As their mother, I am the most present adult female in my daughters' lives. I strive to have a close and trusting relationship with them as young girls, so that as they get older, they continue to see me as the person they can trust the most and be closest to if they so choose. I therefore also strive to be the very best role model that I can - I dress the same way I allow them to dress (probably more conservatively even); I only use language I would be okay with them repeating; I only listen to music that I wouldn't mind them singing in public; I follow the same house rules that I ask them to follow.
I am BY NO MEANS perfect. I screw up. And when I do, I use the opportunity to teach them about lack of perfection, humility and apologies, and forgiveness.
I have long believed that bringing up girls in this world would be more difficult than bringing up boys. (Notice I didn't say I thought bringing up boys would be easier. Bringing up children is difficult, period.) There is so much more immodesty available to girls. So much more weight to peer pressure, so many more things to apply peer pressure to. And girls can be vicious, especially when other girls don't conform. So I used to worry that my girls would see other girls around the neighborhood, in the grocery store, possibly at public school (though that is not in the foreseeable future), at the park - wherever - and constantly be in a state of "but look what they get to wear" and "but they get to do this" and "but their mom is buying them that." Or whatever.
But now I'm concerned the hardest part about bringing up my girls to be appropriate and modest doesn't lie with the world.
Don't get me wrong. The world is a place with many enticing temptations, and I will never stop praying and protecting my girls from certain aspects of it. But so far, my girls are quick to understand and accept why we dress the way we dress and buy the things we buy and act the way we act. I think that teaching them that through God's salvation and grace, we are to live differently in order to bring glory to Him, is a powerful truth that they can accept and understand.
It's when I go to church and see adult women - particularly those who work with our children and youth - dressed immodestly, that I realize I'm more concerned about poor examples within the church than outside it.
Let me just say, I am NOT a fan of culottes, and I'm not saying women
should be required to wear a skirt that covers their ankles. I don't think it's at all difficult to dress nicely, look classy, and be modest at the same time.
I'm all for Christian liberty. I also firmly believe that Christian liberty in private is very different from Christian liberty in public. In private, it's between you and God. In public, you set an example for everyone around you. And sure, you have the liberty to wear whatever you want to church. But if you are a regular presence in the lives of young girls - whether they are 4 or 14 - you should think very carefully about the kind of example you want to set for them, regardless of what you are "at liberty" to wear. And if you are tugging on your skirt every time you sit or stand or move around, it's probably a good indication that the skirt is too short.
Youth group leaders are such a HUGE influence in the lives of our young people, and maybe if they don't have children, they don't even realize it. But both my 14 year old son and my 7 year old daughter are very much in awe of the leaders they spend time with on a weekly basis. And with my daughter already paying close attention to her leaders, I can only imagine how much attention she will be paying them by the time she is youth group age. Not to mention her two younger sisters, as she in turn sets an example for them of what it means to watch and emulate female role models.
If you are a young woman working with young girls, think of the chain reaction you set off every time you spend time with these girls. It can be a positive one, or a less than positive one. You can teach these girls how to be modest, and in turn teach each girl who comes behind her how to be modest. Or you can teach them all otherwise.
I would sooner keep my girls out of a youth group where they have poor role models, than allow them to think that "anything goes as long as you're a Christian."