Setting Limits

We received an inquiry from a mother about the marketing of makeup to ever younger girls. Wal-Mart had started carrying a new line of makeup for tweens called “geoGirl.” Targeted for girls ages 8 to 12, it caused a firestorm of debate. The mother asked, “I know you guys usually deal with teens, but how do I handle a 9-year- old when she says all her friends will be buying this new makeup and Wal-Mart is promoting it?”

Accelerating the Adult World

We have seen this tendency to market the “adult” world to younger and younger kids through television shows, magazine ads and commercial products. It really comes down to parental judgment and setting limits. Why does your daughter want to wear this makeup? Is it because all her friends are doing it? Is it to dazzle a boy at school? Does she feel the need to wear makeup to fit in or be accepted? Ask your daughter and listen to her answers. Why she wants to wear make-up will give you direction for deciding whether or not she will.

We’ve always had girls wanting to play “dress-up.” Makeup for young girls has ordinarily been seen as “play” and been found in the toy aisle. What is different now is that this makeup line is being marketed not as play but as a pre-adult “grown-up” activity, and the products can be found next to the adult stuff. The 8 to 12-year-old girl market is huge.

A few guidelines.

It is important to create limits for our kids so that they know what is okay and what is not. We do this all the time, whether it’s makeup, dating, diet or schoolwork. The fact that Wal-Mart comes out with a new line of cosmetics for pre-teens doesn’t change this. Limits are still important, and parental responsibility for setting them is key.

It might be helpful to have some guidelines for setting limits. Here are our “top four”:

  1. Base limits on the child. How old is she? How mature is she? What can she handle? Don’t base your child’s limits entirely on those of her friends.
  2. Be open to your child. Let her express her thoughts. She needs to have a say even if it doesn’t always carry the day.
  3. Create consequences for not following the rules. Consequences should be realistic and fair. They should be known up front.
  4. Be consistent in enforcing consequences when rules are not followed.


Talk to your child – and listen. Try to keep a handle on how she is feeling. Know her friends and her friends’ parents. She should understand your thought process and why you created certain limits. While her acceptance will be particularly difficult if her friends have a different set of less restrictive limits, it is important to attain some degree of mutual understanding. And it starts with talking and listening.


By dads2dads

Fatherhood: It’s Practice Not Perfection

Throughout our tenure as parents, we’re often privileged to attend school athletic contests, plays, musicals, variety shows, etc., in which our adolescents and teenagers are participating. Mom beams with pride realizing that the dress she helped sew is holding together during her daughter’s dance number. Dad just knows that his kid is the star of the show or game, even if his son is playing the tree or warming the bench. Those days of picking up our young singers, actors and athletes after practice or driving them to school or church in the evening for rehearsals finally pay off when we see and celebrate the results of their preparation and hard work.

From preparation to performance

Practice. Preparation. Hard work. We can’t think of a better terms to define the process of growing up. We have heard it said that the early years of a person’s development comprise the preparation. Later, it’s all about performance—education, career, marriage, parenthood, community service. A successful performance is the result of practice and preparation.

Dad as coach

Dad, think of yourself as a coach. Think of your parenting years as practice. It’s not so important that you get everything right. After all, it’s called practice. What is important is that you realize it’s practice for you and for your son or daughter. If practice is simply demanding that your teenager mirror everything you do and say, then you’re not allowing space for your child’s creativity and individuality. If being a parent-coach is laying down a set of inflexible rules and shouting orders, that might be considered practice to produce an automaton, but it’s not preparation for creating an independent-thinking son or daughter. Success in life comes from being prepared to improvise and adapt to all the U-turns and hurdles that life will present.

Parenting is practicing

Dad, be fair to yourself, too. Those years when you are driven to the brink of madness because your teenagers are practicing acting grown-up, experienced, brilliant and all-knowing –take it easy, back off and practice your responses. Dads love to control and fix things. But we need to practice leaving things in pieces and allow our teenagers the freedom to pick up those pieces and put their own puzzles together. Dads, we could use a little practice at unfixing things.

A performance of a lifetime

It goes back to each of us having a personal public relations program. Along with practicing, we parents have earned the right to do a little preaching. While we are helping our children prepare for their life performances, they must also understand that their youth will purchase a measure of forgiveness only for a while. There will come a time when they will be thrust into the spotlight and held accountable for their performance. What they do with what they have learned through years of practice, preparation and hard work will have a lasting impact, and will hopefully make you proud.

By dads2dads

Finding Ourselves In Doing For Others

Volunteers of all ages build houses for the homeless. They collect shoes for the shoeless. They glean farmers’ fields for the hungry. They ring kettle bells for those less fortunate. They read stories to children and play games and do arts and crafts with the elderly. There is arguably no better way to spend time—quality time that otherwise might be frittered away in idle activity—than to share it with others.

Giving is the Gift That Keeps On

A university alumnus told us recently that he tutors teenagers to help them prepare for college entrance exams. His students comprise all ethnicities and backgrounds. He recalls his very best success story. A young gang member wanted to pull himself up and out of his hopeless lifestyle. He agreed—even signed a contract—to attend weekly tutoring sessions. His grade point average was rock bottom, somewhere around 0.0006. After three years of hard work and commitment on everyone’s part, this ex-gang member graduated from high school with a full academic scholarship to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

What’s in Your DNA?

Those kinds of transformative stories create goose bumps. The fact is that there are countless potential life-changing stories out there if only there were enough people willing and able to volunteer their time. Tutors, builders, gleaners, bell ringers—civil servants all—can be any age. The only qualification is that caring must be part of a person’s DNA.

Enter your teenager! How many of us dads get irked at the time our teenagers waste? They may be staring glassy-eyed at the TV. They may be mentally numbed by a video game. They may be hypnotized by the characters dancing across their phone/pad/pod window. At the same time, they may be bellyaching that “there’s nothing to do around here!”

Teach Values—Be a Model

Dads (and Moms), take charge and strongly suggest that your teenagers volunteer their time for community service. Offer to do it with them. What better way to teach the value of giving back, of serving others! Start slowly. Suggest one or two hours a week. Provide some suggestions, but emphasize that anyone can come up with his or her own creative way of volunteering. It doesn’t have to be through an agency or organization. It can be arranged through your church or school. It can be an idea suggested by your family. Need a jumpstart? Call the retirement home nearest to where you live and find out if and how they could use some help. Maybe your teenager would be willing to call.

Imagine your teen replacing even a fraction of the time spent on Facebook with face-to-face service to real people! Talk about being a real friend!

To get started, simply Google “Volunteer opportunities in [location],” and this will take you to several links that provide a menu of organizations. As Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

By dads2dads