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