Modesty… Our Role as Parents

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.

Marisa Pereira
Mother, Designer and Founder of the Michaela-Noel clothing brand – in Atlanta, GA
www.michaela-noel.com

8 thoughts on “Modesty… Our Role as Parents

  1. You just described what I sensed for years and only recently have begun to articulate to family and friends. Mass or church service is the most important event of the week. Our dress should reflect this. Now I simply need to be a father and lay down the law. Of course the clothes we recently purchased from you make it a little easier! THANKS. By the way, my son seems to dress reasonably well. What’s up with the girls?

  2. Yes, I believe whole heartedly in what Marisa is saying here. I see myself in several of her comments. How many times have I taken all the time in the world to dress for an event but not given proper consideration to my church attire. My clothing would be considered appropriate for church but not given the proper consideration.

    It is true that the general church going population doesn’t dress appropriately these days. Forty years ago as a child, I couldn’t get out of the car in the parking lot in improper attire without getting looked at up and down by other parishoners. My mother saw to it that all four of her children were dressed appropriately for mass.

    Let’s keep the discussion going…..and get some approriate clothing options out there.

  3. Fathers have the responsibility to set modesty standards for their daughters because they know how men can look at women. My children always dress nice for Sunday and Holy Days and always modestly. We have rules, including dresses/skirts must be below the knee when sitting. You should start young. I remember a relative buying a nice dress for my five-year-old that was above the knee (when sitting) everyone was curious as to how I would respond. I knew that if I said OK, that would be setting my “real” standard. I said “no go.” My daughter then said, “Why does it matter? I’m just a little girl.” I explained that it was easier to train a little girl than a teenager, and I knew that that question was not originally hers. Now she is a teenager and believes in modest dress. Dads, if you don’t have modesty standards in your homes YOU ARE NOT DOING YOUR JOB AS A FATHER. For swimsuits we use Simply Modest. I have four girls and two boys, ages 5 through 14.

  4. As a father of four daughters I am quite aware of attire and am pleased that my oldest (11) is a modest young lady, because her three younger sisters are looking up to her. Now that I’ve found your site I’m sure I’ll be placing orders with my wife soon. God bless.

  5. The problem I fear is much bigger than the dress of our youth. There is a complete and total decline in moral values and teaching common decency and manners. Parents today are too busy working, texting or whatever to take the time and effort our parents took to teach us simple etiquette. Too many Catholics are silent, too many are going through the motions. Too many are not taking the doctrine of our faith seriously.

  6. Thanks for all the comments to date. To respond to a couple of questions – Regarding boys – I believe the boys in the limelight make their mark by focusing on how many or which girls they “conquer”. Wgereas the girls in the limelight use their bodies to make their impression. Unfortunately this is what our kids see and are tempted to think is “cool”.
    Regarding the “bigger problem”, I believe it’s like anything else in life, the more effort and time one puts into something – be it a job or relationship or a project, the more positive results one sees. Same goes for our families and values etc – but we cannot give up. We can be the change by starting with our own families and praying for God’s help. Keep this topic in the forefront and things will change.

  7. I’m glad to hear a recurring theme in the posts above… start setting parental expectations for decency early. I don’t have any kids but a group of parents and I help the Youth Ministry Director at our church in leading high school kids under 18 (yes, they ARE still kids!) who are preparing for Confirmation in play & pray sessions weekly. I often remind the kids that no one wakes up on their 18th birthday with a halo around their head that suddenly gives them the ability to cast a ballot with intelligence and good judgement. Nor do they go to bed as goof-offs the night before the high school graduation ceremony and awake up as all-knowing Einsteins the next morning.

    Likewise, no child who is allowed to persistently follow the deplorable example in conduct, language and appearance set by so-called pop culture role models will wake up one morning and suddenly find him/herself ready to fit into a generally civilized workforce or ready to set a good example as a parent.

    I think the word “decline” in this blog topic reflects the (dare I say it…) “inability” of some parents to become appropriate role models overnight for their kids, who are then unable to be appropriate role models … you get my drift. “Do as I say, not as I do” has never really worked anywhere. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that kids never be allowed to try what “everyone else” is doing. Doing so merely represses a naturally rebellious instinct in teenagers. On the contrary, let them try being like “everyone else,” but make sure you are always a step behind them, pointing out the disapproving looks, the subtle distancing or cold shoulder from others who are respected for their good judgement and conduct. As humans, and especially as teenagers, we tend to seek only positive feedback for our actions and filter out and ignore the rest. It is the parent’s responsibility to be that persistent laser pointer to the negative aspects of trying to be like everyone else with poor judgement and let the kid come to a self-conclusion (and develop good judgement) of what is appropriate and what is not, then present them with the decent alternative choice.

    It is a tremendous responsibility on the parent’s shoulders, no doubt, but well worth the effort — for the kids’ sake. And humanity’s.

  8. I heard your message on Sonrisemorning show and was amazed that there are not more people that are
    doing this sort of thing. Here in Ma. I am amazed at even what 3 and 4 year olds are wearing and imagine them at 13 and 15. I do not have young children, but will refer others to your site. I wonder if you have thought of designing for preteens. I pray that you will have success in your venture. Thank you and God Bless. Rosemary

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