Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"How Do I Explain Modesty to My Young Child?"

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Porn and Purity, Christian Education by Rebecca Ingram Powell
I'm not exactly sure what happened a couple of weeks ago when I posted "So, What's Wrong with My Daughter Wearing a Bikini?" but within a few days, it became the most-read post EVER on my blog. Wow! I really had no idea it would generate that kind of response.

While several people commented publicly, and plenty of you retweeted and voiced your "amen" to my thoughts, I also received some private messages and emails with questions that I will attempt to answer in the coming weeks. Let's get started!

* * * * *

I had to laugh when a friend called after my "bikini" post to express her concerns about her 5-year-old's penchant for lifting her shirt and flashing her mid-section to anyone who happened to be around. My friend had tried to explain to her daughter that she didn't need to be doing that. "Why not, Mommy?" her daughter replied. "It's fun!"

Well, sure, it's fun! She's a child; she's playing, and she's enjoying provoking a reaction from her mom and others. As Christian parents, however, if something like this becomes a problem, we need to stifle our own laughter, squelch the urge to assume we're dealing with an exhibitionist LOL, and get down to the business of laying a foundation of modesty (a respectful presentation of self) and reverence (a respectful understanding of God).

Explaining the physical boundaries of modesty to a little girl (3 to 6 years old) doesn't have to include graphic language. (Relieved?) In fact, it's as simple as telling a Bible story: Adam and Eve is the best place to start, so be sure that you are familiar with Genesis 3.

Here's what you say:
"Honey, did you know that the need for clothing began with the very first people? You see, in the beginning, the very first people God made, Adam and Eve, were allowed to run around naked in the beautiful garden of Eden where they lived. Things were much different then, because Adam and Eve had only one rule to follow: They weren't allowed to eat from a certain tree in the garden. That was their only rule! But when they broke that one rule that God had, then there ended up being a bunch of rules that people had to follow. One of those was that people had to wear clothes."

You might want to ask, What are some rules that you have to follow? Have you ever broken a rule? What happened? After listening carefully to your child's responses, continue on with the story.

"You see, when Adam and Eve broke that first rule, they realized that they had better get dressed quick! So they decided to cover up their most important boy and girl body parts* with fig leaves."

Go outside with your child and find some leaves. (Any leaves will do.) Hold the leaves up to your chest and your bottom. Ask your child, "Honey, would these leaves cover up Mommy very well?" No, of course they wouldn't. Compare the leaves to underwear. Underwear covers your important boy or girl parts, but it doesn't cover up very well.

With your child, read this verse from the Bible. (It's important that your child sees you opening the Bible and reading from it specifically, rather than just off a sheet of paper.)  When God saw that Adam and Eve were trying to cover up with fig leaves, He gave them animal skins to dress in instead (Genesis 3:21).

Get a coat or a robe now, and show your child how God dressed Adam and Eve. He covered them up, and He covered them up very well--just like our clothes do a much better job of covering us up than our underwear does.

When it comes to talking about God, you'll find that most children have tender hearts. They want to follow through with a desire to do what He wants them to do, especially when you emphasize the fact that God loves them so very, very much! Everything He asks us to do is for our good and His glory.

Finish up by explaining to your child:
"God wants us to respect the careful and wonderful way that He made our bodies. He wants us to remember that our bodies are very special. We need to be modest and keep our special boy or girl parts private. One day, you will share those parts with the person you marry. Right now, only Mommy (or the doctor) needs to look at those parts. If anyone else ever asks to see those special parts, you need to come quickly to tell Mommy."

*I do recommend that you call these "parts" by their biological names, but I really didn't want to use those specific labels on my blog! :)

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chris said...

This is powerful Rebecca! I love that you are diving into the purity thing...MUCH NEEDED!

Rebecca Ingram Powell said...

Thanks, Chris! :)

.:Bree:. said...

This is an AMAZING way to tell our children what they need to hear! Thank you so much for putting it out there for the masses to read {and to understand!} I'll be sharing this with the other Christian parents I know!

Shannon said...

i have an 8 year old step daughter who does not get taught modesty at her home. we only have her in the summer and every other Christmas and every summer is a battle over swimsuits. This summer she has arrived packed with a very skimpy bikini. i'm sure a hand me down from her older sister. i desperately want to help her understand why this is not appropriate, but i need some guidance. how do you tell an 8 year old not to wear something because it makes guys think of not nice things without jading her against men and overstepping her mother.

Rebecca Ingram Powell said...

Hi Shannon,

I know this is a dificult place for you, especially since you are the stepmother. I think first of all, be sure that you are setting the example with your own swimwear (which I'm sure you are). And honestly, I think this may want to be an area that your husband takes care of. It could be that this doesn't need to be your "thing" at all, but that you just let him dive into this. Most girls want to please their daddies, and I think if he talked to her about how she is growing up, and how he wants her to be modest in her appearance, that might go a lot further than anything you (or her mom) said. He can explain that he wants her to be modest because it pleases God, and when she is at his home, that's what all of you are trying to do (please God) and he wants her to join in that pursuit.

I would definitely want to attempt a reach for her heart first. Take her shopping for a new swimsuit and other clothes, and make it a fun day. As she is trying new suits on, show her why certain ones are inappropriate.

If she is not a Christian, then you need to be even more intentional about "covering" everything with love and a lot of prayer. You don't want clothing to become a point of rebellion (it's really early for that, and it would be a long road ahead!).

I hope that helps!

Kelly said...

I love this! It is so important to teach our children the importance of modesty and self dignity.

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