This post has been rolling around in my mind for two years. It began when I read this ridiculous article about a mom who banned Barbies from her house, and it culminated about a week ago with something a girl said at church that really bothered me, which I will explain.
First, allow me to talk a bit about my beliefs. I am a Mormon, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I know that I am a daughter of God. Because of this knowledge, and the knowledge that I am created in His image, I know that I have a greater purpose. I was given a body when I came to earth, and it is up to me to take good care of it and to use it to fulfill God's plan for me.
I have always been taught to respect my body by dressing modestly. I remember my mom often quoting this scripture from 1 Corinthians 3:16: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
When I got married, I made an even bigger commitment to dressing modestly. Members of the Church who marry in the temple wear sacred garments beneath their clothes that reach just above the knee and extend over the cap of the shoulder, and clothes should cover them at all times. The garments symbolize the covenants that we make to remember God and His son, Jesus Christ.
Because temple marriage is the goal for every member of the Church, naturally there is a big emphasis on modest dress — especially for girls — that begins when they are very young. I think this is a good thing, and I plan to teach my children to respect their bodies and to show respect for others.
Unfortunately, the way that many parents teach their daughters about modesty today is hopelessly flawed. My husband and I teach a Sunday school class of 15- and 16-year-olds, and during our last lesson, a woman in the class suggested that we teach girls modesty "mainly for the young men's benefit."
My blood was boiling. Fortunately, I was able to bite my tongue and not say anything to her. Here are my thoughts about teaching your children about modest dress:
- We should teach girls that modest dress is about respecting yourself, NOT about protecting boys who "can't control themselves." One of my biggest problems with this logic is that it gives guys absolutely no credit. Boys should be taught to respect women and not look at them as objects, but they should also be taught to control their thoughts. They are responsible for their own minds and bodies, regardless of how a woman is dressed. That said, I absolutely think that less is more, and it's not OK for 16-year-old girls to post scantily clad photos of themselves on Instagram and then demand respect. But our counsel to our children should be about respecting themselves and showing honor to God, not about protecting the opposite sex that has no self-control.
- We should teach our children not to judge those who dress immodestly. I will admit that I haven't always been great at this. I used to see a girl walk into the mall in tiny shorts and a cut-off tank top and instantly think unkind thoughts about her. I think that we all judge people, even just a bit, by the clothes they wear. And while what we wear speaks volumes about us, it is not OK to tell someone off or call her a slut or humiliate her because she's not dressed up to our standards. Because I was married in the temple, I have covenanted to dress modestly, but that rule doesn't apply to women and men who haven't made the same promise.
- We should teach our children modesty when they're young, but not too young. I don't plan to put my baby girls in bikinis because it subjects them to unnecessary UV rays. Do I worry about it because it's not "modest dress?" Absolutely not! I agree that you should teach your kids to dress respectfully when they're young (especially with the hyper-sexualization of girls today), but worrying about your toddler's sleeveless dress or judging a mom for putting her daughter in a tank top is overkill.
What are your thoughts on teaching kids about modest dress? Do you agree or disagree?