Christian Reflections on Lust, Modesty, and Beauty (Part 9): Parenting and Modesty


ModestyParenting is one of those terrifying and awesome realities. Within the child/parent relationship the dualities of joy and responsibility combine, and here we are faced with our own inadequacies and yet the significance of our role. Parents play such a vital part in shaping the values, beliefs, and characters of their children. That’s an especially scary thought when we consider the role of parents in teaching their kids about modesty. As parents we focus often on the aspect of dress, especially with little girls, but we need to put an equal emphasis on the aspect of responsibility as it relates to this discussion. Training your kids to think Biblically about modesty means giving them more than just rules. Teaching your kids about modesty means giving them a framework for thinking Biblically about a host of related issues.

Godly parents are known to encourage their daughters to dress modestly. There’s a common picture of the father who watches his teenage daughter leaving the house and stops here to say, “You’re not leaving the house looking like that.” He sends her marching back upstairs to put on more clothes. It’s a scene that, even if we’re not directly familiar with, is common enough in the popular culture that we can innately picture it. Parents know that they have a responsibility to encourage their daughters to dress in a manner consistent with their dignity, and in a manner pleasing to the Lord. It is appropriate then, as parents, to set boundaries and help your children to think carefully about their clothing. But this should not be the only thing parents say to their daughters.

In a culture that fairly often blames women for lust, it is a godly parent’s role to teach their children the truth about moral responsibility. Emphasize for your daughters that they are responsible for how they dress, for the desires in their own heart when they put on their bathing suits, but they are not responsible for the desires in the hearts of others. It is important for our daughters to know that they cannot bear the weight of another person’s sin, or another person’s lust, or another person’s responsibility. The world and the church too will tell them that they are, but parents need to be the voice of truth and grace in their lives. Relieve them of this unbearable burden, parents. Teach them to take on full responsibility for what God has entrusted to them, and to let others bear the weight of their own sin. Teach them the truth with patience and grace overtime to develop a full-orbed theology of beauty.

Teach them the truth about beauty. Beauty is good. God made the world beautiful and he expects us to celebrate it, cherish it, and respect it. We do not need to hide beauty, nor be ashamed of it. It is perfectly right and normal for women to look like women. To have curves and breasts. To grow and develop just as God intended and ordains for women. There is no shame in being feminine and looking feminine.

Teach them too about sin. Sin has damaged the way the world looks at beauty. The world treats beauty with utter disdain and shame, or with lust and covetousness. Sin drives the heart of man to covet beauty such that he can’t see it and not desire to own it. There is no shame in the human body, but there is shame in public nakedness. We need to keep our most private parts covered. Teach them to acknowledge sin in their own hearts which seeks to be noticed, and teach them to be conscious of the sin of others which seeks to notice.

Teach them to do their part and no more. Teach them to think about what they wear, not simply to put on whatever is in style. Teach them to judge the motives of their own heart and ask probing questions where appropriate. Teach them to think about their motives and not simply about their closets, about their hearts and not simply about their dresses. Teach them too, then, that people have different understandings of modesty and to think about the contexts in which they work and play. Teach them to be considerate of others. But teach them too that they can never please everyone, they can never protect everyone, and at the end of the day they are responsible before the Lord only for their part. Do not let them take up responsibility for other’s struggles and issues.

Teach them the “why”. Don’t just give them rules. As parents the goal is not to gain conformity to a certain behavioral standard, the goal is to teach our children to think Biblically. If you have established rules about bikinis in your home don’t just give the rule, explain how you came to that rule. Explain the process of determining a right answer for your family. Explain why you believe this rule best honors God and serves others. Help them learn to think through these issues for themselves so that as they grow they can make their own informed decisions about clothing.

Finally, teach them grace. Not everyone thinks the same about these issues and there is relative freedom on some of them. We need to demonstrate grace towards one another as we think through them. It is perfectly acceptable to have rules for your household, for your home, for your pool, for your sleepovers and parties. It is okay to ask others to conform to those rules when in your home. It is not okay to condemn, shame, guilt, or judge others who do not conform to them outside of your home. It is not okay to expect people to know the rules before they come to your house. It is important to demonstrate for your children how to disagree in love, how to encourage conversation, how to show grace and deference to others. Help them both by modeling and by instructing them how to handle these situations in their own lives.

Teaching your children, especially your daughters, about modesty involves a lot more than scanning their closets for immodest apparel. It means giving your kids a whole framework for thinking about their bodies, their clothes, and others. It means helping them to understand beauty, sin, and grace. Teaching your kids about modesty is a reminder that parenting is hard, that parenting is about more than policing. It’s a reminder that parenting truly is “training,” and that’s both wonderful and a bit scary.


  1. Wish there were more than five stars to choose! Excellent, grace-filled instruction and insight.

  2. Denise Hardy says:

    Amen, my brother…well said!!

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