Q. My 10-year-old daughter has always loved playing dress-up with my shoes and makeup. But recently she's started putting on lipstick in the mornings before school. We've had a couple of fights about this. I just feel she's too young to wear makeup. What do you think? What is a good age for girls to start wearing makeup?
A. The age of 10, although not necessarily a significant developmental milestone as compared to the terrible twos or the turbulent teens, is often referred to as the "turn over year". This term means that by age 10 -- whether parents like it or not -- children hold half of the control over their lives, while parents hold the remaining 50 percent. As children continue to mature intellectually, physically, emotionally, and socially beyond age 10, they grasp in bits and pieces more and more responsibility and accountability for their actions and decisions.
This fact, however, does not preclude parents from continuing to exert their influence, offer advice, and say "no," particularly when issues involve the child's health, safety, and the family's values.
Makeup, hair styles, and clothing are the gray areas in parenting -- there are no hard-and-fast rules. Each parent-and-child pair needs to settle on certain parameters without resorting to heated arguments, which will only hurt the parent/child relationship, most likely making the issue bigger than it is.
That being said, there is something about girls in elementary school wearing makeup that just doesn't sit well with most parents. Go ahead and tell your daughter that you understand and appreciate her interest in makeup and dress-up, and that when she's at home she can experiment with outrageous outfits and exotic makeup all she wants. But outside the home -- school, social events, and extracurricular activities -- you cannot allow her to wear lipstick or makeup.
Tell her it's inappropriate while she's in elementary school, and besides, she's beautiful without it. She might be appeased with tinted lip balm that gives a little gloss and color to her lips, but doesn't give the look of full-blown lipstick. Let her know that when she's in junior high or middle school, then you will bless her interest in wearing makeup outside the house. When that time arrives, take her to a department store where a person who sells makeup can show her how to apply it in a way that enhances her looks but doesn't make her look like a painted Kewpie doll.
Realize that even if you make this rule about lipstick, she might sneak a tube of it in her backpack and apply it once at school. If you catch her doing so, confiscate the lipstick and state how disappointed you are. Don't, however, punish her further. Because dress-up and makeup have been a lifelong interest of your daughter, combined with the influence of certain female entertainers who little girls attempt to emulate, you're probably fighting a losing battle. Nevertheless, exert your power, control, and influence as best you can, while not losing the loving relationship that exists between you and your daughter.