Pierce.

You know how when you're pregnant complete strangers think nothing of touching your bump, or when you announce your chosen baby name and people feel it's their right to tell you why you shouldn't call it that?

Well the need to tell you, or show you, what they are thinking continues when you allow your child to get their ears pierced.

First up was my own mum, who managed to wrinkle her nose in distaste and make it quite clear she didn't think ear-piercing was acceptable for an 11-year-old.

My sister, who has two boys, shrieked: "Oh my word, I can't BELIEVE you've given in. Chavvyyyyy!" Thanks Michele.

My other sisters, who do have girls, were much more ambivalent about the whole process – 'been there, done that' was their reaction.

My still elegant and glamorous mother-in-law sided with my mum, but I had to ask her what she thought as she ate her lunch in silence the first time she saw Emma after her birthday.

"Well no, I don't think it looks nice at all, but I was so disappointed I didn't know what to say." Sometimes a silence does indeed speak volumes.

There was a range of comments, some funny, some frankly unprintable here, from people who were under the misguided assumption that we wanted their opinion.

But it was my friend, we'll call her Helen, who caused me the most grief. She rang me in such a rage the day after Emma's birthday to say her daughter – we'll call her Grace – wanted her ears pierced.

"Thanks a lot," she trilled. "I've got nothing left now you've caved in – Grace will have to get hers done."

Well actually, no, Helen - she won't. You'll have to just stand firm, as I do over other things that matter more to me than ear piercing. As my mum used to say – 'pick your battles'.

It's not my concern if something my child is allowed to do, yours is not. Different families do things in different ways. Your child has an iPhone 5C – my child doesn't. Your child has a Facebook account, my child doesn't. Like I said, pick your battles – but please don't pick them with me.

Top tips if you do decide to pursue the ear-piercing route.

1. Only let your child get their ears pierced if you are really comfortable about it and you are 100% behind it.

It's not fair to your child if other people are critical of it and you shrug your shoulders as if to say "I don't really approve but what could I do?" Your child will need you right behind her. If you don't want her to have them done, then you must stand firm.

2. Be honest about the process.

It hurts. Ok, only for a few seconds, but it hurts. She needs to know that. It's no good having one ear done and then not wanting to go ahead with the other one.

3. Do choose a reputable outfit to do it.

Sounds obvious but, do some preparation beforehand. Will your child be comfortable on a shop floor where others can watch, or is there another option where she can have them done in the privacy of a room away from the gawpers? Ask around and find out where other friends have used.

4. Agree beforehand with your child what will be allowed in terms of what she can wear.

Our rule was that Emma had to wear gold studs – and only gold studs – for at least six months post-piercing.

I also said she was not allowed dangly or cheaply-priced ear-rings for the foreseeable future. This was because I didn't want her putting cheap metal in her ear which may cause infection and I didn't want her going out looking like a pole dancer with lurid feathers hanging from her lobes. I have stood firm on this in the 12 months she has had her ears done.

5. Check what your daughter's school policy is on ear-piercing.

Most schools will allow single studs in each ear, but they often say they have to be removed or taped up for PE. It's worth checking.