This is the time of year that makes many fathers cringe. Those of us with daughters fight a battle with summer attire. Swimsuits, shorts, halter tops, mini-skirts, and other signs of summer give us all heartburn, particularly as our girls approach the teenage years. But clothing is just one way that our children express their individuality, so what is the right approach to take to teach modesty and decency? This post discusses some ideas.
Besides clothing our kids express their individuality through tattoos, jewelry, and hairstyles to adorn their bodies. This isn’t a new phenomenon, as examples of this can be found throughout history, so we shouldn’t be surprised when our children want to do the same things. But there are healthy limits that we need to set for our children, based on their maturity level and the reasonableness of their wardrobe or requests. Modesty and decency must be taught by the parents, not adopted from their friends.
Our kids begin to pay attention to their appearance at an early age. I’ve seen it in all of my children. What didn’t matter just a few months ago seems to be of the utmost importance. Some days three or four changes of clothes can take place before the outfit is just right. And from what I’ve seen, it applies equally to boys as it does to girls.
Appearance is one way that a child can either blend in or set themselves apart. They can align themselves with different peer groups by appearance. What we might see as subtle nuances in dress can make all the difference to the child. Brands and labels on their clothing can put your child in a whole new category. To teens that have been raised to value things, it can be the difference in being accepted or being shunned.
Some clothing can be a sign that your child might be affiliated with a gang. Or, accidentally, your child might unknowingly be wearing gang-related clothing or jewelry. While the former is definitely cause for concern, the latter can be particularly dangerous so it is a good idea to know something about this. A decent resource on gang markings and clothing can be found at Robert Walker’s site Gangs Or Us.
So just what guidelines do we need to use as parents? Some ideas follow below.
- Decency is the primary guide. Kids must adhere to dress code standards for their schools and should honestly follow those outside of school.
- Around the home, your children need to exhibit modesty. In requiring this of them, you teach your child to value and cherish their body and they learn that it isn’t something that the entire world needs to see.
- If labels and logos become important to your child then let them begin to manage the clothing budget that you planned to spend on them. You will be surprised at their choices once they see that their dollar doesn’t go as far on brand-name clothing.
- Let your child choose their clothing as they approach the teen years but reserve the veto vote at all times. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting so carefully pick when you plan to use the veto.
- If your child begins to wear any of the attire that might signify gang involvement, that they haven’t traditionally worn, question the reasons why. New sport logos that your kids don’t wear can be a sign.
- Hairstyles, I believe, are a different story. Let your child wear the styles and colors that conform to the dress code standards. Their choices, in general, are harmless and don’t have long-lasting impact because hair grows out.
- I think that piercings should be limited to earrings for your daughter until your child is eighteen. Call me old-fashioned, but some of the outrageous places that piercings show up on the human body are just ridiculous. Don’t let your child make a decision that they will regret later in life.
- Same thing goes for tattoos. Temporary tattoos are OK for kids, but under age eighteen they should never be allowed to have a permanent tattoo. Again, I might be old-fashioned but kids simply cannot make this kind of permanent decision in a mature, well-informed manner.
- Makeup and jewelry are generally harmless, but I get concerned when my daughter wants to wear makeup at her young age. Pay attention to what other kids are wearing, and do what feels right in your mind.
The most important message we can convey to our child is that their worth is not defined by their outward appearance. What they project onto the world from the inside is of far greater significance than the trinkets and adornments that they decorate their bodies with. Be sure that they understand this message and that their individualism is already defined by their unique combination of qualities.
Application Question – Are you uncomfortable with your child’s appearance? Are you and your spouse on the same page on this subject? Is gang activity a problem in your area that your child’s attire might support?
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