My husband and I didn’t think we’d find ourselves trying to teach our four year old about modesty. We thought for sure that would be something to save for the pre-teen years. However, lately, we’ve found the influences she finds and sees in the world around her on a daily basis, have caused us to bump up our timeline for talks on being modest. We can’t go shopping without seeing billboards or posters of scantily clad women. Magazines are full of pictures of women with exposed skin. Television–shows and commercials–are laden with sexified images of what a woman could, should, or wants to be perceived as. Even dolls are not leaving much to be desired.
These did not go unnoticed by our daughter.
We would find her pulling her shirts down, pulling her sleeves together to give her a “shoulderless” attire, rolling her pant legs up as far as they would go, etc. We continually asked her to stop modifying her wardrobe as such, and would ask her why she felt the need to do those things… And her answer was always a cool and serious, “I’m just trying to be beautiful.”
Beautiful – Teaching Children Modesty Early
With eyebrows raised, my husband and I teamed together to tackle this societal misconception being adopted by our preschooler. We informed her, at every opportunity, that she was beautiful no matter what she wore. She didn’t need to look like anyone else to be pretty. She didn’t need to show off uncovered skin. She didn’t need to pretend to be those women she saw. God made her just the way she was, and no one could argue that there would be no greater beauty than celebrating that.
We worked tirelessly at times, trying to instill the values of modesty, decency, and purity into the mind and heart of our preschooler. Often times, we would find ourselves completely dumbfounded that we were already having to work so hard to defeat such a strong influence in the mind of our little one. Beauty is so much more than clothing. So much more, especially, than how little one can wear.
She loves to be a princess, and wear dress-up-dresses, shoes that click on our hard wood floor, and carry her wand around. She always wants to wear these outfits and will exclaim, “Aren’t I so beautiful?” Again, her father and I would combat this as a generalization and explain to her she is beautiful no matter what, and we love and admire her for all of her beautiful ways, even when she’s not dressed like a princess.
The other day, I noticed fruit from our efforts. As she twirled around in sweat pants and a long-sleeved shirt (courtesy of our still-chilly temperatures for spring), she commented, “I’m beautiful no matter what I’m wearing.” My husband and I looked at each other, and I noticed relief spread across his brow. It was working. We were getting through. Our message was superseding the others our daughter had absorbed.
“Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV)
This will be a lesson we’ll have to revisit as she gets older, I can be sure. As other images, peer pressures, and self-doubt filter into her world, her father and I will be there to reassure her that beauty is not skin-deep. It is a matter of the heart – the heart her Creator longs to reside in. We are precious in His sight, and created in His image. There is no beauty greater than that which He has already given us. Princess dresses are just a bonus.
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