Think your children are too young to learn modesty and respect? You might think again. Most parents work with their children at a young age teaching them to respect others. Teaching modesty and self-respect should happen at a young age. Let me clarify a bit on the modesty issue with babies and toddlers. I don’t believe modesty is as applicable to younger toddlers. Babies and toddlers are very into their own world anyway so teaching them self respect in the way I’ll be discussing may not be beneficial until closer to age 3.
When our older son was about three, I finally regained that privilege of using the bathroom in privacy. When he wanted to know why the door was closed, I told him that I needed my privacy. Soon, as we were potty training, he too wanted his privacy. I have always been pretty modest about dressing too in front of my boys (my personal preference). I began to let out a little “Ah!” when they opened the door when I was dressing. Soon they too wanted privacy every now and then. The issue was never pushed in our home, only modeled.
My older son still wonders around the house in his underwear. We don’t have a huge problem with this as he only recently turned 5. My husband and I don’t wonder around outside our bedroom this way though. When someone comes to the door, I might say, “Hurry up and get some clothes on, you don’t want them to see you in your underwear!” or, “If they see you in your underwear, they might laugh.” So early on, my sons have an awareness of their body and clothing.
When my son discovered his “boy parts”, my husband and I began the talk about how that was his special private part that God gave him. We told him if anyone other than the doctor, or Mommy or Daddy if need be, asks to see his private, he is to tell someone safe right away—even if he’s told not to.
When people that are less than modest pass by in public, my husband or I might say something to our boys like, “uh-oh, it looks like that doesn’t cover her very well” or “She might get cold dressing like that.” To further clarify, the ladies I’m referring to are not necessarily wearing tank tops and shorts. I’m referring to women severely exposing cleavage, bellies or/and have way to short of shorts on. We see them on billboards, TV (though try to restrict viewing times for our kids for this reason) and even in the mall in the store fronts. I believe by commenting on the people my boys see who dress provocatively, it might help them understand what inappropriate attire is. I really don’t want them growing up seeing these kinds displays being desensitized thinking this is the norm. By my modeling modest apparel, I hope too my boys will grow to know what is acceptable.
Upon seeing an album cover of a famous pop singer, my son noticed the lady’s shirt was very revealing slipping off her shoulders. He exclaimed, “Mommy! That lady is showing her privates!” Yes, my son has grown to believe calves and even upper arms are private. Though I’ve told him otherwise, I am glad to see he has awareness. My hope is that when my boys become teens they will have imbedded in their minds that less than modest young ladies send the wrong message.
Please check out part 2: Teaching Our Children Self Respect.