Stop Teaching Your Daughter to be Modest

This post was originally published on Her View from Home. Read it here. 

Modesty. Can we stop using this word constantly?

My high school experience was at the height of the “Modest is Hottest” campaign and I suffered for it. I am grateful for the mother who had an incredibly balanced approach but walking into church was a struggle.

Let’s put a bit of perspective on this situation. I was homeschooled. I was incredibly involved in my church. I wanted to wait to date until I was old enough to actually consider marriage. I was a modest young lady. Nevertheless, I felt criticized walking into church.

It was constantly being drilled into my head that I needed to downplay our femininity and express “inner-beauty” in order to be good, Christian woman. Click To Tweet

The well-meaning ladies, they made glances. Comments were made while shopping with friends. We constantly focused on minimizing our feminine features. Youth leaders would meet with us before retreats and missions trips to remind us to dress appropriately. I struggled getting dressed and was constantly checking to see if my midriff would show or if something was fitting too tightly. It was constantly being drilled into my head that I needed to downplay our femininity and express “inner-beauty” in order to be good, Christian woman.

It is a fine line.

I am not saying that you should not guide your daughter into classy clothing. I’m simply saying, we need to stop body shaming Christian girls for turning into women. Click To Tweet

I am not saying that you should not guide your daughter into classy clothing. I’m simply saying, we need to stop body shaming Christian girls for turning into women.

Middle school is awkward enough. Our bodies are changing and we don’t know exactly what to do. Limbs are growing longer, we are filling out in new places, and we have a lot more to worry about. Adding in an absurd amount of hormone changes doesn’t help either. The last thing you daughter needs is to think that something is sinful about what is happening to her body.

How can we fix this? I think it starts with our language. My mother always advocated for the precision of language because, as she always said, “Words have meanings.” We need to be more precise when we talk to our daughters about their bodies and the clothing they are choosing to adorn themselves with. Our focus needs to be on what is appropriate to present to the world, not on what we are trying to hide.

Measuring skirt length and tank top straps will not free girls from being objects of lust but it will make them self-conscious.

Have open conversations with your daughter. Tell her body is beautiful. Remind her that her feminine features are God-given. He wants her body to be the way it is. Then talk to her about how she wants to present and respect her body.

Measuring skirt length and tank top straps will not free girls from being objects of lust but it will make them self-conscious. Click To Tweet

One of the women I think of when I think of modesty never let that word pass her lips. In college, our dorm rooms were next to each other and we’d frequently borrow clothes and hop between rooms for fashion advise. She talked about looking professional, about conducting herself in all areas in a respectable manner, and about loving her clothes but never mentioned modesty. To her, her clothing choices were simply a part of decorum. She didn’t use rules, didn’t pass judgment, but she expressed modesty in her behavior as well as her style.

I’ve seen properly clothed girls cause young men to stumble. Young boys are going through the same hormonally charged changes as women. We do need to make sure we are not intentionally trying to cause them to stumble. But while we walk this path, we need to be equally careful that we are not causing young ladies to stumble as well. Causing them to want to hide their bodies and to blame themselves for another’s sin, that is not honoring the image of God in each and every woman.

So let’s stop talking about modesty and let’s start focusing on how each and every man and woman on this earth bears the image of an almighty God and was beautifully and wonderfully made. If your daughter understands this, she will walk with strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:17).

You might like: 

Proverbs 31 Mornings: 6 Ways to Start Your Morning as a Woman of God

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Can I Stop Pretending to be a Good Person? 

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  1. Good points – not something I’ve thought too much about since I wasn’t really raised with a focus on modesty. My mom let me express myself however I wanted to clothing-wise (which led to some now-embarrassing outfit choices), but I do remember occasionally feeling strange about the way some people at church looked at me. This is a good perspective to be thinking about as my own daughter is getting older. Finding the balance while encouraging her to embrace who she is. Thank you for sharing!

  2. We were in the midst of this teaching when it really spiked and as much as I tried to be balanced about it, my daughter was really hurt by all the purity talk.

  3. I don’t think teaching kids about modesty is bad, I think it’s how we tend to do it. I’m with you, there’s no reason to add extra stress to tween and teen girls by freaking them out about how wide their tank top straps are or where their skirts or shorts fall on their legs. I remember having those anxieties as well. They didn’t help with modesty (hello, all bodies are different so trying to standardize modesty is pointless) and they just made me feel unnecessarily “sinful” if I happened to be close to the limits. That’s not good and that’s not really modesty. That’s legalism. True modesty is to honor yourself and those around you by not just your apparel, but also your actions. It’s to act like what you are, a son or daughter of the King.

  4. These are great points! I have five daughters, so this is something I am concerned with and also struggle with. It is difficult to teach them modesty without talking about it, though I like how your neighbor did it — talking about decorum. This is great food for thought!

  5. I could not love this more! I have 3 little girls and the word “modesty” is already being thrown at them like crazy from well meaning church and family members. I too grew up hearing “modest is the hottest.” And never really thought anything of it until I had daughters of my own…and now I really dislike it. I don’t think a 5-year-old should be thinking about her body at all (excepting the occasional conversation we have about how it’s not appropriate to strip naked and run across the backyard for all the neighbors to see, ha ha). I love your take on this. I absolutely want to teach my daughters to respect themselves enough to clothe and present their bodies in a classy manner as they grow into young women. But like you said, it shouldn’t be shameful. It shouldn’t be about hiding their bodies. It should be about loving their bodies.

  6. Love this! Thanks for sharing 🙂 You have a very good point! I grew up in the same environment as you (homeschooled until high-school), and all it did was make me want to rebel and do whatever I wanted. I think the same goes for our children in general. We can’t protect them from everything, so we have to teach them how to make wise choices in the face of being in this world and not of it. I don’t have a daughter but I see it similarly with my son, yet in a different way. It’s not wrong for him to be attracted to women. It’s natural! It’s God-given. But it’s what he does with it that matters.

  7. Thank you for this post! It really is right on time! My oldest daughter is twelve and I was just having this conversation with her about modesty. And the funny thing was, I was trying not to use the word modesty and wanted to present it in a more practical and approachable way. Using words like professional and appropriate. We talked about choosing the most appropriate outfit for where and what you’ll be doing. And how even as adults, we are expected to dress within a certain framework in many settings. I referenced things like how Michelle Obama was criticized because she didn’t cover her shoulders once. It was an interesting conversation. Thank you for bringing a great perspective.

  8. Fantastic points. I am going to share on my Pinterest board for parenting. Honestly, I had never thought about this could body share someone but I do see the teaching needs to be done with lots of love and carefully chosen words.

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