"All the girls at school are wearing these, why can't I?"… " It's my body; shouldn't I decide what to put on it?" These questions reflect the timeless struggle between teen girls and their parents over the issue of modesty. This issue is more critical than ever in today's society where pre-teens are encouraged by the media and peers to act and dress years older than they actually are. Everywhere you look, young girls—whether in real life, on television, or in advertisements— are dressed in ways that emphasize their sexuality and, to be blunt, degrade the value of female character.
So, as fathers, how can we instill in our daughters a sense of personal modesty? Here are five steps to get you started:
1. Set standards early. The best time to start talking to your daughter about modesty is now, no matter what her age. Even at seven years old you can instill a sense of self-respect in your daughters. And it is always wise to set standards ahead of time, before the issue actually arises. Discuss what your rules will be with your wife, then sit down with your ten-or eleven-year-old and tell her when she will be allowed to use makeup, wear heels, etc.
2. Make sure she understands the importance of modesty. Rules without reasons never go over well with children. If your daughter doesn't grasp the dangers of dressing and behaving immodestly, then she won't internalize the value of modesty in her own heart and mind. Emphasize the fact that revealing or immodest clothing attracts immoral, and possibly dangerous, people. Also make sure she understands that modesty runs deeper than clothes. Modesty is as much about an attitude as it is about apparel. It is important that your daughter develop a modest spirit: one that realizes her own value and desires to be modest for her own sake, not just because you force her to be.
3. Boost your daughter's self-esteem. In a world that says you need to be sexy to be attractive, your daughter's confidence in her appearance is vulnerable. Constantly tell her that she is beautiful and that there is nothing wrong with having an attractive body—but also that she doesn't have to reveal her body in order to attract attention. Boost her confidence in other areas—in her talents and her intelligence—and teach her that dressing modestly will ensure that she doesn't attract the kinds of people who aren't worth her attention. Teach her to value her character and her spirit and she won't need to show off her body in order to build self-worth.
4. Replace negative influences with positive influences. It's no secret that pre-teens and teens are vulnerable; they are at a transition stage in which they are especially susceptible to outside messages and will imitate what they see around them. So you have to do more than just try to remove negative influences from your daughter's life — you have to give her examples to follow. One of the best ways to do this is to be a positive example yourself; your daughter watches and remembers everything her parents do and wear – you and her mother have the ability to be powerful role models for her. You can also search out positive media influences while she is still young; introduce your daughter to cartoon characters or actresses who will encourage her to act and dress her age.
5. Go shopping with her. Yes, that's right! Tag along with she goes shopping with her mom. Having her father there will make your daughter think twice about what she buys, and you can help support and encourage her decision to live modestly. A good male role model is invaluable when it comes to teaching young girls how to respect themselves. When you're shopping, show her that she doesn't have to sacrifice style to be modest! Believe it or not, you can find stylish, attractive clothing that isn't risqué. You may have to be willing to spend extra time to find these clothes, and possibly extra money to buy them, but making sure that your daughter feels stylish and beautiful in her skin while remaining modest will be well worth it. Some stylish options are to layer long tank-tops underneath shorter shirts, or to wear a cute T-shirt underneath a strapless top. These are just a few ways you can encourage your daughter to respect herself, and to portray that self-respect in the way that she lives and dresses. It doesn't really matter where you make the cut-off point—whether at the ankles or the knees or mid-thigh—modesty isn't so much about where to draw the line as it is about realizing that there is a line that needs to be drawn.
Huddle up with your daughter tonight and say:
You are beautiful inside and out.
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