How Michelle Obama Made Sure Teenage Sasha And Malia Stayed Away From Tattoos

Of all the passing cliches of parenthood, one paradox has managed to withstand the test of time above the rest: The more your parents don't want you to do something, the more you want to do it. Not even presidential families like the Obamas are immune from this phenomenon, as former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama learned with their two daughters. 

When Sasha and Malia Obama began discussing getting tattoos, much to the chagrin of their parents, Barack and Michelle kept this parenting paradox in mind and discovered a hilarious workaround. The solution? Pretend that what your kid is doing is so cool that you want to do it with them — as in matching Obama family tattoos. 

The former First Lady described her and her husband's mastermind approach to guiding their daughters away from tattoos in a December 2022 appearance on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," and it's just as quick-witted and down-to-earth as you might expect from the Obamas.

Barack and Michelle Obama were going to make tattoos uncool

Sasha and Malia Obama were 7 and 10, respectively, when they moved into the White House, meaning they spent most of their preteen and teen years under public scrutiny. So, when it came time to deter their daughters from partaking in rebellious youth activities like getting a first tattoo, former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had some tricks up their sleeve. 

"We used to threaten our kids," Michelle shared on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" (via YouTube) in 2022. "If you get a tattoo, we're going to get exactly the same kind and show it on TikTok or whatever. Take the cool away. We're going to make it so uncool. Barack Obama is going to have a heart on his shoulder." 

The former president echoed similar sentiments almost ten years earlier while on "The Today Show" in 2013, saying that he, Michelle, and the daughters would show off their matching "family tattoos" on the internet. "And our thinking is that might dissuade them from thinking that somehow that's a good way to rebel," the politician joked.

The Obamas' attitude toward tattoos have changed since then

Sasha Obama, the youngest of the two Obama daughters, experimented with body modification back in 2016 when she got a scrolling henna tattoo on her hand and lower arm after a trip to Morocco, Liberia, and Spain, per the Daily Mail. Seven years later, the Daily Mail reported that Sasha had made what appears to be a permanent body mod with a hot air balloon tattoo on the back of her upper arm. 

While her parents might not have enjoyed the idea of their daughter getting inked at first, former First Lady Michelle Obama described how her attitude toward tattoos has changed while on "The Kelly Clarkson Show." "[Tattoos] shouldn't be politicized," Obama said. "Most kids who are wearing tattoos, piercings, they've got long nails, their value system is about individuality." 

Indeed, from spending their childhood in the White House to enjoying California life – which their dad helped prepare them for — as adults, Malia and Sasha have grown into independent, intelligent women who have made their presidential parents proud — tattoos and all. And who knows? Maybe one day, Sasha will convince her family to get those matching tats after all.