9 Rules My Daughters Taught Me About Modesty


I got an email from my friend the other day regarding a post she’d seen on women and modesty.  After some conversation, she asked me how I handled the topic of modesty with my girls.

I answered that we’ve talked about modesty as we’ve gone along.

Foundation of Modesty

When they were younger, we’d run into the Barbie Basics collection at Target.  Most of the girls are dressed even more inappropriately than a normal Barbie and I’d just calmly explain that I didn’t think they were dressed appropriately and I wasn’t going to spend my money on them.

As they’ve dressed, I’ve tried to guide them as we go. Those shorts are too short, you need a tank under that shirt or those pants are too tight.

Just this weekend we were watching an awards show and one girl was showing too much cleavage and Scott piped up that her dress was inappropriate. 

My girls know the phrase that’s inappropriate.

The email got me thinking though.  What have I taught my girls about modesty?  Sure, I’ve given them rules but have I explained why it’s important?


Learning the Why

I read this post by Lysa TerKeurst the other day about how she taught her kids about texting and driving by getting them to teach her and her husband about the perils of texting and driving.

My girls are only 8 and 10 so that might seem too young to A, get them to make a presentation or B, have them reporting on modesty.  But let me say.  My girls can work Powerpoint almost as well as I can.  And, if this news about Victoria’s Secret new undergarment line geared towards middle schoolers is any indication, I need to be teaching my girls about modesty.  Pronto.


The Immodest Modesty Plan

So I had an idea.

I wanted to sit down with verses to explain the why and then see if they could report on some rules about modesty. 

I was planning to somehow carefully cut pictures from magazines or Google pictures and let them sort through them and report back, but that just felt like a loaded gun. 

And then it hit me.

I was going to dress up in (somewhat) immodest outfits and they were going to A-gag, B-tell me what was wrong and C-make a rule for how to dress that fixed it.


The Modesty Why

I had them read 1 Timothy 2:9

Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

Immediately, they were asking why it mentioned no braided hair. Honestly, I sometimes struggle with that part and I think that’s why so many of us shirk away from teaching it. 

I just explained that it’s more important to be beautiful because of the good things you do versus how you look, but the point was we should dress modestly and properly.  (This commentary from David Guzik is a good one on the verse).

Then I had them read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

I explained that since we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, our bodies are temples and valuable so we needed to dress like it—modestly, as the verse before explained.  I asked them would it make sense to dress immodestly if you knew Jesus was with you.  Lexi says “No, Jesus doesn’t want to see that!”  Ah, I love her.  Just for the record, Jesus has seen it all and can, in fact, handle it.  But phrasing it that way helps their minds process the Holy Spirit.

I then explained that the Bible wasn’t specific about exactly what we could wear—shorts, dresses, bikinis, etc so I was going to play dress-up and we could decide together what was modest.


Writing the Modesty Rules

I was a little scared it might backfire because my girls like to dress a little sassy when they play dress-up but oh, when I walked out with a T-shirt tied on the side up to my chest with my stomach showing all the way down to my low-cut jeans, the girls faces told me I’d done just the right thing.

You would have thought I’d just killed a puppy.

Mother!  You need to pull your shirt down!

So, immediately they were writing down the first rule (in the ShowMe app ), Cover belly.

Next, I pulled out a shirt with a wide neck that I normally wear on my shoulders with an undershirt, but let it hang off one shoulder nearly down to my elbow until the top of my bra showed.

Oh my gosh!  I can see your bra!  You need to cover your shoulders!

Cover shoulders.

Make sure bra covered.

This was going better than I even expected.

Next, I put on a brightly printed bra under a thin white tank which I pulled down so you could see the very little amount of cleavage I have.

Cover boobs.

No light shirt, dark bra.

Scott walked in at this point with a very confused face.  I think he really wanted to like the scenery but couldn’t process what was happening. The girls explained I was “homeschooling them about modesty.”

Next, I got some elastic gym shorts, folded the waist band down 3 times and pulled them up high.  More gasping as I walked out.  Your legs!  Too much leg is showing!

Cover legs.

Next, I put on some tight yoga pants but kept my short tank on.

Pants not tight.

I decided to really drive home the point and pulled the sides of my underwear above the band my low rise jeans.

Mother, I can see your underwear!

Don’t show undies.

At this point, Lexi took over and said, let me show you inappropriate.

Y’all, you don’t even know how much that statement scared me.

She told me to put a tank top on, my short white shorts and my tall gold wedge heels.

She’s said that’s inappropriate.

They decided if I didn’t have the heels on, it seemed ok but when you combined all three, it was immodest.

No tank, shorts and heels.

At this point, I think they’d experience too much of inappropriate Mother and were ready to move on.  I circled back and had them repeat the why and let them bounce back down the hall to their room.  We had a total of 9 rules that would satisfy almost any immodest plight.


A Modesty Stake

Through this whole exercise I kept thinking about Emma and Lexi as teenagers.  Maybe the sway of wanting boys to pay attention to them will overpower any sense of decency at times, but I can’t help but think this was a stake in the ground for them to point back at in those moments. 

I hope they can look back in their minds and remember writing rules with their silly momma playing dress-up one afternoon and they’ll be more apt to listen when the Holy Spirit whispers, let’s do better than that, child.


Moms of daughters, how do you handle modesty?  We still have a few more years to hammer this in, so I’m all ears.

P.S. Apologies to anyone offended by the descriptions of my outfits.  Just be glad I didn’t include the pictures Lexi took.


  1. As a mother to be of a girl (3 weeks & counting :) I am saddened by the direction our country is going. This is another great post that I have read this week concerning Victoria Secret’s new line for pre teens. I would love to encourage all tweens, teens, and parents of such to check out a new organization called top buttons whose mission is to address this topic. Their website is http://topbuttons.org/ and you can also find them on facebook.

    • Oh my goodness, what a cute site! Thank you for sharing, Cynthia!

    • Cynthia,
      Thanks for sharing our website with others! Amy, I enjoyed reading your post and the scriptures used to explain the concept to your daughters. My goal is to reinforce Godly principles in a fun way with my own children. It looks like you are doing that too! How funny to have them set the modesty guidelines by picking out what they didn’t like with what you were wearing!… I have 3 daughters and 1 son. My 8 year old and my 5 year old daughters have enjoyed working on the Top Buttons project with me. It’s encouraging to read articles from other moms that have a sense of humor and passion to work alongside their children in the process of understanding their faith and how that needs to be played out everyday.

      • Cynthia, I really enjoyed looking through Top Buttons. Thanks for all your work to bring modesty to the forefront!

  2. I think if you instill this in your children when they are young, they will remember what you taught them when they are teenagers. To this day, when I am shopping I always think, “Would my Daddy let me out of the house in this?”

    I worry about this too, because at age 8 my daughter is already trying to grow up too fast…and I’m just trying to figure out the best way to slow her down!
    Stacey recently posted…Love is In the AirMy Profile

    • Stacey, it’s crazy how fast kids are growing up these days. Even though Lexi’s clothes are modest, they are still “older” than when I was 8.

  3. Amy, I love this post! I hope to respond to your email this week and if I get the opportunity, I want to link your post to one that I am processing through. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and how you go about teaching modesty to your girls.
    Becky recently posted…Ministry IS MessyMy Profile

  4. LOVE THIS!! I wonder if it is easy for them to comprehend “too much leg” for a girl versus a woman. That is the distinction that I’ve heard some moms use– kind of indicating that before puberty certain clothes might be okay that aren’t okay afterward. I agree and I disagree. I mean, at a pool where two-piece bathing suits weren’t allowed, I was asked to leave with my 2 year old who was wearing a bikini. (Legalism much?!) On the flip side, 8 year olds wearing super short skirts makes me uncomf. Is it best to just make the standard the same regardless of age? Good thoughts here. :)
    Katrina recently posted…Is this just January talkin’?My Profile

    • I’ve never considered the difference between the two really. I guess my mom has said a few times “oh she’s just a little girl” and I guess to an extent I get that but I’d rather build a good foundation instead of trying to undo things they’ve taken for granted. However, 2 year olds in bikinis are awfully cute :)
      My girls aren’t allowed bikinis. They have worn then in the past though. We do tankinis as a compromise. It’s not that I have a blanket problem with them but *my* girls completely change their entire attitude when they even try one on. It’s like they automatically try to act older than they are. If they could handle it differently, I’d probably let them. Although after seeing a few young teenagers at great wolf lodge in bikinis, I might not even let them swim during their teen years 😉

    • The rules bother me… I suppose I would prefer to see them s guidelines. Lets let good judgment and discernment guide us. That would have spoken into Katrina’s pool incident. Modesty proceeds primarily from the heart.
      I am very modest by most standards,unless you are a Mennonite or a Muslim, as I will show my ankles and wrists. However, our countries fascination with sex has removed responsibility from the hearts of men and slung it all on the women. We end up in a culture where you can’t even nurse a baby without wearing a cape.
      Modesty is an issue of the heart, for males and females. I think ‘check your heart’ should be added to that list in place #1.

      • Great point, Anita and I think that’s why I did address the heart issue – the why. If they understand the why then the practical makes sense. I don’t see “cover your legs” as a rule written in stone. That is going to take the heart judgment about exactly how much of the leg to show.

    • I france the little girls don’t even wear tops. They wear bottoms only. As they get to school age they find themselves throwing the tops on.
      Anita recently posted…Hangin’ outMy Profile

      • I can see it working like that…I know my girls would have been just fine with that at a younger age.

  5. I agree with everything and loved the hands on activities, but not sure about the bikini issue. My daughter is only 5, but my husband and I have been discussing this. Do we allow bikinis if they are modest?

    • I think it has to be up to you and your husband and the Spirit’s leading. As cute as I think my girls would be, we don’t because I can see their true modesty–their spirit–changes when they wear them. So for them, it’s not modest. Some would say showing your belly is not modest at all. Truthfully though, 75% of my bathing suits are bikinis. I wear them less and less these days but I can’t say that I’m against them 100% as I wear them myself. I personally think this is one of those gray areas you have to led the Lord decide!

    • On the bikini issue, here is a simple but profound thought that we usually address with our teen girls at church: If someone were to walk in on you while you were getting dressed and saw you in your bra and underwear, how would you feel. (the responses on the girls’ faces said it all- mortified!) How then is this different from a bikini? Just a thought!

  6. Great post. I just recently posted about girls clothing in our town…. if you have time, take a look. Love your blog.

    Jules recently posted…All Things TechieMy Profile

  7. I’ve dealt with this issue with Leila on many occasions as my nieces who are 19 and 21 have handed down clothes that may be appropriate for their age (and I often question that) but are definitely not appropriate for her. One of our problems is that she is 5’8″ at 13 so there is no shopping in the “tween” stores for her. Even Aeropostale has me raising my eyebrows some days. I have to wonder whether they are trying to save money by skimping on fabric!
    I think it was a great idea for you to have the Girls involved in deciding what is appropriate or not. I can just picture Lexi’s expressions during your “fahsion” show. :)

  8. I LOVE this idea! A Modesty Fashion Show. TOTALLY copying this idea. I love how you let your daughters formulate the ideas on their own about what was modest and what was not. I want to instill values and morals in my children (like every other parent I’m sure) But I also want them to grow up to be their own person- capable of making decisions and formulating ideas on their own.
    I actually just did a post on How to Talk to your Kids about the Dangers of Pornography ( http://professorpoppins.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about.html ) and one of the tips is about the importance of discussing modesty. I’m going to include a link to this post in the article. Hopefully it will inspire others, as it did me, on ways that they can discuss Modesty with their children! Great post! Great parenting! And great bog!

    • Thanks, Stephanie! I’m so glad you found it useful! You’ll have to let me know how your fashion show goes :)

  9. I have no idea how I found my way to your site today, but I’m so glad I did. I only wish I could have seen that fashion show–but I get why you wouldn’t post it on the internet.

    Such wisdom here, in helping your daughter’s figure these things out for themselves. They may yet draw their lines in the wrong places or, at least, places where you’re not entirely comfortable. That’s why I love your last line so much, ” . . . let’s do better than that, child.”
    Nancy Franson recently posted…Praying for Pixie DustMy Profile

    • Well, I’m sure glad you stopped by and commented! That fashion show was interesting to say the least! It’s been great watching them process how people around them are dressing since. I’d definitely say it had a lasting impact.

  10. Hi! I love the way you handled that with your kids- not shouting at them, or putting your point across forcefully, just letting them decide the rules and why they’re important.

    I do have a question though. I suppose in many ways this comes down to religion, as I understand that for Christians modesty can be a bigger deal, so as an atheist I will naturally have different opinions. I’m fifteen, and don’t tend to dress immodestly anyway, just out of personal taste, but I don’t really understand what’s wrong with showing your body. I mean, I’ve always thought that you shouldn’t show more than what other people are generally comfortable with, but that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your body, you have no obligation to cover it if you don’t want to. I hear a lot of people very shocked when teenagers wear short shorts or a lower cut top, and one of my friends isn’t allowed to show her bra straps- I don’t understand what the problem with showing legs, or bra straps is. I mean, we all have them!
    Sorry if this comes across as rude, I’m not criticizing at all- it’s not my place to say what you can and can’t feel comfortable wearing. I’m just curious as to why it’s so important to you to cover areas of your body that to me seem so normal. I’d kind of like an answer that’s more than just quoting the Bible, too- no disrespect, I’d just like to understand why the Bible for example teaches not to show too much skin.

    Anyway, I definitely admire the way you handled a topic like this with your kids. :)

    • Esme, thank you for your thoughtful comment. You are 15 and express yourself so well!

      I do think modesty absolutely plays a role for you as a female, Christian or not.

      I would say that the way you dress says a lot about how you feel about yourself. If you are dressing appropriately, it shows that you care about yourself and are trying to communicate that to others around you. If you are dressing promiscuously, it may mean you are lacking confidence and are trying to get attention solely based on how you look. I would hope any attention you try to garner is about your personality, your intelligence, your values and just who you ARE.

      I would also say that it’s difficult at 15 to *fully* comprehend the impact our dress has on the guys around us. While you are NOT responsible for how guys think, feel or act, you just need to be aware just how much of an impact simply showing a bra strap has on a guy. Just think about whether that’s what you want the guys around you thinking about or not. And the more you show, the harder it is for them to think of anything else. You just need to decide what message you want to send to the people around you.

      I hope this helps.

      • Ah, that makes sense. I suppose I’ve never had the problem of negative/unwanted attention from boys, so that didn’t occur to me. It always helps that I live in a nice town and people are generally fairly polite, it’s not a concern most of the time. But yes, I do agree that you should at least be aware of the impact the way you dress can have on the way people see you.
        Thanks for the nice reply :)

  11. The comment re: braided hair in the Bible is about fancy hairstyles, drawing attention to the hair, ie: the body, rather than what is on the inside.
    Kiwi Christian recently posted…Help neededMy Profile


  1. […] shared Top Buttons, a movement for modesty, in the comments of the modesty post this week. I’m into […]

  2. […] Amy @ Permission to Peruse shared how she and her daughters are teaching each other about modesty. As the mother of an 8 year old girl trying to grow up too fast, this hit […]