4 Ways to Instill Modesty in Your Daughter
With warm weather comes the temptation for girls to dress immodestly. How can parents teach and guide their children to make modest clothing choices?
Summer is here, and with the hotter temperatures comes an inevitable decrease in modesty. Go to a public pool or beach, and you will likely see many girls wearing skimpy two-piece bikinis. Outside of the beach, you will see ultrashort shorts, tube or halter tops, and miniskirts.
Of course, modesty is not just an issue during summertime. Many girls wear clothing year-round that’s tight and shows a lot of skin. Often girls’ clothing is emblazoned with catchy little words and phrases like “Hottie,” “Sexy,” “If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” and “I know what guys want” (sometimes emblazoned on the seats of their pants).
Most parents do not want their daughters to dress this way. But it can be a challenge to find appropriate apparel in stores. Several “mom-friends” have told me how they have to weed through endless piles and racks of skimpy tops, dresses and swimsuits and go to countless shopping centers, before finding clothing for their daughters that’s even close to being wholesome.
Then there’s the issue of peer pressure. Even if you can find modest clothing styles for your daughter, she might not want to wear them. One friend relates: “Whatever kind of clothes my daughter’s friends wear, she wants to dress the same way. It may start out with just a couple girls from school wearing a racy little type of outfit, but before long, all the girls want the same style of clothes.”
So what’s a parent to do? The Bible says girls and women should “adorn themselves in modest apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9). The word modest here could also be translated “proper,” “respectable” or “decent.” This is not to say females need to pattern their fashion after Queen Victoria. But clothing worn out in public should not be sexually enticing or draw undue attention.
That’s why it’s so important for parents to teach their children and set boundaries (Deuteronomy 6:7). That’s not always easy to do, especially if your daughter begs, pleads and even insists on wearing clothing you believe is immodest.
Teach your daughter that modesty is not just a matter of clothing, but also an attitude. The kinds of clothes we choose to wear can be a reflection of who we are on the inside.If you find yourself in this situation, consider these four tips:
1. Talk about the importance of modesty.
Provide your daughter an explanation of why you are not allowing her to wear certain types of clothing. Kids want explanations and a framework for why you make the decisions you make. If you don’t teach your daughter why some styles are provocative and explain the problem with dressing this way, she likely won’t internalize the value of modesty.
Explain how wearing revealing clothing can attract the wrong kind of attention—and even dangerous individuals. Teach your daughter that modesty is not just a matter of clothing, but also an attitude. The kinds of clothes we choose to wear can be a reflection of who we are on the inside (Luke 6:45; 1 Peter 3:3-4).
2. Set the right example.
Model the right kinds of dress for your children. Let them see by your example that it’s possible to dress modestly and still be stylish. If you’re going out for a night on the town with your husband, go for the classy, elegant look rather than the suggestive or risqué look. Your kids notice what types of clothing choices you make. Modesty is something that needs to be taught in the home starting with example. Parents must teach this to their daughters first by their “behavior” (Titus 2:3-5). If modesty isn’t important to you, it won’t be to your children.
3. Shop together.
With our busy lifestyles, it can be easy to just give your daughter some money and drop her off at the mall to do her own shopping with her friends. Don’t do this. You need to be with your daughter—at least most of the time—to make sure she makes the right choices when buying clothes. If she’s shopping only with her friends, she’ll be more tempted to buy clothes that aren’t acceptable.
Make time to go shopping with your daughter, and be willing to go to as many different stores as it takes to find decent clothes. If time is lacking, check out different retailers’ websites to preview what they’re selling, so you don’t waste time going to stores that sell clothing that doesn’t meet your standards.
Make sure your daughter knows what styles are and aren’t okay before you go shopping. If she knows the guidelines in advance, your shopping trips will go more smoothly.
Here are some areas you can consider setting standards for: neckline, tightness, length of shorts or skirt, and what kind of wording and images appear on her clothing. As a parent, you have the responsibility to set general and specific guidelines for your daughter’s clothing when she is young so she can learn to make good choices herself as she gets older.
4. Don’t be afraid to say “No.”
Be willing to take a firm stand with your daughter and say “No” when you need to. It may help to at least acknowledge her feelings: “Yes, I know it’s not easy to be different.” “I realize you had your heart set on that dress.” “I understand that all your friends have string bikinis, but I don’t think girls should be seen in public that way.” Your daughter will appreciate that you’re recognizing how she feels, even though she may be disappointed with your decision.
Remember, you have an obligation to teach your children how to discern what is and isn’t in line with God’s way of life. You have the responsibility to set limits for your children.
The truth is, no matter how frustrated your child seems with your standards, deep down she’ll appreciate the fact that you care enough to set rules. And ultimately—though it may not be in the immediate future—she’s going to respect your standards and (hopefully) teach them to her children one day.
Our flagship magazine, Discern, frequently includes articles with practical tips on working with your children. The July/August 2016 issue has many articles on family. You can read current and past issues and subscribe on our Discern page.