Developing Standards of Modesty in Children
“I made a covenant with mine eyes…” Job 31:1a
Far too often, we are faced not only with averting our eyes from the yuck displayed on inanimate objects such as magazines and billboards, but we are also faced with the yuck paraded in the name of fashion on various people we encounter. It is quite a feat to learn to “keep your eyes on their eyes” when talking to someone dressed immodestly.
As a parent, it could be easy to become discouraged with the state of undress in America. However, my husband and I have been pleasantly surprised at how the Lord has led our family in combating the immodest society in which we live. In the face of a society running rampant with immodesty, as we have turned to the Word, our children have learned volumes about God’s standards, and His desire for their behavior and dress.
It is not uncommon for one of my sons to tell his brothers and sisters to avert their eyes, quietly urging “Look down!” While I admit that my husband and I have giggled at our oldest son’s orders to his siblings, we have found that it is a joy to have children who are seeking to honor the Lord in this area of their lives.
Recently, when I was in a retail store purchasing a few gifts for my youngest daughter’s first birthday. My seven-year-old daughter and I saw a box containing a china teacup in it with the word “Princess” on the box. We peeked at the teacup and stood there debating about whether or not to purchase it. I hesitated because the colors used to paint the princess on the cup were a bit bold, and not to my taste. It was my seven-year-old daughter, however, who cast the deciding vote. She shook her head and gently said, “I don’t like the princess, Mommy, because her dress shows too much of her chest. She doesn’t look modest!” I smiled when I heard my daughter’s words and gave her a huge hug. She had once again discovered immodest dress in daily life.
It is not unusual for this daughter to turn her head or boldly declare (in private) that she does not like an outfit because it reveals too much skin. Although her father and I have never given out exacting rules about standards of dress, we have consistently provided her with “modest” clothes. We also have frequent family discussions about what is “immodest” in our society. Unfortunately, there is much to talk about!
“Modest” is defined in the American College Dictionary as “having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one’s merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions; free from ostentation or showy extravagance; moderate; having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent.” In contrast, “immodest” is defined as “not modest in conduct, utterance, etc.; indecent; shameless; not modest in assertion or pretension; forward; impudent.”
These terms are further exemplified in abundance throughout the book of Proverbs. As a family, we started the habit several years ago of reading one book of Proverbs per day (one for each numerical day of the month). Proverbs 1:1-6 declares that it's purpose is to instruct in wisdom and teach discretion:
"The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings."
In reading Proverbs regularly, our children speedily learned the definition of a “loose woman,” and my daughter set her sights on never being caught in a situation in which she would be considered “loose!” Our sons, as well, determined to live a life pleasing to the Lord in action, speech and dress.
When our children were little, dress standards were easy--we bought their clothes and they wore them without comment because they were too young to know any differently! As our children have matured, we as parents could have simply dictated personal standards to them. However, we never faced that situation. Our children have never wanted to look like the world! To be sure, as a family, we are still working on these areas of our lives and need an abundance of the Lord’s grace, but we are learning! It has been wonderful to see our children develop these standards as a result of their love for the Lord and His Word. Truly, His Word is sharper than any two-edge sword and will not return void!
If you are attempting to train your children in righteousness, I encourage you to prayerfully consider dress standards in the light of the Word. Then, when making changes and attempting to influence the hearts of your children, read them the Word itself!
It is a beautiful thing to see your young daughter desire to wear modest, yet attractive clothes that allow the love of the Lord to shine through her life, and to see your sons seeking to protect the eyes of their sisters and brothers by warning of immodesty!
The Lord has been so faithful to lead our family in this area as we have turned to the Word. It truly is amazing to see the Lord do the work of influencing little hearts and minds for Him.
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" 2 Timothy 3:16
Best Friends by Jessie Wilcox Smith
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