As the song from the Sound of Music says, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” Anything learned is best learned from the beginning. And it is often best retained when the training also begins early in life.
Just like learning our ABCs, training our moral compass needs to start young. You can learn it at any point in life – but habits make it harder. So when it comes to teaching your children about modesty and decency, when do you begin? I suggest from the moment that little life enters your awareness is when you start.
Modesty begins with you, the parent. Your mindset, your intention. Be like Ezra in Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Determine from that first knowledge you have of your little one’s presence that you will learn how to be modest and you will teach him how to be modest too.
Modesty is trained in your little one by you. After that baby is here, realize she needs your protection and training. God sent her not knowing right from wrong yet, but she learns fast. She is going to take her education on what is modest and beautiful from all of the cues around her. That includes the movies and TV programs you watch, the music you listen to, and above all by watching those who spend time around her. You would be wise to show her by actions, from her earliest days, that covering her body is the same as protecting her beauty and purity.
When choosing her clothing choose with modesty always in mind. If you find a cute sundress that has thin straps instead of sleeves – put a coordinating onesie or t-shirt underneath first to keep her shoulders, curve of her neck, and chest modestly covered. Those adorable overalls for your son, put a t-shirt on first to also keep his chest covered. Choose dresses that are long enough to cover the diaper or bottom. Is it appropriate for you to go around in a dress with your bottom hanging out? Do cute ruffles on the underwear make it any less a bottom showing? The answer is “no”. Do not mistake the innocence of your child’s heart with no need to protect her by instilling modesty early on. Later, these choices will be set and understood: choices that are not so easily removed. A shirt under as a layer is harder to remove than a sweater over a sundress, for example. Tops that cover the bottom layered over pants that are not so tight that they reveal the anatomy underneath give layers of covering. Choosing skirts that are longer, layered over slips and tights, are a protection from accidental uncovering by a sudden gust of wind. These types of choices are harder for a child to alter once they are away from your control.
God covered Adam and Eve with coats or tunics of skin in Gen. 3:21. The original Hebrew word (Strong’s Hebrew word H3801) meant a garment that generally had sleeves (neck and shoulders covered) and came down to at least the knees (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon). In Jeremiah 13:26, God expresses how He will bring Judah to shame by saying, “So I Myself have also stripped your skirts off over your face, that your shame may be seen.” Skirts don’t usually go over the face, they go over the lower parts of the body. The lower parts of the body being visible was equal to shameful nakedness. In Isaiah 20:4 Egypt’s shame in being captive is described as, “so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.” The thigh being uncovered was also considered nakedness in Isaiah 47:2.
Instead of starting your son or daughter down one path, only to want to turn them down another when they are older and things are “no longer appropriate”, why not start at the beginning? You likely do it with food choices, book choices, and word choices. Do it with clothing choices too. Child appropriate teaching is indicated in Isaiah 28:10 – “Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there.” Point your young one towards 1 Tim.2:9 and Titus 2:6. Show them from the earliest stages and every day (Deut. 6:7) to seek to be chaste and sober-minded in regards to their clothing.
Angela Legg – The Diligent Woman
Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly…”
“Likewise, urge the young men to be sensible.”