Q: How can fathers help their girls learn about modesty? I want my daughter to get a handle on this concept before she becomes a teen, but I feel awkward addressing this subject with her. What's my role here?
Jim: For a girl, Dad is usually the first man in her life. How he treats her will affect her relationship with other men throughout her teenage years and adulthood. He also has a huge influence in terms of the way he shows his appreciation for his daughter's femininity and in how he encourages her to express it.
When it comes to teaching girls the basics of appropriate attire, it's Mom who should, whenever possible, exercise the heavy hand on occasions when boundaries need to be enforced. By way of contrast, Dad needs to affirm his daughter, show her that he's there for her, and help her understand the rationale behind the rules.
In short, a girl needs to know that her father cares about her. She needs to be convinced that he's acting out of a desire to protect her and isn't just cramping her style. This means that Dad should watch for those occasions when his daughter does it right. If she comes downstairs in a becoming, appropriate outfit, he needs to make a big deal of it. Equally important is to affirm her beauty in natural and everyday settings.
On the other hand, when your daughter gets it wrong, you have the opportunity to come alongside her and ask, "Why did you choose to wear that? What do you think it says about you and how you view your own femininity?" Use the occasion to talk about respect between the sexes and the kind of clothes and behavior that can nurture or destroy it. You can turn the world into a classroom to teach your daughter what it means to respect herself and to communicate that respect to others through the way she dresses.
Q: When should my husband and I stop showering with our toddler-age children and changing clothes in front of them? Can you give us some guidelines for modesty in the home?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: There really isn't a hard and fast rule for dealing with this issue. Most pediatricians and child development experts agree that when a child begins to express a desire for privacy when naked or using the bathroom, that's the time parents should begin to express more personal modesty. This typically occurs around the age of 3 or 4. For some kids, it may be a little later.
What's most important is that you begin to instill an understanding of healthy sexuality in your children from an early age. You should start when they're toddlers, using age-appropriate concepts and language.
For example, when a young child asks questions about where babies come from, answer in a positive, straightforward manner. You might say something like "God made a special way for mommies and daddies to have babies. He uses a tiny little seed from Daddy and a tiny little egg from Mommy. The seed and the egg come together inside Mommy's tummy, and then God does a miracle and makes a new baby." This kind of explanation is typically sufficient for most younger kids. You don't need to go into a detailed description of human physiology.
Most experts also recommend using accurate names for male and female genitalia. Cutesy names or code words can be confusing to a child, and can unintentionally lead to shame and embarrassment down the road, especially with other children.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT SECURED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.