Friday, August 12, 2011

Teaching Our Children About What Is More Important Than Modesty

Several months ago my children were outside playing in our backyard, jumping on our trampoline. Also outside on this particular day was our only neighbor child who often walks up to the chain link fence that divides our properties to talk to my children. She's a little girl a year or two older than my oldest son, who is seven. She was also outside jumping on her trampoline when one of our sons started a little chant about how immodest she was (she was in her bikini swimsuit jumping). He didn't just say it softly to his brother and sister - he yelled it loudly over and over again to where she could hear it. To make matters much worse, her Dad happened to be outside.

This is no one's idea of what a good Christian witness looks like.

My husband was in our kitchen when his ears picked up on the chant. He swiftly ran to the window to see what it was all about and saw this little girl and her father outside. Disturbed before, now he was horrified. He immediately brought our son inside and had a serious talk with him. He told him that until he personally apologized to this little girl for saying mean things to her, that he would not be allowed to jump on the trampoline or listen to story tapes (both treasured privileges to our boys.)

Like I said, this was several months ago. :)

We have tried several times to get him to apologize when she has been outside, but it has always resulted in him breaking down in tears and refusing to do it because he was so scared. Finally, he did it a few days ago with my husband standing by his side talking him through it for fifteen minutes. It was like pulling teeth, but he was finally able to eek the apology out. The little girl didn't even fully understand what the apology was all about, but after all was said and done, my son and this little girl stood at the fence talking for close to an hour like they were the greatest friends in the world! He gave her some army soldiers and a cannon (a true gift for my little boy who adores his little army soldiers) and I could tell he came in very happy it was all over.

The next day, she reciprocated and brought over some toys for the boys, and even brought over a toy for our youngest little girl as well! They again stood at the fence and talked, ironically, while she was in a bikini once again.

My three year old daughter picked up on the fact that she wasn't dressed modestly and said something about it (I guess outside even, *sigh*). I quickly realized that while I have every opportunity I need to teach them what is and is not modest (every shopping trip could produce a lesson if I choose!) we have few opportunities to teach them how to treat other people who are not like them with respect and Christ like love. In this instance, it was more important to me for my children to learn to be kind and visit with this neighbor girl, than it was to shield them from her immodest bikini.


Because their hearts need to be softened.

They have no trouble going around acting like the pharisees and judging on outward appearance. But loving someone when they don't look like we do, or act like we do comes very hard for them. Letting them actually have time to demonstrate that they could care for someone who is not like them, is so much more important than once again giving them the talk of "some people just do bad things."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not about ready to throw my children out to the world, and bring them to all sorts of places where they will be exposed to indecency on purpose. But if I want to raise my children (my boys especially) to want to go into the world one day and spread the good news of the gospel, they will need to be trained to look past the outward and try to reach a person's heart.

Modesty is so very important. Being a good Christian witness is also. And, as I'm learning the hard way, being a parent involves making difficult decisions on what is to be emphasized in any given situation.

In our homeschool this week, our lessons are focused on kindness and doing to others as they would want other to do to them. It is far more difficult to instill these virtues in my children (and more worthy) than simply instructing them to slip on a modest dress and yes, modest clothes for my boys as well.

May God give us strength as parents to use discernment in how we raise our children! Let there be no hypocrites or pharisees among us. Rather, let us shine forth the true love of God to our children and to the world.

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At August 12, 2011 at 8:01 AM , Anonymous Jennifer said...

Amen and Amen! You are spot on in sharing these thoughts. Thank you!

At August 12, 2011 at 8:09 AM , Blogger Kendal said...

wonderful!!! shared this on FB.

At August 12, 2011 at 9:50 AM , Blogger Crystal said...

It is so true. Your family's KINDNESS to that little girl and her family -- and not the way you dress necessarily -- is what is ultimately going to attract them to Christ. Good job on seeing what's really important.

At August 12, 2011 at 10:29 AM , Blogger Shalea said...

Love it. Love, Kindness and Acceptance all lead to teaching children the Fruits of the Spirit. Thank you very much for this encouraging post.

At August 12, 2011 at 12:00 PM , Blogger Kimberly Glesenkamp said...

I sure wish some of my 'Christian' friends growing up had parents that taught them about the heart as well.

It makes all the difference that you didn't shelter your child, but taught him through this.

I've known far too many sheltered kids that went into a sort of shock and rapid downfall once they hit the world because they weren't properly equipped and allowed to be exposed to enough of what this world is really like to properly understand it or witness to it.

Good job with your children and so sweet that your boy not only felt bad and apologized, but also gave her his special toys.

At August 12, 2011 at 6:45 PM , Blogger Honey and Pappy said...

Amen! Wonderful post.

At August 13, 2011 at 4:13 AM , Blogger Phyllis said...

Thank you! Once we stayed with a sweet family whose children told me that I was sinning because I wasn't wearing a dress, when they saw me in my pyjama pants. That made me aware of being more careful with what I say around my own children and how I say it. They take everything as black and white, and they really don't naturally have any tact. :-)

At August 17, 2011 at 9:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this. Thank you.

At August 17, 2011 at 4:10 PM , Blogger Raising Mighty Arrows said...

Caroline, what a great post! My three year old daughter is also VERY quick to notice when someone isn't dressed according to our family's standards. The first time she pointed it out we were standing in line at the library behind a girl wearing a particular shirt (or half a shirt) and my daughter points and says "That girl needs to put some clothes on." While this was true and I stopped her immediately, I also told her she was right, but we have to be careful not to say anything to hurt anyone.

At August 17, 2011 at 10:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sort of a lurker here and I definitely don't subscribe to your belief system (I am not a Christian) but this is an excellent post. I commend you on it.


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