I’m not sure when parents began debating the so-called “sheltering” of children, but I’m pretty sure the conversation became far more significant when television was invented—that is, when we allowed culture to invade our lives.
I tend to fall into the let’s-shelter-our-kids camp—at least for youngsters—but I’ve come to a simple conclusion: It’s impossible. For instance …
My 3-year-old daughter and I recently were sitting at the newest restaurant in town, sharing a Reuben sandwich and a plate of fries while coloring our favorite animals, when her eyes caught the image on one of the overhanging TV sets.
“Daddy, she’s naked!”
I took a quick look at the television to see what she was referencing—it was, if you’re curious, “Entertainment Tonight”—and then told her in a reassuring voice, “You’re right. We need to pray that woman finds some clothes.”
Legally and technically, my daughter was wrong: The woman, a model, wasn’t naked. But biblically and practically? My daughter was right on the mark. And I was proud of her.
God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skin in the garden (Genesis 3:21), but ever since, Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch and every other designer and store have been trying to remove it, inch by inch. Their creations in ritzy New York studios create a domino effect: sold in stores, bought by teens, and then returned by parents. But it’s not just Christian families who have weekly “you’re not going out like that!” arguments. This issue crosses ideological and cultural boundaries.
Scripture says we are to kill desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:24) but immodesty does just the opposite, bringing it back to life and encouraging its captives to strut around like a boastful half-naked peacock.
Of course, we shouldn’t simply blame fashion designers for this problem. Their clothes wouldn’t have gone over well with, say, the Pilgrims or even Colonial Americans. We as a society buy those clothes, and this issue often is a matter of the heart.
Still, there are practical steps parents can take to raise modest children in an immodest world. Here are three:
1. Set a standard for modesty. But make it a biblical one. The first question should never be “Is it trendy?” but rather “Is it modest?” (1 Timothy 2:9). If you’re still struggling, then try this one: “Would this potentially bring shame to God?” Or even better, “Would you wear this in the physical presence of Christ?” Or finally, “Could you have worn this 50 years ago?” (And if not, why?) Trends can be fun if we view them through a biblical lens, but too often we get so caught up trying to look like the latest Disney starlet that we leave our Bible—figuratively speaking—in the dressing room. It may be trendy for 10-year-old girls to prance around like 20-year-old “swimsuit” models, but it never will be OK.
2. Set a standard for beauty. Our society’s standard for female beauty is simple and shameful: tall, skinny, curvy, blemish-free, young. Oh yeah, and blond. It works great if you’re one of the 50 women in America who look that way, but for the other 150 million women, it’s impossible. Thankfully, God has a different standard—and why wouldn’t He? He made us. God looks not at outward appearance but at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Peter 3:3-4). Further, as every ex-Hollywood female star will acknowledge, worldly beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30). I affirm my daughter’s appearance daily, no matter what she’s wearing. It’s a good habit for all dads.
3. Set a standard in the home. It’s not enough to be modest simply in public. Our homes are a sort of practice field for life, where our kids can see biblical ethics on display. My children learned the word “modest” at an early age and, generally, they must dress in private as they do in public. I don’t let my boys run around like Tarzan or their sister dress up like Jane, and that rule goes for Mom and Dad, too. Besides, my kids would rather pretend to be Spiderman anyway.
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes college football, midnight debuts of Star Wars movies and pretty much any 80s group that involved big, wild-looking hair. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog? Email me: michaelfoust (at) gmail.com. Also, check out my video section.