Editor's note: Part I of this post appeared on Friday. In that post, Dr. Jones argued that, according to Scripture, what our children wear on the outside, say much about the condition of their hearts. In part II, Dr. Jones gives some guidance for parents in this war for the souls of our children.
So what can parents do?
(1) Set clear standards and say no. This isn't easy. A few weeks ago, I said no to a ballet leotard because it didn't meet our family's standards for modesty. No other leotards were available at the dance supply store. As such, my veto resulted in a rather unpleasant chain of events that ended with some crying and behavioral consequences-and with a clear awareness that we will not compromise our family's standards. Truthfully, I wanted to say yes. In the short term, it would have resulted in far less stress to give the go-ahead to that particular leotard. But, as Hannah's father, I bear primary responsibility before God for my child's spiritual formation. And so I said no-firmly, gently, in love-because the long-term building of Hannah's character matters more to me than the momentary calm that compromise could have achieved.
(2) Recognize that what is emblazoned on your children's clothing is likely to be expressed at some point in their behavior. If the child's t-shirt says "Blame It On My Sister," why are parents shocked when their son eventually tries to avoid responsibility for his actions, even if that means resorting to deception? If you purchase clothes for your son that declare his ideal day to consist of sleeping, eating, and playing video games, why be surprised when he's living in your basement two decades from now, still expecting you to pay his bills while he sleeps, eats, and plays video games? "But what the shirts say-they're just joking," parents respond. "You're not supposed to take them seriously!" And perhaps the clothing manufacturers do intend such statements to be taken with a grain of salt. But history suggests that, what one generation smirks at, the next generation accepts as an inescapable state of affairs.
(3) Admit that the need for peer popularity is over-rated. Another primary cop-out from parents: "But my child has to dress this way to fit in at school." In the first place, such a statement implies that the authority of the peer group matters more than the wisdom of the parents or the Word of God. In the second place, this implies that you would want your offspring to "fit" into a group that evidently bases its valuation of a child on that child's clothing. Yet, even if we bypass these faulty foundational principles, there's still a problem with this line of thinking: The idea that this type of peer popularity is necessary for healthy development is a recent phenomenon, rooted more in the social function of the American school system than in any perennial truths about human nature. In fact, despite decades of family fragmentation, the way that a child is accepted in his or her family remains far more important for the child's development than acceptance or rejection at school. I'm not suggesting here that you should work to make your child unpopular with peers-but such acceptance is far less crucial than we've been led to believe.
And so Hannah and I traipsed out of the department stores and headed upstairs to the Chinese buffet, carrying far fewer outfits than we first intended-but they are well-chosen, stylish yet modest and devoid of devaluing messages. Now, if someone can locate a light-blue leotard for my child that isn't low-cut in the top or high-cut in the legs, we'll be set for one more year.
Timothy Paul Jones has authored, coauthored, or edited more than a dozen books, including Conspiracies and the Cross, Misquoting Truth, the CBA bestseller The Da Vinci Codebreaker, and the forthcoming Perspectives on Family Ministry. After fourteen years in vocational ministry, Timothy now serves as Assistant Professor of Leadership and Church Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Timothy, his wife Rayann, and their daughter Hannah reside in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information about Timothy's work and writings, visit www.timothypauljones.com.
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