A twelve-year-old girl, Kate, came in for therapy. She wore a mini skirt and a tight-fitting top with only one shoulder strap. Following extrication from the home of an abusive step-father a year earlier, she worked through many issues in an abuse survivors program organized by the state. She and her mother were building a new life together.
Kate’s childhood road had many rough places, but one-by-one she was working through them. One of the most pressing issues she wanted to address was getting along with her peers. The boys at school made fun of her, often throwing insulting comments her way, while the girls excluded her from their groups.
Kate, her mother and I sat down to discuss the problem and what Kate could do about it. We talked about the kind of message a short mini skirt and off-the-shoulder top gave. As she talked about her problems, she could see she needed to make some changes.
Teaching modesty is a process, not an event. The teaching moment you have with a three-year-old who pulls his pants down and flashes himself will be very different than the time you spend with a teenage girl looking for a prom dress.
Parents not only teach by their words, but also by example. Decide what you stand for. Teach your children what you believe. If your relationship with your children is strong, they will adopt your mind-set about life.
Be open in your discussions with your children. Kids will pick up on your awkward feelings if you have difficulty talking about a subject. Be honest with your children about your feelings. They already know you’re not perfect.
Let your communication be a discussion, not a lecture. Listen. Take an interest in what they have to say. Talking “at” your children rather than “with” them will put distance in your relationship.
1. Identify the problem or issue to be discussed
2. Brainstorm solutions
3. Decide on a plan of action
4. Set a time of accountability
5. Praise the success
Kate could see her problem. She looked at all her options and decided on a plan. She coined the phrase, “Come-and-get-me-clothes,” and decided to get rid of them. She and her mother chose more modest clothing for a girl her age.
We role played how to handle rude comments from the boys. After a few weeks several of the girls from her church could see the changes Kate was making and began to include her in their group of friends.
Kate’s relationship with friends didn’t always go smoothly, but she accomplished her goals because she was determined to succeed. She and her mother worked together to solve Kate’s problem with honest and open communication.