modesty-with-pre-teen-daughtersIs the battle over modesty raging in your family? Moms, take heart. We can help our daughters feel beautiful AND help them learn about modesty.

You may have noticed a firestorm of controversy recently over pants, and tights, and whether or not tights are pants. And even if you haven’t noticed the controversy, surely you’ve noticed women wandering around town without proper pants applied to their persons. Wal-Mart, the bank, church–all these places are now frequented by women who have forgotten to put something over their very tight leg coverings. Things like a very long and blousy shirt, or a skirt, or something. Something!

Other far wiser and wittier women have written blog posts about modesty (I’ve included a link at the bottom), so I won’t recreate the whole argument for pants. I would, however, like to address it from the perspective of a mother of a ten year old girl. A ten year-old who loves fashion. Naturally attracted to anything fashionable, Audrey can go to her closet and pull out individual pieces to assemble an entirely adorable outfit.

But recently we’ve had several rounds of “No way, Jose. Go back and find something else to put over those leggings.” And she huffs at me and then claims she has nothing to wear and I hold up a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and her eyes roll back in her head like I asked her to wear a Pilgrim outfit.

Pray for me.

Monday she came home from school with big, serious eyes and informed me that the middle school has a new rule: Tights are not pants. Yoga pants aren’t even pants. Anyone caught wearing them (without an appropriate bottom-covering) will go to the office, call a parent, and have proper clothing delivered to school.

I’d like to give a small clap of recognition to the staff members that laid down this little law about modesty. (Clap clap clap clap.) ((That is not sarcasm. I am truly overjoyed.))

I love it when other adults enforce sensible rules. Because, let’s face it, ten year old girls aren’t exactly ready to understand all the reasons we have rules for modesty. Am I ready to traverse through the male mind to explain what a tightly wrapped set of legs will do to a boy’s thoughts?

Just typing that sentence gave me the woozies. I have no idea of how to explain this to a girl. What little I know of men’s minds is vague and fuzzy for a very good reason. It’s scary in there, my sisters.


Not only do I not want to wander around in the wild world of what men find attractive, I don’t really have any basis for understanding this personally. For example, when I was a teenager my friend’s mother took us both to a professional ballet that came to Kalamazoo. I was nearly scarred for life at seeing that famous Russian ballet dancer in his tights. Baryshnicov? Gorbachev? I can’t remember which is which.

(I’m fairly certain one of those men was a dancer and one of them was the leader of the Soviet Union. I’m quite certain all history teachers are banging their foreheads on their desks right now and deploring the American educational system.)

Back to our point–as women, we don’t generally find it attractive when men wrap themselves in lycra. We tend to gravitate towards things like steady incomes, deep voices, and the ability to grow a decent beard. Because of this, I’m having an even harder time explaining why we have to be very careful when we dress.

At this point, I’m leaving it at that. We just have to be very careful when we dress. As she gets older we’ll start adding in the why’s and wherefore’s. Hopefully by then the foundation will be set and firm and we’ll be able to have some honest, age-appropriate discussions about sexual attraction and why it has no place in math class. Or the bank. Or WalMart. And the very specific ideas about where God does think it’s appropriate.

Until then, tights are not pants. Not here, not at school, not at church. Modesty is a thing that this family will teach, and I will die trying.

And here’s the link I promised you from Tights Are Not Pants, Ya Hear? It’s worth it for the flow chart alone, I promise.

Have a great day, and thanks for wearing pants, dear readers.

The woman approached him, seductively dressed and sly of heart. She was the brash, rebellious type, never content to stay at home. She is often in the streets and markets, soliciting at every corner…He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter…

So listen to me, my sons…don’t let your hearts stray toward her…Her house is on the road to the grave, Her bedroom is the den of death. (Proverbs 7:10-12, 22, 24, 27.)


18 Comments on How to Discuss Modesty with Pre-Teen Daughters. (If you’re brave enough…)

  1. David
    November 14, 2013 at 10:15 am (4 years ago)

    Not a problem in this house. Beth left for college in shorts today despite the autumnal weather. But she is studying sport.

    November 14, 2013 at 10:31 am (4 years ago)

    I had no idea of the controversy. However, I do appreciate the call for modesty. It is so absent from our society. I was flipping through a newspaper and like every other page was a woman dressed in an immodest way. Too much.

  3. Jessie Clemence
    November 14, 2013 at 10:54 am (4 years ago)

    And then it gets seared into our little girls’ minds before they even realize it!

  4. Jessie Clemence
    November 14, 2013 at 10:55 am (4 years ago)

    I think that shorts are often more modest than tights/leggings. I haven’t heard of many men struggling with attractions to shins and calves. 🙂

    Or am I wrong about that?

  5. David
    November 14, 2013 at 11:00 am (4 years ago)

    I hope not! Mind you I’m not sure that most men find some of the tights/leggings displays even remotely attractive. I think Beth was playing badminton first thing, but her preference is for shorts, three-quarters or jeans depending on time of year/weather. She has worn a dress three times in the last ten years – Nick’s wedding, prom, and James’ wedding. There is a photo from James’ wedding of Beth holding her dress while kicking a ball! She wanted to wear shorts under the dress but Marilyn persuaded her that would not work.

  6. Rachel Hillman
    November 14, 2013 at 11:34 am (4 years ago)

    As a mother of three pre-teen boys, I say “thank you!!” This message is much appreciated. And I promise that I am teaching my boys to respect your girls, no matter what they are wearing.

    November 14, 2013 at 11:51 am (4 years ago)

    I hear you. I can appreciate it from my perspective as a high school teacher.

  8. Jessie Clemence
    November 14, 2013 at 12:42 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you, Rachel!

  9. Bridgette Raes
    November 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm (4 years ago)

    Thanks for linking to my blog post about tights not being pants! I thought your post was very insightful.

  10. Anonymous
    November 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm (4 years ago)

    Jessie, we have this conversation with every clothing purchase our 2 daughters (ages 13 and 10 – ugh) make. We try to be respectful to their male classmates. Helping to NOT be a distraction with what they wear. But we are also respectful to ourselves. We honor and cherish the bodies that God gave us and want everyone to do the same. Tights, strapless, short skirts and shorts, and don’t get me started with bikinis are constant battlegrounds over what is “IN” and what is appropriate.

  11. Jessie Clemence
    November 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm (4 years ago)

    You’re welcome! Your post was a great one. 🙂

  12. Jessie Clemence
    November 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm (4 years ago)

    I wish the Pilgrim look would come back in.

    That would be awesome.

  13. stuff4jesse
    November 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm (4 years ago)

    You totally need to try out the Pilgrim outfit someday! She’ll never forgive you but you’ll never need to say sorry 😀

  14. Jessie Clemence
    November 15, 2013 at 8:16 am (4 years ago)

    I’ll tell her it was your idea. 🙂

  15. 4amWriter
    November 15, 2013 at 8:18 am (4 years ago)

    This is a riot, Jessie. I have a 10 y.o. daughter, too. She does appreciate the need to cover the leggings with a jacket or long shirt or a skirt. But it wasn’t always the case. I can’t stand leggings on girls over the age of 8. And when adult women prance around in their leggings and tight shirts with the cleavage hanging out, I wonder what point they’re trying to make. I’m not talking about twenty-somethings, I’m talking about mothers and grandmothers. It’s no wonder we’re having trouble reining in the young ones.

  16. Jessie Clemence
    November 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm (4 years ago)

    Maybe I’ll buy the first Pilgrim outfit for the family and then she’ll be more likely to follow my lead.

    Or not.

  17. muddledmom
    November 20, 2013 at 8:26 pm (4 years ago)

    Agree. And soooo funny!

  18. Jessie Clemence
    November 21, 2013 at 11:28 am (4 years ago)

    I was just at the middle school, and one of the staff members had read the blog, so she passed it on to a teacher and then the principal. He said he’s getting some angry parents about the new rule.

    BUT TIGHTS AREN’T PANTS. For crying out loud.