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Salons and spas for little girls: harmful, or harmless?

By Alice Bradley

The New York Times, that bastion of meaningful news, published a story yesterday on how cosmetic companies and retailers are targeting six- to nine-year-old girls. Salons for little girls are springing up around the country, apparently, with parents hosting “beauty primping parties” for daughters and their friends.

The demographic the Times targets with this type of story is obviously quite small—a privileged minority, usually urban. One gets the feeling that the reporter saw a bunch of young girls piling into the elevator in her building, admiring their manicures, and thought, now there’s a story. I doubt that the majority of parents out there would be able or want to pay $150 for “pink limo service,” so that their daughters can arrive at the salon in style.

I’m not saying there’s no cause for concern: the very existence of kiddie salons, however prevalent they may be, is fairly disturbing. Girls have always been more than a little fascinated with makeup and the other rituals they associate with womanhood. This is nothing new, and I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with it. (It’s not just the girls, by the way—Henry will often grill me about what I’m doing to my face, ask to check out my lipstick or have a swipe of powder. Of course he calls it “disguise paint,” but then, isn’t it? Last summer he asked for blue toenails—which, he decided, made him look like a rock star. (He was going through a glam-rock phase.) )

The problem is not the makeup or nail polish per se, but that the products and services are now being targeted to little girls. Once the message is sent out that it’s legitimate for little girls to concern themselves in these matters, beauty and upkeep leave the realm of playacting and become a real area of concern for girls. The message: this isn’t just fun—it’s necessary. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, is quoted in the story, and she sums it up perfectly: “It’s one thing to have them play around with makeup at home within the bubble of the family. But once it shifts to another context, you are taking away the play and creating a consumer, and frankly, you run the risk of having one more person who feels she’s not good enough if she’s not buying the stuff.”

Just the idea of letting your kid go to a nail salon is, in my opinion, a tad horrifying. I think what bothered me most about this article was the picture accompanying it: the little girls having their toes worked on, looking completely at ease with adult women kneeling before them. The first time I had a pedicure I was in college, and I found it to be disconcerting, to say the least. I like the way the pedicure looks, but lord I hate getting them, and not just because I’m incredibly ticklish (although that’s certainly part of it). Having someone literally kneeling at my feet or hunched over my hands and serving me makes me squirm. Especially when it’s something I could do at home. Not as well, mind you, but I could do it. And I don’t think the experience would have seemed to strange to me if I had started getting them at a young age. I think if I had been six the first time I had my nails done, I might not have accepted the imbalance of the exchange; I might have assumed this was acceptable because the grown-ups were doing it, and I wouldn’t have taken a step back to look at what was really going on. I would hesitate to introduce an activity into my child’s life that acclimates her to being waited on in such a manner.

Not to mention, nail salon workers are typically underpaid, overworked, and risking their health through constant exposure to dangerous chemicals. That’s not a practice I wish to support. The sanitary practices at most nail salons are often questionable, and the risk of infection is too high. Given all that, if my kid wants to wear nail polish, I don’t see why it has to be applied by anyone but me.

And you, dear readers? What do you think? Is taking your kid for a pedicure a harmless afternoon of fun, or a dangerous message?

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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  • Amy

    February 29, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Ummm, I gonna have to disagree with you on this one (a first I think!). Perhaps having salons/spas dedicated only to kids is a little much, but I don’t see anything wrong with taking your kid (girl or boy) to get a pedicure. When I get a pedicure, I certainly don’t feel like the person is “serving me”, somehow subservient to me because they are sitting on a stool to get to my toes. They are providing me with a wonderful service. It is pampering and I love it. I thank them from the bottom of my heart ’cause when they finish making my feet all soft and paint my toes all pretty – I love it! Is that wrong?
    I recently took my 10 year old niece to a salon and we got manicures and pedicures together. We had a blast! We laughed and giggled. We were bonding together as aunt and niece. Is it now politically incorrect when we want to paint our toes because it makes us feel good, and when we take our kid along we are teaching them some horrible lesson that doing things to pamper yourself is wrong?
    I guess I would pose the question, is it OK to take your kid to a children’s hair-cutting salon and get a sylish cut or what about about getting massages? Is that OK? What about taking them to yoga classes? And I’m talking about children at an age they can appreciate these things (9-10 and up).
    Am I way off here? Can’t wait to see others views.

  • SuburbanCorrespondent

    February 29, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    I just cannot believe how desperate some people are to be separated from their money. Can I have some of that, as long as you’re wasting it, anyway?

  • dd

    February 29, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Amy – massages? for kids?
    It does seem a bit much. As a birthday treat or something, maybe, but there is an already-growing sense of entitlement in teens; regular pampering can’t be beneficial in that sense.

  • Cassandra

    February 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I am just so glad that I have 2 boys. I don’t have to worry about this in my house – but I do worry about this in a society-as-a-whole kind of way.
    I say targeting young girls in this way is wrong. I hate hate hate people who dress their little girls in a provocative way. And making sure their nails match these tarty outfits is utterly ridiculous.

  • Lindsey

    February 29, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Um, I’m going to have to disagree with you here. Pedicures are my favorite thing in the world — it’s a service, and it’s all about the LEG MASSAGE. I’m pregnant with boy/girl twins, and I can’t wait to take the girl (and the boy, too, if he’s game) with me for spa day!!
    I don’t think it’s acclimating your child to being “waited on” any more than is eating out at a restaurant. I consider it fun girl bonding time, pure and simple.
    What would be unhealthy, however, is if these cosmetic companies and spas started to push the idea that little girls “need” beauty treatments because without them they won’t be pretty. And yeah, I could see that happening.

  • Cobwebs

    February 29, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who isn’t comfortable with being “attended to” by a manicurist. Heck, I even feel vaguely uncomfortable when my dental hygienist flosses my teeth.
    I don’t know if there’s any harm in targeting makeup to little girls so long as it’s clear that it’s for “playing dress-up,” but I’d definitely agree that any marketing which suggests that a little girl is somehow deficient for not wearing makeup is grounds for showing up in the manufacturer’s lobby with torches and pitchforks.

  • Laylabean

    February 29, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Ew, yes, I agree completely, Alice. I hate the idea of someone marketing beauty products to my 9 and 7 year olds. Makeup parties at home are fine but the minute it becomes a business for someone, the girls become a “target demographic.” The whole point of marketing is to make someone believe their lives are incomplete without whatever it is you’re selling and pitching beauty products to little girls feels predatory and exploitative. They’re children! And most likely they’ll start fretting about their looks soon enough anyway.
    And I also have to agree with you on the pedicure thing. I’ve only had one in my life and I hated it. Partially because I have a thing about feet (yuck!) but also it seemed so entitled and creepy to have this poor woman slaving away over my icky toes. Blech.

  • amanda

    February 29, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I would never. But then I would also not be comfortable with a housekeeper. A professor of mine put it this way when discussing the idea of hiring someone to clean his toilet. “That is not the kind of relationship I want to have with another human being.”
    So I am with you Alice and for two reasons, both of which you mentioned. The media is finally taking note of the health problems encountered by workers in the salons, so that is reason one. And the second is the creation of further consumption and the gendered marketing toward little girls. Girls are already getting their periods at age 9 and having to wear bras earlier and earlier. I am afraid that when I have children there won’t be a childhood left for them.

  • Jo Anna

    February 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Manicures and pedicures are part of my self-nurturing. I have taken younger girls for the same treatment and they loved it. There is nothing wrong with painting toe nails on a kid. They do not automatically associate it with not being enough. That is something that is sadly taught in many other ways.
    Manicures and the like are fun. I love allowing myself to be pampered. I pay for the service.
    I do not feel as if any cent of the money I pay is wasted, as I love every second of the valuable service I receive.
    In my mind there is nothing demeaning about the exchange. I used to work in a spa and knew many manicurists. They liked their work. They were not demeaned. And they are not my servants. I pay for 20 minutes of their time and tip well. I certainly don’t treat them as any less of a person because of how they sit as they work (and let me tell you as a former massage therapist I would have loved to sit and work rather than stand for 8 hours). I don’t find it demeaning for anyone to get a facial, to have my apartment cleaned, to get my hair cut and colored, or any of the other services I pay for out of convenience or out of the fact that I enjoy having them done.
    I worked as a massage therapist for many years. Whenever clients of mine had children, I would work on the kids for a few minutes free of charge. I believe that massage at any age is healthy and positive.
    Ultimately it is not the actions that make people have issues. It is the lessons they get in the rest of their lives. There are many people who never enter a salon as a kid or young teen and still have serious body image and self-esteem issues.

  • Brooke

    February 29, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I take my 8 year old with me to the nail salon sometimes. A few times a year. They do a much better job of painting our nails than I would ever. They paint little flowers on her big toes and the nail techs seem genuinely entertained while they pamper my shy, shy child, who is so pleased with her toes at the end.
    I am not terribly comfortable being attended to (I am also not comfortable receiving gifts from friends or even money that I desperately need from my Mom), but I don’t own cuticle scissors and sometimes I just want to sit and have someone else deal.
    We have a Libby Lu near us (but not too near, thank God), and they do those primp parties, you know. I would never go there because it’s a freakin’ zoo, not because I have objections to little girls in makeup. I don’t wear makeup at all, and I think my fresh-faced 3rd grader is gorgeous without help. So does she. But sometimes she wants lip gloss or nail polish because it’s what Big Girls do, not because she feels inadequate without it.

  • lg

    February 29, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    I agree that it’s a dangerous message. I think most of the messages our society sends to girls and women are dangerous… “You aren’t good enough the way you are” and “Being frivolous is what girls/women think is important.” What worries me the most is the apathy I see in most WOMEN about these issues.

  • Belle

    February 29, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I am mixed on this. I love having my nails and toenails look pretty and get my nails done monthly. If I had a daughter I would probably let her get her nails painted. I have a son so that issue has not come up. I agree that young people (or any people)should not be made to feel that they aren’t good enough if they don’t buy certain items. However there are products and clothing which make us look better. When my nails are done and I have a nice outfit on, I get alot more compliments than when I am running around in sweat pants. So I guess there is a fine line between using products to enhance our own best attributes and feeling like we have to have the products or we are worthless. And it’s an extremely hard concept to teach children.

  • amy

    February 29, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I think there are a few issues here. Adults getting mani-pedis, which I’m all for! Adults taking slightly older (over age 10 perhaps) girls, once in a while, to join in the fun. Also perhaps OK. But targeting these services specifically toward young children is crossing some sort of line in my opinion. In high school I started treating my daughter to mani/predis, for her birthday or for prom, or just as a nice surprise once in a while. She never developed an expectation around this; it was always a special treat. I’d have been horrified for her to expect to be taken (even in a car, forget the limo) to a salon at age 6 for a manicure. Targeting these girls has to be a bad precedent for any reasonable person.

  • Slim

    February 29, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Is it because I like getting pedicures that the thought of children getting them doesn’t bother me? Or because I would happily cede the care of my children’s nails to someone else? (Ditto haircuts.)
    And, OK, I can’t come up with a good justification (other than money) that children shouldn’t get massages.
    But all that primping stuff? No.
    Makes me glad I have boys, no matter how many butt jokes I have to listen to.

  • Fabs

    February 29, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I took my daughter in to get pedicure’s as a special mom/daughter date for her 8th birthday. Of course she loved it and if we do it again it would be a once-a-year event, at the most. However, I wouldn’t pay to have a “party” of sorts for her friends until 12 year old at least. I also think everyone chooses a profession, and if someone chose to become a pedicurist (is that a word), then hopefully they enjoy providing a service and in turn making someone feel good for an hour.

  • Michele

    February 29, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Can I just totally change the subject here? I am so RELIEVED that Alice painted her son’s toenails. My husband is freaked out about the fact that our son wants his toenails painted. We finally compromised and only paint three of the ten nails, but I’m like, what’s the big deal? He’ll grow out of it. And if he doesn’t, we’ll teach him to be secure enough in his manhood to resist any teasing that might come out of it. But my husband, not happy with the toenail painting thing.
    Back to the subject: I love pedicures. If someone’s cool handling my stinky feet, then it’s all good. Spas and salons for little girls; not so cool. I think it’s all part of the slut-ification of little girls that’s been going on lately (my pet peeve: those sweatpants with words on the butt like princess and honey and all that. Please.) No spa trips until puberty, that’s my motto.

  • Jenn @ Juggling Life

    February 29, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    There’s a lot of excess in a lot of places in our society today. You could find disturbing examples of young athletes (of both sexes) and their adult-style training by personal trainers.
    That’s just another disturbing side of many of today’s parents treating children like short adults. It’s too bad.

  • DQ

    February 29, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I, too, am humbled by a woman kneeling, attending to my feet. I have gotten pedicures when I was pregnant because: I couldn’t reach, and to cheer myself up. To expose children to that too early would do them a disservice. I don’t think the juvenile brain is developed enough to appreciate the kind of boundaries this issue dances around.
    Also, being a faithful Catholic, I am often mindful of the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as a very significant act of humble service.

  • edj

    February 29, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Go Alice! I really find this trend disturbing. It goes along with the even-more-disturbing trend of sexualizing girls younger and younger…so that I can find a top in size 6X that says “foxy” in glitter letters or a pair of sweats that say “sexy” on the butt. That makes me squirm, to be honest, and there’s no way I’d let my child wear something like that. I’ve lived in a Muslim country where my 5 year old got a marriage proposal from a 28 year old, and in my mind, American culture is sort of heading in that direction with all this stuff. (Over-reacting? Not me, never!)

  • msg

    February 29, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    I agree with amy in there are 2 issues here. First adults getting pedicures and second kids getting them. I believe many pedicurists see themselves as professionals and actually go to school to learn their craft and are probably happy to have a job. The women who applied to work at the kids salon did just that, applied for a job, and I hope are getting tipped pretty well. My only issue with this is that some kids in this situation can be extremely disrespectful which is horrible in any context (i.e. waitress, housekeeper, babysitter, etc.).

  • alice


    February 29, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Part of why nail salons make me so uncomfortable is that here in the New York/New Jersey region, workers are almost always recent Korean or Chinese immigrants, and the salons are notorious for taking advantage of them. I don’t know how the population of nail salon workers breaks down by area, so I ask you: is it different where you are?

  • Anne

    February 29, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    My daughter (6) occasionally gets her nails polished by the owner at the salon where we get our haircuts. It started out as a reward when she was younger and squirmy-er and painfully shy so the owner did it as a reward for sitting still, not screaming, etc. A trade, if you will. 🙂 The idea of full faces of makeup and elaborate hairstyles and the like is vaguely unsettling to me, which is why I struggled to explain why my daughter couldn’t get the “Princess Makeover” when we were at WDW in November – you don’t NEED a makeover, what’s wrong with your original make?

  • amanda

    February 29, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Alice, just seconds before your latest comment I was feeling the need to respond again to point out that these women might NOT be “just happy to have a job” or “enjoying their service.” NPR has done several stories in the last few months about the health conditions suffered by the workers and the possible long-term effects of some of the chemicals they are interacting with all day long. One of those is here:

  • Bri

    February 29, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    I’ve only had my nails done a few times, but I hate going to those mall nail salons that smell like nasty chemicals. I had my first pedicure this past fall and LOVED it. It was so relaxing I felt fabulous all day. My home town has a Paul Mitchell salon school, and the women in my family go every couple of weeks for pedicures. The girls are all in training to be stylists and after graduation will move on to fancy salons and spas to make good money. We are basically guinea pigs while they are in training, so it costs very little. We get a little pampering, they get the training they need to graduate…seems like a fair trade.

  • Marnie

    February 29, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    To answer Alice’s very last question, in the typical, strip mall salons, yes, it’s often the same, but, I’ve noticed that the owners are typically also Asian. But, I live in the land of resorts, and when I go to one of those (only during low season when they have fabulous rates!) the techs there come from a variety of backgrounds.
    To go back to the original issues, I have a 7-yo daughter and have been to a couple of the places that specialize in this kind of thing. I didn’t really see much difference between that kind of party and the one at Pump-it-up, or Peter Piper Pizza, or any other organized, not-in-my-house party.
    The other thing is, that kids get their values from us, their parents. They see other things from friends, school, parties, etc. But it’s up to us to put those things in the right context. So, just because my daughter goes to one of those parties doesn’t mean she’s going to turn into a diva. She knows that I insist she’s polite to everyone, everywhere, and as with most kids, is much more so with other adults than with me!
    You don’t have to let your kids go if you think it’s terribly wrong, but there’s a chance you’re missing out on a valuable learning opportunity. Not to mention some fun.

  • Isabel Kallman

    Isabel Kallman

    February 29, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    I agree with a couple of commenters that there are a number of issues going on here.
    1) How do you feel about adults get pedicures and manicures? I’m all for it and living in NYC I see firsthand why Alice is uneasy. However, working in a salon is honorable job/career. I address this issue by only visiting salons (that as far as I can see) are decent establishments, but mainly I patronize the mom-run salon that I have for almost 15 years and have developed personal relationships with almost every professional/employee.
    2) I, too, see feet as icky. I do. So, Alice, you’re right the fact that someone is grooming and caring for your toes comes with uneasiness. But, I see that as my personal issue, not the manicurists’.
    3) Children being given mani/pedis by adults workers? sigh, it raises issues of entitlement and could be a very awkward dynamic. My thoughts: As a super-duper treat on a very rare occasion? Yes. But otherwise? I don’t think so. Ultimately, parents need to examine the message they are sending in the overall context of their daughters’ lives. But, only the parents know that answer.

  • msg

    March 1, 2008 at 8:16 am

    alice you are totally correct it depends where you go. I hadn’t heard the NPR piece but had seen something similar on dateline. I agree that some women may not be happy but that doesn’t make the profession as a whole wrong does it? I live in Miami where there are both the seedy places where the employees are being taken advantage of to the women who have their own business and will come to your home. I choose to give the spas my business where the employees seem happy and satisfied. I think this discussion may be for a different Wonderland post however…support businesses that treat their workers fairly or maybe the rights of immigrants:) Thanks for creating great discussion.

  • RubiaLala

    March 1, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I’m with Amy (first commenter) on this one. I’m so glad I don’t have a girl, though!

  • Megan

    March 1, 2008 at 11:19 am

    My daughter is 4 years old and I will not be taking her to a salon for a manicure/pedicure or a massage. That is all stuff that we can do at home, for free, without all the hype that is associated with the establishments that provide these services. What ever happened to waiting to get your ears pierced until you were 12, going on a first date at 16, not calling boys, wearing clothes that actually cover your body and not highlighting your rear end with “look here” messages?? I think society as a whole has erased the innocence of youth, wanting in some way to speed up the whole growing up process. I’m not sure why but I know it makes me sad and I know I have a long road ahead of me in protecting both my girls from many of these issues. I’d write more but my 8month old wants the keyboard. Aaaaargh!

  • C

    March 1, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    I don’t have children yet, and obviously you can’t really control the way their personalities turn out. I could end up with a child who wants pink, pink, and nothing but pink, painted over her entire body every single day. But a big part of my 26-year-old brain hopes that if I have a daughter, she’ll take after me and after fictional characters like Scout Finch, and have to be wrestled from the outdoors to be put into a dress… let alone brought into a salon for people to fuss over her. (I would have sat politely, for I was a well-behaved child, but inside I would have been HORRIFIED at the canned chemical smell, the sensation of a stranger touching my feet, and the fact that I was stuck inside on a nice day… no matter what aunt I was bonding with.) For me, pre-pubescent childhood was about learning and exploring the world of the outdoors, matching myself against the neighborhood boys and girls by my ability to play sports, learn multiplication tables, collect the shiniest rocks, or pick up weird bugs… not by my clothes or accessories. I don’t think children SHOULD be particularly self-aware in terms of the way they look – they have their whole lives to do that, starting with their tormentingly self-reflective teenage years.
    I grew up in an upper middle class, suburban Southern neighborhood, where for adult and even teenaged women, frosted hair, perfect tans, and makeup was the status quo. The adults in my extended family, trying to make it in the hamster wheel of the music industry – the pinnacle of fashion nonsense – were really too preoccupied to suggest that I either follow or disregard such a culture. Left to my own devices, I remember ignoring that stuff completely (even when make-up artists working on my mom would offer to do something on me), and instead feeling the most wonderful and radiant when I was flying off a tire swing into a local pond, or rejoicing in the secret prize of climbing a tall tree in spring: a robin’s nest full of birds. It was my externalized sense of discovery that made me feel beautiful. I believe THIS is the realm of young children – not strappy tank tops and Bratz and shiny toes.
    I suppose there is nothing to say that children can’t have both, but as Alice has pointed out in this wonderfully thoughtful blog entry, there IS a danger when children begin comparing themselves to other children by the way they look. Our culture of fashion and popularity are designed so that only a few can be doing it “right.” So should we bring our children into that rat race early, so they can be assured to be one of the few doing it “right” in middle school? Or should we allow them to bolster themselves in other (in my view, more useful) ways for their first 12 years?
    I know my outdoor experiences, and their impact on me, sound cliche, but I don’t think they’re the experiences of a bygone era. Of course I also did my share of watching the Disney channel, brushing my My Little Ponies’ hair, and playing Nintendo. And when I was a young teen, I did my share of agonizing over the “right” clothes. But until puberty hit at around 12, I was blissfully uninvolved in, and even disdainful of, all the little things adults did to make themselves feel pretty. I was too busy living and learning, and underneath all that, downright assuming that I was as beautiful as beautiful could be.
    Today I’m a well-rounded, married, successful, and by all accounts beautiful Harvard scientist who knows how to dress well, and, now that I’m in my 20s, actually enjoys getting her hair fussed over in a salon every few months. I gratefully attribute my genuine comfort with public speaking, and my rare and blessed ability to get fully lost in a learning situation… a science museum or art gallery… without worrying about my outfit or what others will think of me… I attribute all of these things to 12 solid years of practice growing up. THESE are the skills we MUST learn as children, or, in this over-consumerist and relentlessly comparative culture, we will never learn them at all.
    Sorry for the long post.
    I have long been a fan of yours, Alice – keep up the good work!

  • Sarah

    March 1, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I’m twenty-nine weeks pregnant with my first child, who happens to be a baby girl. I plan on doing with her the same thing my mom did with me when I was little. Every now and then she’d do my hair and let me wear some make up, and after I was about six or seven she would buy me little lip glosses and stuff to play “dress-up” in. (it was all stuff geared for children anyway. Does anyone remember Bon-Bons?) When I was about ten she started letting me get my own nail polish, which of course, I put on myself.
    She didn’t let me start actively wearing make-up until I was well into puberty at around fifteen. (I started my period at eleven and a half.)
    I don’t really care for getting manicures or pedicures at a salon, so I doubt I’d ever take my daughter to get one until she’s a teenager, and then she’d have to express an interest in them. I don’t think it’s wrong to let little girls get manicures, though I’d be even more worried about infection and cleanliness at the establishment if they’re going to be doing anything to my child.
    If you want to spend money on it, go ahead. But I think it’s more fun to do it at home.

  • Sandy

    March 2, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    I have a family member trained as an aesthetician and nail tech. She loves her job and enjoys giving great service to her customers. I have heard her rant on several occassions about the “discount” or “mall” salons that use dangerous chemicals and pose threats to not only their workers, but their customers. With regard to the issue of children receiving treatments, I would have to believe that they are NOT patronizing the latter establishments.
    With regard to the issue at hand, children receiving treatments, I have no problem with it as a parent. I regularly (monthly) enjoy pedicures. I also have a weekly housekeeper to keep up with bathrooms and floors. I am not wealthy, I budget these pleasures into my life to provide me with 20 minutes or relaxation once a month and an hour or two extra time with my family on the weekend.
    I do not feel entitled, I pay for a valuable service and very much admire the women and/or men that provide them! I believe my daughter learns by example how to appreciate the work others do for us, and the joy that great service to others can bring you. She watches her aunt provide pedicures and sees how happy both she and her customers are. She sees her father, who works in a service industry, provide a quality service and revel in a job well done.
    The issue is not whether the services will spoil or corrupt the children. The issue is how are parents using the opportunity to provide a valuable lesson in respect and mutual appreciation.

  • sozzled

    March 3, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I am in the process of trying to figure out what to do for my daughters 13th birthday party…..and based on what her friends have done every suggestion of my pales in comparison. Limo rides to $$$$ restaurants? Mani/pedis for a group of girlfriends; renting out an ice cream parlor and hiring a band to play? What are these kids going to be doing for their 16th birthdays?
    I thought turning 13 meant a sleep over with pizza and too much soda and trying to hypnotize each other while a frazzled mom yelled at them to go to sleep.

  • toylady

    March 3, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I have a friend who owns a girls’ clothing shop with a “salon” in the back. Many, many parents take their children there regularly and pay up to and over $350 for a birthday party for their 4-year-olds and their 8 closest friends. She does not let her two daughters have free treatments. Like me, she feels that these privileges must be earned–there is WAY too much of an entitlement mentality in our young children these days. If they want a pedicure, they save their money and pay for it themselves. It’s amazing how little a young girl gets out of a spa treatment when she has to pay for it herself. My daughter, who is 8, has asked me a few times when we can have mom-daughter mani-pedis like a friend of hers. I tell her I will take her for her 13th birthday if she wants. Until then, we’ll go when we both have the $60 (each) to spend. Even at this age she realizes that’s a lot of money to give to someone else to paint your nails.
    Need mom-daughter time? Paint each other’s nails. I know, I know. They won’t look “nice” and you don’t get the leg massage (which I also love!) but you will spend an hour or more laughing hysterically and spending quality, intimate time with your daughter, just the two of you.
    Why do we as mothers feel that we need to treat our children as friends and equals to have fun with them? I want my children to understand the value of a dollar, that with privilege comes responsibility and that nothing in life is free (I think I just used up all of my cliches for the day in one sentence!) As hard as it can be at times, I feel it is my job to say “no” to the vast majority of my children’s requests–for toys, experiences, stuff–so that they can experience the self-satisfaction that comes from earning something they really want for themselves. I want them to be thoughtful consumers, not just consumers. So far, it seems to be working. They don’t have many of the newest must- haves among their peers but the things they do have they earned themselves, they use regularly and they appreciate.

  • Morgan

    March 3, 2008 at 10:19 am

    They have a place here in Indiana, where you take your little girl to get made-up like Hannah Montana, a princess, or a rock-star. I took my 6 year old there for her birthday and she was really excited, until it was her turn. Then she was just overwhelmed. The atmosphere was an overstuffed jewelry store with teenagers playing dress-up with little girls, but everything was so cheap and lack for a better word “cheesy”. My daughter said she had fun, but I could see on her face she was ready to go as soon as she was shown the costumes. She was happy about taking the mini-make-up home…we do make-up every Sunday. I try to show her to make it look elegant but glamourous. The make-up that the cosmetic companies are preying on young girls should refocus their advertising to the Mom. Let it be her responsibility to guide her little girl into a right of passage of putting make-up on, just like any other life changing events.

  • Sheila

    March 3, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Despite all my begging, I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I was in my teens. It was explained to me that the problem wasn’t wearing makeup at a young age. The problem was being good at applying makeup at a young age and looking older than I really was. As a new parent, I’m amazed at my parent’s wisdom.

  • Kai in Portland

    March 3, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    The thing that concerns me – I’m not sure it has been mentioned yet – are the chemicals and toxic fumes that little girls could be exposed to in a place like a nail salon. Phthalates anyone? I am not an alarmist – I use many of these things on myself – and I too love a pedicure. Maybe I am naive but I think my adult body is better able to handle what some of these products contain then a six year old. I just came across this website (via another Mom’s blog) and it is scary what is put in cosmetic products.

  • Sarah in Silver Spring

    March 4, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I read that NYT article and had mostly the same reaction, Alice.
    I remember when I was 12 (yes, so old!) staying with a friend and her absent-minded professor dad down the shore (her parents were divorcing) one summer. I’d never worn nail polish before (really!) and neither had she. Every day we experimented giving each other mani/pedis with a new shade (red glitter! purple glitter! alternating fingers!). I’m sure we looked ridiculous, but we were having the time of our lives. I can’t think of more harmless rebellion. Our mothers would have been horrified–that was definitely part of the point!
    Am I totally nuts to think that life could still go at that kind of pace for my 2 girls?!! I shudder to think of my nearly 4 year old in a nail salon. For me, it feels like a growing-up-too-soon kind of thing. (And for the record, I actually love getting pedis and do so regularly).

  • Rita Arens

    March 4, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I hate it. It’s one thing to dress up. It’s another to go buy designer clothes for your kid. This is the same to me.

  • Lisa C

    March 4, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    A dear friend of mine is a masseuse (am I spelling that correctly?) and she particularly enjoys working on children. When my daughter was three, she’d get a massage after me, and before I was even off the table, she was naked, just itching to get up there. Of course, this was one of my closest friends, but her attitude is always one of service. My girl LOVED getting pampered and my friend got such a kick out of pampering her.
    Also, I used to clean houses, and I never once minded scrubbing someone’s toilet. That’s what I was getting paid for. And I wanted to do a good job for them.
    Thus said, I’d be perfectly fine taking my girl to get her nails done. When someone performs a service for someone else, it doesn’t imply inferiority.
    If I were a nail technician, I imagine that a little girl getting excited about what I’d done for her would be refreshing.

  • Susan

    March 5, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Wow, this is a hot topic! It seems to me, though, that we’ve been missing the most important point. A bunch of commentators have talked about how it’s ok for adults to get their nails done because it “feels good” to look good but it’s not ok to teach little girls that there might be something wrong with the way they look. Others have pointed out that kids learn their values from their parents so we don’t need to worry about the marketing. But every time a parent goes out of her way to “look good,” by applying make-up, getting her nails done, going out in high heels, etc. she is teaching her little girl that looking good is important. (More important than all of the other things that could have been done with that time and money.) Sure, it’s not as blatant as the marketers, but it’s all one continuum. In terms of teaching inadequacy, there’s no difference between you painting your kid’s nails at home and paying a professional to do it. The final message is the same: the fingernails you were born with might be fine, but shiny red ones are better.
    And the saddest part of this is that as females, so many of our bonding opportunities some down to going to the spa or shopping. Can’t we teach our children a better way to bond than by spending money, giving in to low self-esteem, and trying to make our selves look better?
    As for the chemicals, I hope this is a no-brainer. Yes, children’s developing lungs do need a little more care than an adults, but those chemicals aren’t good for anyone.
    As for the subservience, thing- I empathize with your position, Alice, but I think the real issue is a failure in our culture to be comfortable with intimacy. Having someone rubbing your toes, scrubbing your toilet, and flossing your teeth requires a level of trust and intimacy that we’re just not very good at here. I don’t even like getting my hair cut. (Though I do love the scalp massage! Which brings me to my last point- massages and yoga are totally healthy and have nothing to do with exploiting low esteem or making you look better and are good for everyone, including children. They are expensive, though, so check some books out from the library and learn to do it yourself.)

  • Danielle

    March 5, 2008 at 3:58 am

    It’s just silly in my opinion. Yes, my 5 year old daughter loves it when we put on make-up together at home. (The poor girl has 3 brothers! She needs girly things!) But doing make-up and nails are something girls are supposed to do at slumber parties, not at salons or spas. Let kids be kids!

  • CJ

    March 5, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Don’t confuse high-priced salons with cheapo nail places. Perhaps the former treats their employees well, but the latter are notorious for exploiting their workers. These workers, by the way, probably don’t have a lot of options when they “choose” to do nails for a profession. I don’t mind manicures and pedicures necessarily, but if you’re going to do it, pay fairly for the service. I guarantee you a $10 nail place is NOT paying your manicurist a living wage.
    As for the little girl thing, come on, these companies don’t care a whit about mother-daughter bonding when they market their services to young girls. Taking your kid to the salon for a once in a while treat is totally different from targeted marketing to her and her peer group.
    My friend who lived in Sweden told me it’s illegal to advertise directly to children there. I don’t know if that’s true, but I love the idea.
    Oh, and the post that likened pedicurists to Jesus totally made my day. Imagine Jesus painting flowers on your toes and giving you those cheap little flipflops so the paint won’t smear. Fantastic.

  • Mom101

    March 6, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Had my first pedicure at 16 for the junior prom. That night: Had sex.
    Coincidence? Nope. Pedicures lead to sex. Think about it. It’s a slippery slope.

  • Laurie

    March 6, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    I’ve taken my son and daughter (both age 7) for pedicures several times. They love it, the ladies at the nail salon love the business and my generous tips, and I love it bcs I can treat myself. My son has tried navy blue polish with a lightening bolt and now chooses clear. My daughter likes “rainbow toes” or black. I go for pink. The best part though-and my real motivation-is that they get their feet and toes squeaky clean and nails clipped-an activity that at home is akin to WWIII. If you gotta do what you gotta do, at least make it fun.

  • pnuts mama

    March 6, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    can i just say that mom-101 just made me LMAO?? ha! if only our husbands knew about this pedicure/sex connection, they’d be sending us to the nail place three times a week!
    i too think these primpy parties are over the top, like so much else of parents living vicariously through their kids- the poor kids who are basically pawns in their parents competitions over who is cooler/better/wealthier- i see it all the time all over nyc and long island. it makes me sad.
    i think that is totally different from a mom or aunt or grandma taking their girl out for a fun day of bonding- special time together is rare and it can be a great way to get a tween or teen to feel comfortable enough to open up and talk about things that otherwise could be left unsaid.
    i’m pretty sure in nyc any nail tech has to have their license (with a picture) posted on the wall- absolutely i would agree that 99% of the women who i’ve had do my nails (used to have them done weekly back when i worked as acct exec in the city- i can’t paint my nails for anything) are recent immigrants, mostly asians, but i don’t necessarily see service-industry jobs as degrading- that lies in the hands of the person buying the service. you have the choice to treat anyone with respect, whether they are teaching your child, putting a roof on your house, cleaning your toilet, or bringing a meal to your table. i also like the idea of supporting the small business owners who operate their mom and pop shops in my community- lets face it, nails are a business, and more power to the reputable entrepreneurs who are working hard to make a living.
    i certainly try my best to show my respect and appreciation to whomever i am paying to provide a service to me (and i hope i teach my kids that), and i tip accordingly, because any service industry job isn’t a high paying one, period. as far as environmental/health related issues, that concerns me, but again, those concerns extend to any service industry job.

  • the other leslie

    March 7, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I was just telling my husband about how I used to get Love’s Baby Soft perfume in my stocking every Christmas. I don’t even think they market anything like that for girls now-a-days! We go to a little kids “salon”; they have those ride on trucks made into seats and dvd players. It makes haircuts so much easier, and they are as cheap as Great Clips. Also, I fork out a lot of money to establishments every birthday — I hate hosting parties! If there had been a “salon” around when my daughter was in the playing beauty stage I would have had a party, pink limosine and all. My daughter didn’t get any messages at home that she needed enhancing at all. I think that salons for little girls can be an entertainment activity without making little girls believe that they have to be beautiful to have worth.

  • Shannon

    March 21, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    I completely agree with you, and the issue really isn’t nail polish. My little girl, age 6, was picked up in a limo to be taken to one of these places and she talked about it for the next six months. Really. If we are doing this at 6, what are we going to do with them when they’re 16?
    We are working on the philosophical differences between maintaining a neat and attractive appearance and becoming a Bratz doll. Not fun.

  • Tamika

    May 4, 2008 at 10:30 am

    My daughter is 6 1/2 years old, she likes going to get her hair washed and nails polished. i belive that it’s a great expirence for her because it helps boost her self-esteem. Me as a parent im trying to open up a childrens hair-salon and spa that is just dedicated to children nothing crazy.
    I don’t think that anything is wrong with treating our children to salon and spa activties some times, I mean hey we do it all the time moms & dads, and most of use enjoy having some cater to for a few hours of so.

  • amy2

    September 19, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    first of all, i believe that there is nothing wrong with having time with your little girl. If your a mom and you have a young girl who not only wants to spend time with you but wants to do girl things with you what harm is it?!! i went to a place called ooo la la and they made BOTH of us feel wonderful and not only that i had a girl day with my little girl!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Marissa

    December 16, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    I happen to be an AMERICAN manicurist of 14 yrs! I resent the part where you say were typically underpayed & overworked!! If you only knew how much money we make!

  • Shez

    May 30, 2009 at 4:41 am

    I was actually thinking of going into a similar business with a friend of mine and found this site while doing some research. I think you all have valid points and have given me a lot to think about before I go ahead. Our idea was more on the costume hire and face painting side of things, but was also going to include minimanis and pedis for kids as well as the primping parties. I think that I have succumbed to the society and circle of people that I am around and I don’t think I want to!!! Thanks x

  • Lee

    August 19, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    As an adult I enjoy going to the spa for relaxation. I think its great for a woman to be pampered every now and then.
    I also believe as parents of young girls – we must teach our daughters, sisters and nieces to love themselves from the inside out and not from the outside in. I think if we focus on that than we teach our young women self confidence and to love the skin their in – make up or no make up.
    If we as parents focus on that we might then view “a day at the spa” as fun and girly and not exploitation of our young girls.
    Just because a make-up service is offered does not mean you have to purchase it. There are lots of other services offered at a spa – that are not deemed as “exploitation”.
    Let’s keep things in perspective…..