Modesty?

I was over at Segullah yesterday and I read a very interesting post and comment “conversation” on modesty.  You might want to pause to read it here.  It was a Mom who had interesting views on modesty and small children.  It is a topic I haven’t thought much about before (aside from telling Princess not to pull her dress up and show her panties “because it isn’t modest”). 

DMP and I had a long conversation about this last night, and I have to say I (mostly) agree with her. I think that we need to be careful about how we teach our children (especially young children) the concept of “modesty”.  It is a very complex concept and it is tied a lot to sexuality- I don’t want my almost-4 yr old to have to worry about such things.  I think (and maybe I’m justifying here) that modesty doesn’t have as much to do with knees, or shoulders, or etc, but more to do with not being provocative.  Could you call my sweet girls in their sleeveless Easter dresses provocative? Does the fact that they don’t have sleeves (or aren’t wearing shorts to their knees) make them “immodest”?  I have to think it is more immodest for them to wear a t-shirt that covers their shoulders that reads “sexy” or “boy magnet” or such… 

Does this mean I’m going to dress my girls like a Bratz doll? Of course not. But they do wear tank tops (with wide straps- no “stringy things”).  They also wear mostly capris because I have a hard time finding girl shorts that cover more than just their bum (tip: buy boy shorts- they are longer).  But I never saw this as a modesty thing- it has more to do with keeping them kids and not dressing them like small (trampy) adults.  Again- I think modesty has more to do with respect for your body and not displaying it in a sexual way and less to do with “rules” on what (or how much) needs to be covered.

Should they be held to the same modesty standards as an endowed member?  I read one comment from a mom who had her kids always wear t-shirts and undershirts to “practice” for when they wear the temple garment- that seems extreme to me.  This Mom (and others) argument was that they “Shouldn’t have to throw away any clothing when they go to the temple”.  I had tank tops and short shorts that I gave to roommates when I was endowed, so maybe that is why it doesn’t fly for me- I’m justifing my past behavior :). 

I am also torn because I know that I want them to prepare to go to the temple some day and wear garments, and they will have to dress a certain way to remain “modest”. I hope my when they are ready to go to the temple, my kids are mature and able to understand that being endowed and the covenants they make require higher standards.  I hope their clothing choices before then reflect a desire to not portray themselves as a piece of meat or “sexy” because they respect themselves and the bodies Heavenly Father gave to them. 

And I guess that is where I agree with the author of the blog the most- I want them to learn to love, appreciate and enjoy the bodies they have. I truly believe that this is key to helping them weather the crazy Middle and High-School years (and beyond) when it seems that so many young women begin to dislike and be uncomfortable with their bodies.  I think a key to this is watching how we teach modesty when they are little. DMP and I want to be careful not to make them feel like they should be embarrassed or ashamed of any part of themselves.  I think it can be easy to send the wrong message when you are teaching little ones.

So for now, we will continue doing as we do- buying clothing that is age-appropriate. Teaching Princess that lifting your dress or showing your panties in public places is “not polite” (because it isn’t). But not freaking out and making her feel bad or embarassed when she goes potty, has trouble re-dressing herself and running buck naked into the living room where the adults are visiting (Welcome to the family, Uncle Matt!).  And, most of all teaching her that her body is a wonderful, wonderful gift from Heavenly father and helping her feel grateful for all the amazing things it can do.  The “modesty” discussions can wait until they are mature enough to understand (and will hopefully be taught gradually as their understanding grows).

What are your thoughts?

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July 11, 2008. Tags: , . Uncategorized.

4 Comments

  1. bek replied:

    I’ll comment!! You know I love comments.

    Interesting thoughts (and I hadn’t seen the Segullah post..btw..I am posting there again in a few weeks…). I think that like with all things, we can carry things too far. I have noticed that with an almost 8 year old..she wants to wear things that are not “modest” because it is a fashion statement or b/c she sees it on TV. That is a totally different beast than putting your little girls in tank tops… there DOES come a point where you have the draw the line in the sand and say “in our family….” This is a phrase we use a lot. I let my girls wear two piece swimsuits (easier for diaper changes and potty) and we are at the pool A LOT. We talked with Lu about it and decided when she turns 8, she switches to one pieces. Do I really care if she wears a two piece. No. But, we can’t blur the lines. It is also when we decided that she would wear shirts under her tank top dresses (we still do sleeveless, and tank tops just for running around at home). Shorts must be long (good luck on thta one), etc, etc. It seemed to fit right in to the discussion of how when she is baptized she makes promises…etc.

    Each family will find their own way. I tend to shy away from any type of fanaticism or any form. Black and white is a hard way to live when there is plenty of room for families to make our own choices.

    Good discussion. 🙂 Now I need to update too…

  2. Kate replied:

    I tend to agree with you Mak. Though I do believe when kids get to be old enough, you should start to focus on clothing that tends to be more on the modest side. I mean, when looking for church dresses for your 10 year old, I’d have different criteria re: sleeveless/length etc than I would a girl Lily’s age.

    But yeah, I think you’ve got the right attitude, bodies are not something to be ashamed of, so I think you’re on the right track.

  3. Jeff replied:

    As one who watches modesty in teenagers nowadays…not creepylike, just my job, I see that if you make it a priority, then the kids know that its not ok. Parents are the important ones, your opinion counts etc… What age do you start that though? I would side with Becca on that one. 8 seems like the age that they are obviously capable of grasping larger concepts, so start then and explain. (I think it ties in great with baptism btw bec)
    But kids are kids, and let us not become like the Pharisees in our following of the law, I look at the intent. I think you are fine.

  4. cynthia replied:

    I tried commenting on an earlier post and it wouldn’t let me. This is a test, this is only a test…

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