A question I often get asked, “How did you handle modesty with your daughters?”
Modesty should be taught in love rather than out of fear. Early on in our parenting we were more legalistic operating in rule-based living verses freedom. “Your skirt should be two inches below the knee.” “Your shorts need to be a certain length.” “A girl should wear skirts.”
While modesty may be a difficult concept to teach our daughters, we must persevere.
Our desire was first to instill in the girls character and dignity. We did our best to show them how their attire and demeanor had a correlation with the way they would be treated by men. Our focus was on their inner beauty rather than outer appearances. Thereby instilling in them confidence, friendliness, love, joy, kindness, a servants heart and along with other godly characteristics which exude beauty. It’s a lot easier to teach modesty to children grounded in character.
My husband monopolized teachable moments to point out “sexualization” in the media and discuss how some of the girls on magazine covers, and in movies, were revealing too much skin. He shared the impact that dressing had on some men. As such, our daughters began to understand that wearing little clothing was like advertising their bodies. He taught them that the bait they used would lure in the type of fish they attract.
Below are 7 tips to consider when teaching modesty to your children.
7 Tips for teaching MODESTY
M Mom, modesty begins with you. Remember more is caught than taught. It’s helpful to model virtue and beauty to your children.
It’s certainly okay to look beautiful and be fashionable, but I believe that the posture of the heart is a key that can be accomplished by encouraging our children to cultivate a deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus.
O Use Object lessons. Jesus was a master story teller and often used visual aids such a vine and children to teach object lessons. Walking through a vineyard while traveling to Gethsemane, he taught the importance of remaining connected to him using a grapevine. He placed a child on his knee to teach the disciples if they wanted to be first, they must be last — they must become as “little children.” (Matthew 18).
Amy Bennett shared about what her young daughters (8 & 10) taught her about modesty. She decided to dress up in (somewhat) immodest outfits and have her daughters dress her more modestly. Kids learn best by role playing. Visual aids make memorable lessons.
D Define standards for modesty from the get go. If you haven’t set the tone early on, it will be harder to expect your teens to cover themselves up. Allowing a young child to wear a bikini until she develops and then insisting she wear a one piece will send mixed messages. It is important to be clear and consistent.
If we allow young girls to wear clothing far too old for them or dress them in a sexually suggestive manner they may want to continue as they get older sending the wrong message.
In our home after my girls went shopping they would model their purchases in front of their dad. All clothing purchases had to pass both our approval.
E Explain the reasons behind your decisions. Give children a reason to your decisions and be sure you are in agreement as a couple. As your children mature, dialogue with them about modesty knowing they will probably push the limits from time to time. Don’t merely seek outward conformity rather develop a heart connection.
Having Caryn’s heart and being unified on clothing decisions when she decided to participate in the local Austin Teen Beauty pageant produced a surprising outcome which I will share in my next post
S Scrutinize clothing choices with your children. Be sure to compliment and highlight outfits that are appropriate. Use teachable moments to discuss what could make immodest outfits more appropriate.
- “Are you trading in your moral values (modesty) to model the latest fashion?”
- “What do you think about the outfit you are wearing?”
- “Are you trying to bring attention and glory to yourself, or to God?”
- “Are you mimicking what others are wearing to fit into the current fashion?”
T True Identity matter. Communicate from early on how valuable your daughter is to you and God. Focus on her inner beauty more than outer appearance. Remind her that her worth is not based on her looks, abilities, where she lives, or what others may think. Rather her worth is based on how God sees and values her (Psalm 139:13-15) and it never changes (Roman 8:38-39). God’s love is unconditional.
Y You are a parent. You may feel powerless but ultimately you have veto rights over your daughters’ wardrobe so long as they are living under your roof. Be secure in your role as a parent to exercise that control. However as the parent explain your decision-making process. When kids understand the why they are more likely to comply.
Modesty should never be about shaming the female body. We should dress modestly because our bodies are God’s masterpieces and the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’.
It is impossible to dress in a way that prevents other people from stumbling 100% of the time which is not the point. Modesty is not about wearing a burlap bag in an attempt to hide the female form and somehow prevent men from lusting. Modesty is about valuing yourself. It is about learning to love how God made you as a woman. It is about knowing how precious you are, every part of you, and not wanting or needing to flaunt it through less fabric on your body. Modesty is not gauged by whether or not someone will easily be tempted to lust after you. It is the poise, grace and a sense of value that naturally manifests itself through the attire chosen on a daily basis. Teach your daughters their value and instill in them an understanding of their strength.
Lastly, I implore fathers to be present in their daughter’s lives as I think my husbands honest, gentle, and loving involvement in our daughter’s lives has had the greatest impact on them. Dads need to verbalize how proud they are of their daughters and how beautiful they are. Dad’s tell your daughters they can be leaders and have a powerful voice. Words of affirmation will have the greatest impact on what your child chooses to wear. You can teach them about modesty, but without captivating their heart they will see through the rules and have no problem wearing jackets before leaving the house in an effort to cover up their plunging necklines.
Do you talk to your kids about what’s important to you, to them, and to God? Do they understand the WHY behind clothing decisions?