Charlotte, NC

How to be Modest Without Being Ashamed

One Writer

A parenting guide to talking about modesty with teens

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2ZEFXk_0Z9igQoU00Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

By the time little girls are two, shorty-shorts are everywhere in their size with “Princess” proudly written on their bottoms. We love dressing up our little girls AND our little boys in all sorts of things, all very innocent and fun. As they get older we try to give them the space they need to dress and present themselves in ways that make them feel their best.

But there comes a certain age when clothing becomes part of sexual expression — or it is interpreted that way. It becomes uncomfortable when tight clothing, revealing clothing, or suggestive clothing becomes a war zone for parents.

“You are not going out of this house dressed like that!” — an actual thing an actual friend said to me as we were getting ready for a girls night.

Where do we draw the line?

I think it is perfectly ok to teach young people to:

  • Wear what looks good on them and makes them feel confident.
  • Wear age appropriate clothing.
  • Wear clothing that is appropriate to the surroundings, event, and weather.
  • Wear clothing that compliments them —and by complimenting, I don’t mean simply exaggerating sexuality.

Sexism and Body-Shaming should not be applied as a parenting technique or a school standard.

One night during dinner we had a local news station on the television, half listening. A news story came on about a young high school girl, 14, who had been reprimanded by her school for “wearing yoga pants without her shirt long enough to cover her butt — it was distracting.” (This happened at a public school in Charlotte, NC.)

I have such mixed feeling on this.

The young girl and her mother were all upset, claiming that this was body shaming.

Body shaming — the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size. — Google Dictionary

Body Shaming is a term our young people are hearing and responding to — for good reason. But, being asked to maintain a certain level of modesty at school — does this qualify as body shaming? I don’t think so, but sexism is definitely an issue when it comes to the “clothing standards” of schools and workplaces.

Rarely are the guys even a part of the discussion — except to discuss how we females dress as it affects the surrounding men or male students. Could we, perhaps, teach these males to respect the bodies of women — regardless of their clothing or presentation? In theory, yes. But the truth is, cleavage in math class is a problem.

Times have changed but now I parent with the lessons of my upbringing.

I was my daughters age in the 80’s, when big hair, big boobs, tiny waists, and wild blue eye-shadow were all the rage. Men wore pants so tight that there was little left to the imagination — at least the ones in music videos and posters that dominated my attention at the time. Even into my 30’s I dressed fairly wildly — being a hairdresser did have its perks. Extremely expressive clothing, hairstyles, and makeup were expected of us — to some degree.

I enjoy pressing the envelope with my style and I like for my children to feel confident enough to do the same — and define themselves. But, within reason.

I learned from my conservative mother and grandmother to be ladylike and modest. The church backed this up. School rules solidified it. So I will admit, the modesty that I think is reasonable is something I now have to think about and make sure my motives are the healthy messages I want to teach my children.

I want my children to learn these lessons: 1. adjust your presentation and behavior to suit the environment and expectations and 2. respect others no matter their appearance and 3. respect yourself. And I think you can teach a balance of all of these things.

This is a fine, delicate, important line. One that needs to be discussed honestly with your children (especially teens) and not imposed on them as some sort of personality adjustment or control.

Lately, I am in a “Bohemian” kick, but you can bet your sweet derrière, when I go to my daughter’s school or to the grocery store, I’ll be wearing a bra! I will tone down whatever look I have going on to meet the appropriateness of the situation — a lesson young people do not like to learn as they try to express their individualities.

Expressiveness can go too far to make a statement, especially at school.

If someone wants to wear a gorilla suit to school because it makes them feel confident — we can’t just tell them to go for it — even though the argument that “what we wear does not define us” is valid.

But school and acceptance are hard. It is hard enough without leaving self-expression wide open. Kids will try to out-do each other and get noticed, sometimes in negative ways.

There is nothing wrong with reasonable expectations, conforming to a group standard for the sake of learning —and exploring more thoroughly one’s individuality outside of the classroom. Note — I did not say to check your personality, altogether, at the door.

I have no problem with asking my daughter to be reasonably modest at school. It, to me, is what is appropriate for the environment of learning. But I will not make her feel negative about her body because others have no self-control. They can keep their eyes and hands to themselves, please.

For further reading from this author:

Decluttering Your Life for Emotional Freedom

How to Make a Perfect Pot of Dried Beans

Face Mask Recipe to Calm Your Skin

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