My daughter got multiple piercings and didn’t tell me about it

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female public servant in my 40s. My husband passed away, and I’m raising our children, who are in middle school and high school. I realized the other day that my high school daughter has multiple piercings.

I chastised her for getting piercings without my knowledge and made her take them out. My daughter cried and said incoherent things like, “I’ll study hard and do this well on my tests, so let me keep my piercings.”

My daughter goes to a school that prepares its students for university entrance exams, and she usually works hard at her studies and sports. I believe that I’ve supported the things she wants to do. However, she hides various things from me. For example, she didn’t tell me that she’d started getting her period, and she bought cosmetics and hid the receipt in the back of a drawer. Each time I’ve told her that I want her to confide in me, but it doesn’t get through to her.

I’m worried that she might also conceal serious things from me in the future, like her relationships with boys. How should I approach her?

— T, Shiga Prefecture

Dear Ms. T:

I think your daughter knew that you, her mother, would object to her piercing her ears. The fact that she wanted to do it anyway is proof that she has entered puberty. Another name for puberty is a rebellious phase, but she’s not rebelling because she wants to rebel.

She’s feeling the thrill of encountering new things and earnestly “searching for herself,” and that is a time when we clash with the standard values of our parents and society.

First, I’d like you to understand that your daughter is also feeling unsettled. You don’t have to be a parent who is understanding of absolutely everything. It’s OK to tell her distinctly about the things that you can’t accept. However, there’s a difference between parents expressing their opinion and parents making their kids do what they want. If you get that wrong, she may conceal even more things from you in the future.

I think it’s good that you honestly conveyed to your daughter your surprise and discomfort regarding her ear piercings, but I have some doubts about the fact that you forced her to take them out. There are cultures overseas in which piercings are normal, or even encouraged.

Shouldn’t your daughter, based on various experiences in the future, decide for herself whether her piercings will be accepted in Japanese society?

I think puberty is a time of trial for parents, to see how much they can trust their children.

—Masami Ohinata, university president