As parents, one of the toughest things we're facing in our over charged sexual culture is the openly immodest showing of body parts. I don’t know about you, but from a mother's heart, I believe bodies are only meant to be seen by parent's or doctors when necessary, and a future husband or wife. So how do we teach our children this concept when nakedness is up in flashing lights? Not only do we have to guard ourselves as adults, but also the eyes of our children at the magazine stands, the grocery store, the billboards on the free-way, the local library, the school house, and even the church.
With it being Fall, I thought it only fitting to discuss the issue of keeping our family's clothes from falling away like the leaves on the trees, There are some important things we did with our children that have stood the test of time. I can’t say we haven’t had a few bumps in the road, but when they occurred, we revisited the principles they learned in childhood, making the discussion easier because it wasn’t the first time they had heard about staying clothed. I hope these ideas empower you to clothe your family well!
Around the time our children started Kindergarten or when they began to notice others dressing in unusual ways, or when they started caring about what they personally wore, we started talking. The need to teach the difference between modest and immodest clothing had arrived. We took advantage of public displays of immodesty as a teaching opportunity without criticizing the people we saw. We might simply say "Our bodies are beautiful and for that reason they're only meant to be shown or shared with the people who love us." We taught them the importance of not showing body parts to the world while explaining modesty as a choice of honor and self-respect. We also reminded them God loves us and wants us to choose modesty so our body remains pure and beautiful. As a young parent, sometimes it was trial and error, but I'll never forget the day I realized the teaching was paying off. My son and daughter must have been about 5 and 7 years old. As I grabbed the mail, heading out to run errands, I handed back the clothing magazine I received in the box. It was simple fashion. While driving, I heard their sweet voices from the back as they flipped the pages discussing the pictures, "That's modest, that's not modest." The other said, "Oh my, that's inappropriate." Our work had paid off and today they know that choosing love of self with proper views of body exposure are an important part of who they are.
When they were starting school, as I glanced at clothing on the racks in stores, I always looked for modest things even at that cute young age where there was nothing to show. We viewed clothing choice for young children the same as if they were sixteen. Having a different standard in early childhood can make modesty confusing for a teen. We determined not to find ourselves allowing them to dress immodestly early on to later face a battle when they began to discover their sexual identity as a teenager. We never wanted to hear, "I wore this sort of thing when I was little, so why not now?" No matter how cute it might be, if it's questionable clothing for a teen, err on the side for your little one of not now, not ever. You'll be glad you did.
Say "Yes" as Often as Possible
When it came to other fashion things like haircuts or hair color, and accessories, we tried our best to say "yes" even if it wasn't something we would choose for ourselves. If you can say "yes" to the edgy things that don't matter, they will value your "no" more when it has to be said. Reserve the "no" for the big things in fashion that could cause them harm. Our children often chose their own wild haircuts and sometimes color, as well as shoes. Sometimes it was hard to watch, but when the time came, we could say "no" with confidence.
Daughters Can Rely on Their Father for Fashion Advice
Teaching daughters to rely on their fathers opinion about their clothing is crucial to the journey. There were a few times I found myself in a battle while shopping with our teen for her next season of clothing. Let's be realistic, every teen girl feels pressured to buy the latest styles in our visually driven culture. After a few heated shopping trips, I had a revelation. From the time they are little, daughters desire their father's eye on their beauty. God's creative like that. It's preparation for them to desire the eye of their future mate. We decided to take advantage of that desire. Amazingly, the arguing stopped between us when I asked her dad to step in and give his opinion on her clothing. We soon found she always listened to her father's advice with a more open mind because he's a guy.
The good news is there are creative ways to dress hip in a halo if we've pointed them towards modesty as children! You may have to explore web sites with suggestions on the newest fashion trends to help her create the look without the immodest angle. Mom can take her shopping with the agreement that once home, she has to model her new items in a fashion show for her dad for the final say. Make sure the items are returnable. If not, then father and daughter can go on a shopping date. That way there's nothing to return. Men have a better eye on how a boy would view the outfit anyway, so why spend time arguing. Just let him do the talking while your daughter does the walking on the fashion run-way.
The Eye Bounce
We taught our sons and daughters early on how to do the "eye bounce". It's a technique we learned years back from a book on pornography addiction. Sadly, the addiction is growing rapidly among young boys and even some girls due to internet exposure through friends and phones. Because of the threat, it's important for father's and sons to talk about the risks. Mom's should also discuss it with daughters, especially to protect them from young men who might have an addiction. When they were ready, we taught them how to spot the signs of a possible addiction and the dangers of pornography. We made it clear they were not allowed to be on the internet at anyone else's house but ours. We built in computer safe guards with parental passwords. We taught them how to protect themselves with the "elephant" in the room principle. If they were in a situation where there was a man or woman dressed inappropriately, they were to realize it was disrespectful to God, themselves, and the other person to pause and look. We taught them to immediately bounce their eyes away and take their thoughts captive. You can practice this in a game format when they are younger. Pick an object as the "elephant." Have them look at the "elephant" and see how fast they can bounce their eyes away without you catching them looking. There's no shame in unexpected exposure, the guilt is in continuing to look or think about it. Teach them it's not the view that's the problem, it’s the longing and thinking about what they’ve seen. Remind them if they do see something they shouldn't, to come to you immediately for confession and prayer.
Remind Them of Their Royal Blood Line
Many young people struggle with having identity crises. For that reason, never fail to remind your children that God calls them son and daughter as a gift of being in relationship with him. He sees them as beautiful children meant for noble living. For that reason, he wants us to care about our bodies and love ourselves enough to keep our body safe from the eyes of others so they can remain pure as a gift to their future mate. As parent's, it can even mean being alert in public to the roaming eyes of others. We've been in situations several times where we've had to each take a side of our daughter or walk in front and behind to protect her from the eyes of men who clearly had issues. It wasn't that she was dressed immodestly, it was that she was pretty to look at. Be on guard at all times to intervene with protection when necessary. Pray over your children should they experience lustful eyes so you can cast that spirit away from them once in privacy.
Live By Example
Finally, the most important thing we can do to protect our children's purity, giving them a sense of modesty, is live by example. I've always loved fashion and I try to stay up to date on the styles, but I can honestly say I've never left the house with my shirt too low or my skirt too high. Have you ever seen mom's who were dressed inappropriately in public later to see their daughters struggle with the same issue as teens? Our children learn from our example. Son's can struggle with lust if their fathers are always looking at other women other than "mom" in public. It's crucial we give our children every opportunity to succeed in this area and it starts with us and how we choose to model modesty and purity. Let's not set our children up to fail by failing to show them what self-respect and self-love looks like. Our Father calls us all beautiful!