Guidelines for Modesty [Guest Post]

For those of you with teenage daughters who idolize Lady Gaga and Ke$ha, I have a few words for you.

First, to be fair, these successful young ladies aren’t terrible role models through and through. For example, they’re both independent thinkers unafraid of self expression. And Gaga’s a self-professed daddy’s girl. I’m just sayin’, focus on the positive.
Now, if Ke$ha is inspiring your thirteen year old to go to wild drinking parties, the artist is probably a bad influence. That’s not really a gray area. But what I’m guessing most of you struggle with on one level or another is the issue of modesty.
How do you encourage your daughter to dress appropriately without seeming like a repressive prude?

I read an article the other day my Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. It’s a thought-provoking post on the concept of modesty.
After watching MTV’s VMA awards and witnessing “the complete absence of modesty, the ridicule of virginity, and the latent misogyny” displayed by many of the artists, he found himself wondering “Where are these girls’ fathers? Has no one ever taught them the concept of modesty? Or have all the men in their lives simply exploited them as sex objects?”

He’s the father of five daughters himself and admits that maybe he’s a little “overly sensitive,” but I think he raises interesting questions and makes a valid point: as parents (or teachers, or adult role models), we have a responsibility–for the sake of our daughters–to challenge our culture’s habit of sexualizing women and girls.

Our culture (read: all of us) tends to send and reinforce a message to girls that, in order to get attention–to be attractive, be successful, be loved and valued–it helps to be thinner. Sexier. More provocative. More seductive. Show more skin. Dress tighter. Higher. Lower. Shorter.
So how do you send a different message without just saying “No” to everything girls see as fashionable and fun–even necessary to “fit in”?
The next time your daughter tries to leave the house showing a little more skin than you’d consider appropriate (or eschewing pants altogether–curse you Lady Gaga!), instead of sending her back to her room to “change right this instant!” take the opportunity to have an honest conversation.

1. Start by admitting your own failings: maybe you dress a little immodestly yourself sometimes, or you’ve enforced arbitrary rules in the past, or whatever. Sucks to admit, but teens already know you don’t have it all together. So just clear the air.

2. Confront the lies in advertising, entertainment, etc. Acknowledge that the lies are powerful and even a little bit true (e.g. you WILL get more attention if you dress provocatively) but that they’ll end up leaving you empty. If you can back up this discussion with stories from your own life, all the better.

3. Share some basic guidelines for modesty. I think Michael Hyatt offers four excellent guidelines:
— If you have trouble getting into it or out of it, it is probably not modest.
— If you have to be careful when you sit down or bend over, it is probably not modest.
— If people look at any part of your body before looking at your face, it is probably not modest.
— If you can see your most private body parts or an outline of those parts under the fabric, it is probably not modest.

Hopefully, these three steps and these four guidelines will empower you to address the topic of modesty with confidence and (bonus!) empower your daughters to make wise decisions about how they dress and conduct themselves. After all, modesty isn’t about following rules. Show them your heart and hope it shapes theirs. If you get your daughters to think for themselves, you’ve done your part.

Good luck!
Josh Shipp
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Josh Shipp is the host of the TV Show Jump Shipp and author of “The Teen’s Guide to World Domination”
— Download a free copy of his e-book on “getting through to teens” at http://www.FreeTeenHelp.com

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