Does Teaching Modesty Harm My Daughter’s Body Image?
Cultural backlash against the concept of modesty has never been greater! Not only does the secular media take stabs at the Christian modesty movement claiming there are “hidden victims” but the Christian media has taken pot shots, too. I’ve addressed their criticism and held back no punches, even including a rather graphic pictorial showcase demonstrating what led the Grammy Awards to issue a modesty code for celebs in attendance.
In recent months, one of the “Christian watchdogs” who claim the modesty movement to be harmful to the development of girls asked to have full access to our Secret Keeper Girl event. And we said “yes.” She came armed for battle with the intent of writing yet another critical blog and tweeting every detail of what we did to harm little girls. At the end of the night, her worst tweets included complaints about how much pink she was exposed to at our event (so this season we’ve added blue) and that there was way too much screaming (there’s still a lot of screaming)! At intermission, with no reason to shoot her ammunition of criticism at us, she left. Her last tweet was this:
“As far as modesty ministries go, this is one of the better ones.”
I’ll take that! And give her this: some modesty teachings and movements are very harmful. I outline two specific ways that modesty teaching can go bad in this article. Let me tell you how you can use it for good in your daughter!
1.) Start early to send a clear message about the clothing, not her body. One reason I recommend teaching modesty to 8-12 year olds is so that we begin before your daughter’s body develops. This keeps the message clear: some clothes are bad. Her body is not. It is very, very, very good and a wonderful masterpiece created by God! Spend a lot of time in her 8-12 years helping her learn that her body is beautiful, and prepare her to embrace the changes that will come!
2.) Keep the conversation focused on clothes, not her body and use questions to empower her. Some of the harmful messages focus on words like “butt”, “boobs” and “belly.” These aren’t something to be ashamed of, and are a part of the masterpiece God has woven together in your daughter. Instead focus your conversation about the clothing. Think: “shirts,” “pants”, and “hemlines,” not body parts.
3.) Use questions to empower and train your daughter to make good decisions. Remember, she’s only going to live this one out if you’ve internalized the decision making process. If you just make rules and force her to conform, you have failed to train her hear. Let me see if I can demonstrate how you use tip number 2 and number 3 together…
“That shirt seems like it’s not quite right. What do you think might be making it look like it doesn’t fit?”
“Are those pants giving you enough room to move around comfortably or are they restricting you because they’re too small?”
4.) Be creative, not legalistic. Throw out the hard and fast rules. “One piece only swim suits.” “Two inches above the knee.” “Shorts must go to the tip of your fingertips.” These rules don’t work! First of all, every girl’s body is different. Second, If you’ve been to one of my live events, you know we teach the Truth or Bare Fashion Tests. These are silly tests that let a girl go through the process of deciding for herself if her outfit is modest. One example of our test is the “Raise & Praise.” We invite you to try it now. Raise your hands up in the air as if you’re praising God during a really good worship time. Now, check yourself to see if your belly is exposed. If it is, maybe you need a shirt that fits a little better! 😉
5.) Tell her that these are family preferences, not God’s rules. Modesty is not really addressed much in the Bible. And when it is, it is very unspecific in terms of what we should and should not wear. And where it is, clothing is a very small part of it. God focuses the modesty conversation on our hearts, not our bodies or our clothing. Be sure to tell your daughter that your conversation about modesty is based on your family preferences with a heart to honor God, but don’t confuse her by telling her that your modesty guidelines (or mine) are God’s rules. They’re not. And one day, she’ll figure that out and wonder if his rules matter, too.
At the end of the day, sometimes clothing gets in the way when we focus on it. A healthy modesty message is really about protecting your daughter’s heart and exposing it fully to the Word.
Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper Girl Tour is a faith-based mother-daughter connecting experience. This 2 1/2 hour event features two fun fashion shows that demonstrate modesty and true beauty, deep Bible teaching, live worship, and stories that help girls aged 7-12 embrace true beauty and modesty. Incredible balloon sculptures, bouncing beach ball competitions, mother/daughter conversation time & colorful confetti cannons make the night unforgettable. Click the video below for a sneak peak.