Here’s the first modesty goal we’re going to talk about: I want my children to become fiercely independent in the development of personal style and color choices.
I want my children to develop right opinions about modesty, far before their friends do. I want my daughters to know why they dress differently than their friends, so when they are asked, they’ll not be shamed into silence and resentment. Knowing why before they are challenged is an inoculation.
But teaching children to have strong opinions has consequences. They may decide they don’t like the clothes I’ve been picking out for them. As I cultivate their confidence regarding other people’s opinions of what’s in style or appropriate or pretty, it is inevitable that they will all grow in their confidence to challenge my opinions on what is in style or appropriate or pretty. I’m convinced this is a necessary and delightful consequence of preparing a young girl to grow to love modesty.
How am I teaching this confidence now, when my daughters are young? By pointing out how ladies around them have developed different styles that are beautiful and modest. By asking for and respecting their opinion on matters of color and style, within certain parameters. By considering them as individuals with their own personality, and trying to discover and help them develop their own sense of style, even though it might be different than my own. My mom was a great example of this. While other girls complained about never wearing anything that their mother picked out for them, I always loved the things my mom picked out. She knew what I liked, and she also knew when to push me to try something new that I might not have picked out, but ended up liking. I realize now that her approach wasn’t accidental, or just because she has good taste! Her ability to predict what I would like was the result of deliberate study.
We also discuss silly people who don’t know why they wear what they wear. I want to see themselves as outside the group of people who don’t have an opinion, or who are manipulated in their clothing choices. I want them to see the folly of following trends for their own sakes, before they feel the pull of following trends. Here are some things I’ve said:
- Some people [I get a lot of mileage out of “some people”] wear what’s in style, even if it doesn’t look good on them. How silly is that! [sometimes we see real life examples!]
- Some girls love to be modest, but when they get married, they forget to look for a modest wedding dress!
- Some girls would be embarrassed to wear their underwear to the beach, but they’ll wear a bikini! Amazing!
- Some girls would rather look like their friends than be comfortable!
- I tell them about when I was younger, how I had friends who would tell me to buy things that THEY liked or thought was pretty, not what I liked.
- We talk about why certain clothes are attractive, how certain colors work well together, and so on. I want to help them know why they always choose a certain style or color, and part of this strategy means I need to give them words.
Little girls don’t really understand sexual purity yet. We can talk about not showing off our bodies to anyone other than a husband; they understand this to some degree, but there’s a lot about modesty that is governed by trust. On the other hand, they easily understand how people are controlled by peer pressure to wear certain clothes.
Of course, I can’t stop at simply cultivating opinionated children. What’s important to me is not merely that my children have strong opinions, but also that they understand and embrace good biblical reasons for having them.
I’m sounding like my mother!
Next goal:I want them to understand how clothing manufacturers market clothing. [after today’s discussion, I bet you can understand why.]
This has been a struggle for me, especially when we have friends from good families, the type that I would want to encourage my children to make lifetime friends out of, who have different ideas. Take the bikini for instance – I have some good, Christian mom friends who see nothing wrong with their kids wearing a bikini, even if they would not allow it from their teenagers. Personally, I believe that it is best to dress your children when they are small as you would want them to dress when they are older, so we do not wear bikinis, even when we are tiny.
But, when I stress this at home, I hear it parrotted in front of the friends. So, teaching modesty without teaching a condemning spirit is the challenge I have, particularly with my outspoken, black-and-white eldest child (the little one isn’t yet communicating that well). Do you try to teach your girls not to comment on the appearance/dress of others that is negative?
That’s probably a great blog post! Mostly I explain how God is teaching me to love people with differences: realizing that God doesn’t teach us all the same lessons all at once, realizing that I can be right with the Lord and have blind spots (so can others), remembering the struggles that I have that are similar, explaining mitigating circumstances. Since love looks at things from the best possible light, I’ve told them not to comment on someone’s inappropriate clothing. However, at some point, I shrug my shoulders with people who dress differently. I have found that without saying a word, I offend people, simply by wearing something different. Our children will do the same.
good stuff, Michelle–as always.