A friend of mine was swimsuit shopping with her teenage girl. After her daughter had tried on a trendy new bikini, my friend said, “I’m sorry, honey, but I won’t buy that suit for you.”
“But Mom . . . ” came a protest.
She explained herself, “I want your curves to be covered, top and bottom.”
“But Mom . . . ”
My friend could have chosen to please her daughter, giving in to her request. She chose, instead, the unpopular position of the moment, trusting it would reap rewards for the future. She went on to remind her daughter, as she had done in previous discussions, the reasons why a more modest choice would be better. After further dialogue, my friend realized her daughter had chosen that swimsuit primarily for its color, not giving much thought to its coverage or its style, or the potential unwanted attention she could receive while wearing it. This still-maturing girl needed her mom’s gentle-but-firm guidance to make a decision that was in her best interest.
How can we teach and model modesty to our growing girls?
Model Modesty in Dress
What message do we communicate in our manner of dress, especially to our impressionable daughters? If we desire to teach them to dress modestly, we must do more than merely talk about it. We must model it first. We need to consider if our choices in clothing complement or hinder our witness as we represent Christ.
As we set examples for our daughters, we must not feel compelled to dress just like their generation in an attempt to be the coolest mom on the block. I’m not implying that we should dress like our grandmothers, but we must be mindful of the message we convey every time we step out of our dressing room or out the front door. We can choose fashions that are tasteful, yet modest, while still stylish and even fun.
Teach Her what Modesty Means
Teach your daughter what modesty means as you guide her to choose attractive clothing that includes colors to complement her eyes and skin tone, and styles that fit her well. Find a balance of tasteful and trendy. The fashion industry often likes to create miniature versions of women’s styles for little girls, and sometimes it can be difficult to find appropriate and modest styles of clothing even for a five-year-old. According to a recent article in The Guardian, retailers are producing clothing styles “that target children and encourage premature sexualization” of young girls.
Begin Conversations Early
If possible, begin your conversations about dressing modestly before fashion becomes a priority for your daughter. Some preschool-aged girls already are concerned with every piece of clothing they put on, while others are still throwing on whatever is most comfortable well into their teen years. Help yours embrace her individual taste.
While it’s important that your daughter be comfortable in her clothes and confident in her appearance, she doesn’t need every one of the latest styles, even if “everyone else is wearing it” and especially if the clothes project an image that’s a mismatch to her true identity and inner beauty.
Seek Helpful Resources
My daughter began finding books in the girls’ and youth sections of the Christian bookstore that specifically addressed the beauty of dressing modestly and the importance of self-respect for her body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
She learned that girls often dress provocatively just to seek attention in a misguided attempt to feel good about themselves and attractive to others. Unfortunately, the attention they seek is often not the kind of attention they get. While nothing excuses a boy’s rude remarks or inappropriate actions, girls of all ages need to be aware that guys are wired differently. While a girl may think, “That will make me look pretty,” a boy may see only sex appeal in her choice of clothing.
My daughter remarked, “We need to keep Christ as the focus of our modesty. How dare we make our brothers stumble when what we wear could cause them to sin? In regard to my clothing choices, I have to consider not just how it could negatively affect me, but even more importantly, how it could affect others.”
Choose Battles Carefully while Upholding Established Rules
When your daughter is trying on clothes and making choices of her own, be sensitive about how you respond and don’t be quick to react negatively. Help her to see for herself what constitutes a good choice in modest dress. Choose your battles carefully, but know that there is a time to draw the line. You’re the benevolent and nurturing queen of your palace and she is your precious princess, still learning and growing. With God’s help, you can establish rules and stick with them, even as you continue to model them. Explain why you have rules: for her good and her protection, as well as her witness.
You AND your daughter have been chosen by God, redeemed in Christ, and you’re both in the process of being transformed in His image; you have the blessing of representing Christ to the World, by His grace.
Adapted from Raising Godly Girls.
Learn more tips for Raising Godly Girls.