Difficulty #1: "You're my daughter but I'll allow you to be disrespectful and rebel against my authority."
I know that some will say, "Pick your battles," but I say that if my child is given instructions and flat-out tells me "No!", then that is something to battle over! This aspect bothered me the most when I first read the news story. If direct rebellion against parental authority is not something to battle over, what is? There are so many Bible passages that come to mind here:
I understand that if parents don't begin disciplining until the teenage years, then they will lose the battle. From a young age, there is a place for both verbal and physical correction. It's been my observation that parents who develop a strong, loving relationship with their young children and are also able to establish themselves as the authority to be respected and obeyed, will have the least amount of problems navigating through the difficult teenage years. When kids know that you love them and that you're the boss, they will still test you in junior high and high school, but you've already laid the foundation of who rules the roost--and they know it's not them. Children must be trained consistently to obey their parents from their earliest years (and this can't be done if you're not around or not really involved in their lives). Parents are fooling themselves if they think letting "Junior" be disrespectful and rebel against their authority is not a big deal during the toddler and elementary years. They are setting the stage for big problems later. Those training years are, in many respects, even more critical than the teenage years themselves. There must be appropriate consequences when a rebellious spirit emerges and disrespects the authority of either parent--no matter what the age of the child.
Difficulty #2: "I'll use scissors on my clothing but not yours."
Am I oversimplifying things here? What's wrong with the father and mother cutting up the offending attire and getting rid of it? And, if more is brought home in the future, why not have it taken back or destroyed? But some may object: "Oh, but Stephen, that would be provoking a child!" If there had never been any previous instruction or teaching in the home on modesty or standards for clothing, I could see how purging everything at once against the wishes of a teen could be devastating for some. However, that is not the case here. Both parents see the need for modesty and they even have "pretty definite modesty guidelines." It sounds like these rules have been in place for a while, so the daughter has grown up knowing what the parameters are for clothing--yet she ignores them and the parents have allowed her to get away with it. Why? How did the daughter come to possess these clothes to begin with? And why are they still around? Getting rid of the offending garments will solve the problem of a daughter who, according to her father, "day after day" goes out in public in "inappropriate and immodest" attire! Granted, there may be a need to buy new clothes if the entire wardrobe is immodest, but that is a price to be paid and a task the mother should assist with or handle, if necessary.
My wife and I have been blessed with five sons, and the oldest is not yet a teenager (though close). Some might say that I just don't comprehend how difficult it is to rear a daughter in our culture with the available fashion choices. I'll admit that the task of the father in the news story is more challenging than mine at this point, but I'm left wondering: What was his daughter being taught about modesty when she was 5, 8, or 11 years old (for example)? Why does she seem so "hardened" on the issue now against her parents? Has she been taught consistently from her youth what real beauty is? In my estimation, the following verses should be stressed to our young ladies at all ages, along with some related questions:
These are powerful verses and they emphasize the need for women and young ladies to put the focus on the internal, not the external. When a girl is 5 or 8 years old, for example, a lot of teaching can be done on these principles. A solid foundation of what is important and appropriate must be laid (and held consistently) long before the young lady reaches double digits or even the teenage years. Then, it will surely be easier (though perhaps not easy) to reason with a daughter when she is purchasing clothes, to discourage that which is inappropriate and to praise that which is proper. I understand the powerful influence of culture and peer pressure (I was a teen not that long ago), but we must prepare our young people to deal with these things. If we start young, some of these teenage struggles will not take place. If our training from the elementary years hasn't taken root in junior high (with daughters taking the initiative to seek modest clothing on their own), then parents will have to provide more instruction, rules, and perhaps even get out the scissors at times to destroy clothing that should not be worn. The goal must be to emphasize inner beauty and the avoidance of being a stumbling block to others (cf. Luke 17:1,2), because if those lessons are not learned at home while growing up, they may never be learned. There will come a time when our children move out and are fully responsible for themselves. At that point, it is far too late. Let us endeavor to teach and guide and even do "battle" when necessary on this important issue while we have opportunity.
Difficulty #3: "You can't wear short-shorts, but I can just to make a point."
Is this not a message that's being implicitly conveyed? Maybe this is a minor point of the three, but, as I see it, it's inconsistent for a father to prohibit a daughter from wearing short-shorts in public if it is okay for him to do so, no matter what the reason. Admittedly, the father originally intended to only wear the short-shorts at home, but it escaladed from there. Based on recent discussions I've had, some don't see this as a matter of inconsistency. Some believe that standards of modesty are different for men and women and that men can "get away" with wearing more revealing clothes than women since women don't typically have the same problem with lust that men do (cf. Matt. 5:28). While it is certainly the case that men generally struggle much more with lust than women, that is not to say that some women don't struggle with it (and based on a couple online comments posted with the pictures of the father in short-shorts, it's fair to say that at least some women are entertaining impure thoughts). Also, the Scriptural principles on modesty apply to both genders, as I understand, even though the explicit focus is on women in passages like I Timothy 2:9.
If there were no standard of modesty for men, then I suppose this issue of inconsistency vanishes. But, if it is the case that men should avoid showing too much skin (or being a potential stumbling block), then it's my conviction that men should keep their chests covered and avoid short-shorts in public (no matter what the context: swimming, running, working outside, teaching your daughter a lesson, etc.). I realize this view won't make me popular, but I do believe it is consistent, pleasing to God, and Biblically based. Adam still considered himself "naked" even after putting on fig leaves for clothing. God made him and Eve "tunics," which covered from the shoulders to the knees (cf. Gen. 3:7,10,21). Elsewhere, we learn that to expose one's thighs was considered "nakedness"; trousers should go from one's waist to the bottom of one's thighs (which is near the knee; cf. Exo. 28:42). Let us learn from these principles of old (cf. Rom. 15:4) and keep ourselves properly covered in public, no matter what our gender or intention.
There is no doubt about it: being a godly parent today is tough! There are so many things in our culture working against God's ideal for young people. He wants them to respect, honor, and obey their parents and to focus on the inner person, not apparel that sends the wrong message. Parents need to step up and train their children from their earliest years; they need to cultivate a strong relationship of love and authority. And, if things start going in the wrong direction, parents must step up and "battle" where necessary. It's not easy, but it's worth it.
May the LORD bless you as you strive to do His will!