Modesty is a character strength that often gets a bad wrap.
You know the stereotype—the crabby, austere nun covered from head to toe in an over-starched, high-collared habit. While I happen to be a proponent of the more traditional dress for religious sisters, this, however, is not an accurate portrayal of such an important virtue as modesty.
The confusion surrounding the meaning of modesty may come from the fact that many people don’t really know what it is. For the record, it doesn’t just mean a way of dressing for women. It also expresses how anyone, man or woman, carries themselves in their presentation of goodness and beauty. A modest individual is happy to live a life of goodness without drawing attention to him/herself.
Now, let’s talk Kardashians… where does one even begin? Everything is on display: possessions, homes, jewelry, clothing (and lack thereof), and their bodies. It is a culture that elevates the idea of style over substance. Consequently, they are reduced in our minds, no longer complex persons with individual dignity to be honored, but brand images to be marketed in order to sell things that others are prompted to covet.
So how do we raise kids to honor the God-given dignity in them and others when this Kardashian mindset is so pervasive? Modesty is the answer! Let’s take back the character strength and the culture. Below are some great tips to begin living as families of modesty.
1. Mom, self-confidence is CONTAGIOUS!
This is so crucial to raising inherently confident children—rather than complimenting your kids for how beautiful they are, make sure they hear you take notice of your natural beauty and elegance. It is so helpful for kids to hear you say, “My hair looks really nice today!” or “I love my figure in this dress—so graceful!” We mistakenly think our kids will believe what we tell them about their looks, instead they believe about themselves what we say about ourselves. They mirror our self-talk! Your negative comments about yourself are certainly not good for you, but can also cause damage to your daughter’s self-esteem long term. Sons will also be negatively impacted by turning a critical eye to themselves and women. But, if they hear confidence and self-love in their mom, it will help them recognize true beauty, inside & out, and will help them when they are adults choosing a spouse.
If you catch yourself saying, “I look so fat!” or “I hate my hair,” STOP! Your children will begin to model that negativity. This undermines their self-confidence and natural dignity. So, do your best to see the good in your own appearance.
2. Check out that MODESTY!
From a very early age, begin pointing out examples of the character strength of modesty. Share with your sons and daughters when you see someone who does something extraordinary without seeking fanfare or reward, maybe a teacher or neighbor who does a good deed without expecting any praise in return. “Such modest behavior!”
Single out men and women who are dressed respectfully and honorably. Parents, remember to complement one another in front of your little ones. When dad is dressed to the nines for church or an event, say “Wow. You look dashing!” If mom is dressed elegantly, dad might say, “You look so pretty!” Both should respond with a heartfelt, “Thank you!”
When your family is confronted with images that are shameless (the vice of modesty) don’t try to hide from it, instead make it a teaching moment. This must be age-appropriate of course, but consider privately pointing out that a woman is really beautiful, but it’s a shame she is dressed so immodestly. My daughter and I have bonded over some of the ridiculous animated characters like Disney princesses who are either dressed inappropriately or look like bobblehead caricatures of women. Rather than shrink in disgust, make it a moment of practical learning. If you see an image of someone who looks fake and overly made-up, feel free to point out how artificial the person looks. Celebrate natural beauty and real men and women who come in all shapes and sizes.
3. The family RULES!
We all need guidelines. It’s not fair to expect kids to know the boundaries for living modest lives if we don’t discuss it regularly. Discuss it over a family meeting, or a family meal. Explain the “why” behind the modesty guidelines. “Why don’t we wear bathing suits to the grocery store?” This kind of interchange isn’t a “one and done” kind of discussion, but should be talked about regularly and added to as kids mature.
Mom & Dad, be sure to look for ways to model modesty, not only in the way you dress, but how you handle compliments. It’s ok to say a sincere thank you when someone points out a talent. Make it short and sweet and move on. Look for ways to help others without seeking any recognition. Kids will naturally take to this example.
4. Dad’s opinions MATTER!
As much as the world wants to diminish the role of dads, they’re so important to helping kids become well-adjusted, modest individuals. It’s not only OK to compliment a child’s outfit, but it’s good. “You sure look nice! I like how the yellow highlights your hair. You’re perfect just the way you are!” What a boost to every little girl to hear such uplifting feedback from the first man they’ll ever love. On the other side of the coin, it’s ok, to share your dislike for clothes that are too flashy or revealing. But be sure to do so in a positive way. For example, “All that makeup takes away from your natural beauty. Your eye color is too gorgeous to be covered up like that.” Or if clothing is too revealing, try, “You are such a beautiful young lady, but that skimpy dress doesn’t showcase your elegance.” Remember, never shame your kid. It doesn’t work.
We can successfully raise modest kids if we work together as strong families who are building character every day in small ways. Over time, not only will we enjoy the benefits in our own families (confident, dignified young adults who care about others), but we will all begin to see an amazing effect on our world—Kardashians included. One can dream…
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