“Teaching Modesty to Our Children,” Ensign, July 2009, 33
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” declares that “parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God, and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”1 The Lord has commanded us to teach our children important truths, and teaching modesty and virtue is one of our most vital responsibilities. So how do we do this?
We need to teach through word and example. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, taught: “It has been said, ‘Teaching by example is one way to teach.’ I would say, ‘Teaching by example is the best way to teach.’”2 We can set a family standard by always dressing ourselves modestly, appropriately, and tastefully. If we are endowed, we should always wear our temple garments and treat them with respect and reverence. When we as parents and leaders are consistent with what we teach and what we do, we avoid the confusion we may otherwise cause.
We need to teach from For the Strength of Youth. The principles taught in this booklet leave room for personal revelation and freedom of choice.
Family home evening lessons and personal interviews provide formal opportunities to teach children about modesty. Informal teaching is just as important and can be very effective. It might happen unexpectedly during meals, on the way to school, during a walk, or on a shopping trip. Take advantage of these opportunities, and do not shy away from giving straight answers. If you do shy away, your children might go to other sources for information—some of which may not be in harmony with gospel standards.
Some of the important concepts we should highlight in our teaching include the following:
You are a child of God.
Your body is a temple. It is a gift from God.
Modesty in dress, thought, attitude, and behavior invites the companionship of the Holy Ghost and reflects your personal commitment to the gospel.
The way you dress and behave sends messages to others about your attitudes and how you feel about yourself.
You can be attractive without being immodest.
Part of Heavenly Father’s plan is the attraction that occurs between males and females. These biological inclinations must be controlled.
As parents, we need to speak frankly about these natural tendencies but also about the importance and value of self-discipline that Heavenly Father requires us to learn as we overcome the “natural man” (see Mosiah 3:19). In this case, that refers to dressing and acting in a modest manner.
Girls might not recognize that the physical display they create when they dress immodestly affects boys more than it does them. Help children, especially daughters, understand that attracting someone of the opposite sex solely by physical means does not create a lasting relationship.
Our instilling and developing a strong sense of self-worth in our children can provide their best defense against immodesty. In addition to helping them understand their divine heritage, we can encourage confidence based on talents, academics, sports, and positive personal qualities.