Several weeks ago at church, I noticed a group of high-schoolers who were getting ready for their “Confirmation” and were therefore waiting in line for Confession. What had me troubled was that many of the girls had on the “Soffe” shorts. These are the jersey knit gym shorts with the one inch inseam. A couple of the girls actually had these shorts with the waistband rolled down to make them even skimpier. These could now easily be considered bathing costume bottoms – as short as they were. I wondered if their parents or their teachers had taken the time to let them know what “appropriate” clothing was for this occasion – the Sacrament of Confession.
I do not believe I am alone in my musings. Many parents today are commenting on the lack of modesty shown in the dress of our youth – especially to church. Of course the grandparents are just aghast at the total lack of respect in dress and decorum shown by most of our youth today. In pondering why we are in the plight we are in, I realized it is a general lack of instruction on what is acceptable and what isn’t, combined with a reluctance to upset the apple cart – in other words say “no”.
While many of us as parents may gripe about the situation, let’s analyze some tough questions.
1. What positive steps do we take to control this behavior?
Recently a father told me that he liked some modest dress options he had seen but was wondering if his fourteen year old daughter would like them as well and be willing to wear them to church. Seriously!?
Call me old fashioned or an army sergeant but as a mother of an almost fourteen year old myself, I believe it is my right and duty to have decision making power in what my daughter wears – to church or anywhere else for that matter. Mind you, I do not always get the “Oh, Mum, you’re right, why didn’t I think of that?” response. More often, if I am challenging, I get the “but everyone else wears this” or “other parents don’t have a problem with their kids wearing this” response. Not that that helps change my perspective, I just have to remind her that I am not “everyone’s” mother. So all you parents who indulge your kids and give in to their inappropriate choices, please realize that you are inadvertently setting a “standard”. Once I am not contributing financially to my daughter’s living expenses, I will not be able to have a say in what she wears but hopefully by then it will not be necessary. If it hasn’t worked, at least I can rest assured that I have done all I could. Until that time, I plan on executing my God given rights as a parent. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
2. Do we educate our kids & model how to dress appropriately for different events?
How much value do we place on their physical appearance? Is that the first attribute we discuss when describing them to others? Do we teach them that they present who they are – not their body – for approval? Do we teach our kids to categorize their clothes and help them understand that what may be appropriate for the beach is not necessarily so for church? Do we have set standards and expectations of what is considered modest and appropriate? Do we use the excuses that are well worn – pardon the pun – to justify our own lack of dress? Some of us dress very well for business and other occasions. We actually decide what we will be wearing to an event in advance but when it comes to church we give our dress no thought because “it’s one day we don’t have to dress up”. Shouldn’t it be the one day we DO dress up because we are preparing for a special meeting with our Creator – on the most important day of the week – and shouldn’t we be modeling this for our kids?
3. Do we provide them with options of clothing that are appropriate for church? Do they lack church clothes or all other clothes as well?
A friend recounted how his daughter was so stressed about visiting a potential high school because she wanted to make “the right impression”. Even though she would be visiting in her school uniform, they bought a lightweight, “North Face” athletic jacket which cost $200 for the visit!
Let’s take an inventory of how much we spend or allow our kids to spend on their branded wear. Nike or Converse trainers – $100 – $200, Abercrombie Tees and Tanks $20 and up, North Face lightweight jackets $100 – $250, small Vera Bradley purses $21 – $75, UGG boots – $135 – $250. What about the several hundred $$ we spend on their electronics – that of course, we have determined they cannot live without?!
Are we reluctant to spend the money to dress our kids well or are we just reluctant to spend the money to dress our kids well for church?
It is touching to note that despite their lack, people around the world, get more “dressed up” than in the US. Not that everyone can afford fancy rags but they dress to the best of their resources for church. I challenge us as parents to quit griping about “society” and doing nothing to change the status quo. We ARE society and we CAN institute change – it all starts in our own homes with our own families. Together we can make a difference.
Mother, Designer and Founder of the Michaela-Noel clothing brand – in Atlanta, GA