The One Thing Every Parent Needs to Stop Doing

There's one thing every parent does. And we need to stop doing it.

[An added note, because after reading some comments, I think this needs to be said.
This post? It’s not about what your teenager wears, but rather how present you are as a parent.]

Just to be clear, when I say “every parent” that also means me.

I don’t play favorites.

For the past several months, something has really been bothering me. Well, to be honest it’s probably been much longer than that, but it’s really gotten under my skin recently. And the thing is? We all do it. Every single parent I know.

And it has to stop.

Parents: stop phoning it in. Quit turning in your parenting card, assuming that your kids have it all figured out.

I get it. It’s a slow fade, this turning in the parenting card.

We trust someone else’s parents a little too much. We give in to buying that outfit because our daughter is begging. Begging. So we shrug our shoulders and buy it anyway. We upgrade to the latest and greatest cell phone because, why not? Unlimited, uncensored internet anyone? Our kids get an Instagram account and we don’t bother to check the photos they’re tagged in because surely their friends wouldn’t post something that inappropriate. Right?

Please know this post isn’t about helicopter parenting. We live in a love and logic household here. You make a bad choice, you live the consequence. But if I’m not even bothering to check on the bad choices, then why bother with the consequences?

May I present Exhibit A. Just a few weeks ago, my thirteen-year-old attended a swim party with friends – girls and boys. For a moment, I’m going to pick on the girls, but the boys will have their due turn. Y’all. These girls were wearing bikinis skimpier than Kim Kardashian. No kidding. And of course they were filtered, cropped and posted on the ‘gram.

Moms. Dads. That is not okay. My son is going to have to say about 500 Hail Mary’s when those girls hit tenth grade because of all that skin showing. Help a sister out and teach your girls that hottest isn’t modest. Have her delete those photos and put on a cover up. Teach her, model for her, that it’s classier to be a lady than a … well, you know.

The thing that really got me, though, was that those girls had a parent (most likely) that bought it for them. Why, oh why are we dialing it in when it comes to teaching our kids about modesty, decency and age appropriateness? And, the boys? I don’t know about y’all but my teen is getting quite the teenage swagger. They say things to be cool, do things to be cooler and snap photos of it to be the coolest. Parents, teach your boys to show respect. Moms, if they don’t give it to you, why on Earth would they ever respect a female friend? It starts with you.

In our house, when my kids start copping the attitude, they hear a “I’d be happy to visit with you when you’re ready to treat me with respect.” And then I walk away. I’m no parenting goddess, but I’m a mom – a woman – who needs to be respected. Quit telling yourself that it’s because your kid is a teenager, or he’s going through a phase. When the disrespect happens (and trust me, it will), meet it head on and don’t give in to turning in your parenting card. Pretty soon, when the big conversations come, you won’t have any cards left to play.

Can we chat about social media for a second? I’m a lover of the social, but I am more and more surprised by just how much teens are posting (likely without their parent’s permission). Because when a 13yo kid uses “funky a** lady” in his bio? Um, no. Or, when I see middle schoolers hanging on each other, using the heart-eyed emoji and chatting about their “date.”

MOMS! DADS! Here’s a newsflash. At that age, our kids do not know, cannot know, the meaning of dating. Finding a spouse in middle school shouldn’t even be on my kid’s radar. Watching the NBA finals, scheduling high school classes and hanging with friends at the pool? That, that should be on my kid’s agenda. The dating will come. But not without respect. Not without communication. And not without a healthy relationship between parent and child.

I just keep seeing the virtual shrug of parents. The “well, I guess we’ll just go along with it” look. And that’s what gets us into trouble. That’s how we lose our kids. I don’t know about you, but I’m not giving up my kids’ morality, their holiness and their joy to the ways of the world.

I think we’re so afraid to set boundaries, to say no, to engage in a hard conversation because we’re afraid of the reaction. You know what I think? Teenagers want to be loved. I know I did. They want to be heard and they want someone to look out for them. They may think you’re crazier than Richard Simmons at the gym, but set the boundary anyway. Say no anyway. Have the hard conversation anyway.

We owe it to our kids to stay plugged in. To ask the hard questions and be prepared for the hard answers. To realize that we don’t have it all figured out, but to give up doesn’t just mean we’re giving up on the situation – we’re failing our kids.

They’re worth more than that.


  1. Mary on June 15, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Preach it sista!! Respect always, no matter the age.

  2. Jeff LeJeune on June 15, 2015 at 8:22 am

    This is beautiful and true.

    • Kathryn on June 15, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks, Jeff. So good to hear from you!

  3. Nicole on June 15, 2015 at 8:43 am

    This is such a fabulous post! YES! Respect starts at home and needs to be modeled from parent to child and back again. And it needs to extend to social media, because that is also the world we live in.

    I sometimes feel that my husband and I are a little bit helicopter-ish in our parenting style when compared to other parents in our social circle. We both feel that we are comfortable with that title and we will own it.

  4. Rozella on June 15, 2015 at 8:43 am

    So, so TRUE!! I was THAT girl mom! E was invited to a swim party when she was 13yo. “ALL” of the girls were getting their first real bikinis. “Poor” E was the only girl with a one piece swimsuit. It was one of the cutest swimsuits she’s ever owned. She was quite upset at first because I wouldn’t back down. I was teaching her modesty! It was hard, but I WON and so did she!! She got a ton of compliments and was practically the only girl who had a good time because she didn’t have to worry about her suit falling off! HA!

  5. Mary on June 15, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Yes! Yes. This is so true. Thank you for your frankness and honesty. We had a pool party for my nine year old daughter at our community pool on Friday. The bathing suits on the teenagers laying out on lounge chairs were absolutely awful. I truly cannot believe what we are up against these days. We moms must support one another and your post is a form of support, for sure. Thank you, Kathryn!

  6. Lindsay on June 15, 2015 at 9:05 am

    amen! I’m one of the moms that does not allow bikinis for my almost 12 y/o, and I love that most of my friends feel the same way.

  7. Joan on June 15, 2015 at 9:26 am

    AMEN, Kathryn. Agree 100%.

  8. Bonnie on June 15, 2015 at 9:27 am


  9. Maia on June 15, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Oh! This! This I need to read yearly. My kids haven’t reached teen years, but remembering that you lay down the grounds for respect young AND THEN DON’T STOP…. So good. Just so good.

  10. Jen on June 15, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Thank you! My kids are not even close to being teenagers (7, 4, & 2), but these issues affect even us. When family visited about a month ago, my almost 9 year old niece bought a new, tiny bikini. Thankfully it was not warm enough to wear it while they were here, but I know my 7 year old will be asking, “well, if she can do it, why can’t I?” so very soon. Much sooner than I would like. Sticking to our guns about modesty will be a reoccurring battle.

  11. Lisa Jones on June 15, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Thank you!!!!! So many times Thank you!!! It’s a struggle raising kids to be adults and it is nice to know we aren’t alone in making the hard choices.

  12. Kellie on June 15, 2015 at 10:09 am

    I agree with you100%. I am a mom of five girls and one boy. This year my girls-ages 9-4 all needed new swimsuits. I was so frustrated because bathing suits for even this age are all skimpy in my opinion. We only found 1 one piece suit in the store, so guess what…all five of my girls got the same suit. I think as parents we should demand clothing with more modesty and stop buying the other stuff because it is there.

  13. Erin on June 15, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Agreed! I just have to comment about sweet baby girls and toddlers in bikini’s. It drives me absolutely batty. I’m probably over sensitive, but I’m just not comfortable with it.

  14. Meghan on June 15, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I hope you write more posts at 1am, he he he!!

  15. Christy S on June 15, 2015 at 11:01 am

    I could not agree with you more. Mine aren’t teens (or even tweens) yet, but I am already the “mean” mom because I don’t allow a lot of things that “everyone else gets to do”. My own mother told me I was too harsh and I told her I would rather be harsh now than heartbroken later. Modesty, respect, age-appropriate behavior and media consumption are not negotiable in this house. Thank you for putting it out there that I’m not alone!

    • k kahler on June 20, 2015 at 8:50 am


  16. Susan on June 15, 2015 at 11:01 am

    best post ever

  17. Carla on June 15, 2015 at 11:55 am

    As a mom of two adults and two under 10, you hit this right on the mark. Navigating those teen years are by far the most challenging. Please parents, tough it out, stay the course, be their guide even when it’s so very hard. Giving your children the gift of self confidence along with parents who don’t cave in to their every whim will help them get through these years and come out as fabulous adults. Good luck!

  18. Aimee on June 15, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Fabulous post, and I agree on all counts! When a friend of mine moved to a new house with a pool and the neighbors came over to say hi, she very politely told them that they have a no bikini/no belly showing rule. She set the standard up front. I was so proud of her! Also, my kids have been invited to many pool parties where the invite specifies modest swim wear, and I’m always so thankful for that!!

  19. Shelly Schmelzle on June 15, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    And all the people said “AMEN!” Thanks you for sharing!

  20. Jacelyn on June 15, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Kathryn, This is a wonderful post and I will share it with my husband. He went to the beach yesterday with 2 of our children (son, 7 and daughter, 4), and he came home disturbed because of the actions he saw on display from what he thought were 12-14 year old girls. He was terrified that we only have maybe 5-6 years left before our son is exposed (in multiple ways!) to such behavior. This post was perfectly timed. It is a relief to know that there are parents out there like you and like we want to be. Thank you!!

  21. Katie @ The Catholic Wife on June 15, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Girlfriend, I hear you!! We have four kids (5, 3, 2, 7 mos) and they’re all going to be in the trenches of peer pressure and our over-sexed society at the same time. It’s so important for us to be in there with them, giving them strength and support, shelter, and answers to their questions. We have to cultivate a sense of openness and honesty now so they feel free to come to us later when these issues arise.

    Such a great post – thank you for your thoughts!

  22. Amy Adams on June 15, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    i think your intent is good, however, I don’t agree that you can instantly or accurately judge that a parent is “phoning it in” based upon the bathing suit their child wears. Not everyone has Catholic rules in their head and there are many ways to be a teenager in this world. Many kids you might scorn have and will grow up to be intelligent, wonderful, wise, loving, good people – and vice versa.

    • Kathryn on June 15, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      This post was never about the swimsuits, but about the culture. I see a 13yo in a bikini and I don’t automatically think “her parents need to get a grip!”, rather it’s a culmination of things that lead me to believe we, as parents, need to do a better job of giving our kids moral boundaries. When said teen wears a tiny bikini, posts a provocative photo (actually lots of provocative photos) of herself on the gram and then repeatedly wears things that are less than modest, then yes, I have a problem with that. I’ve got boys to raise, with an eye toward holiness. More important than the swimsuit discussion is a lack of involvement of parents with their teenagers. So much is coming at our kids – social media, modesty, over-sexualized culture, moral relativism – and I cannot idly sit by and let it consume my kids. Please know I don’t sit on the sidelines with moral thermometer and take the temperature of every decision a parent makes. This post was as much for other parents as it was for me. “Don’t dial it in, Kathryn. Stand your ground and lovingly guide your kids.” That’s what I need to remember. Thanks for your comment!

      • Katie on June 16, 2015 at 3:14 pm


        While I agree that parents do need to be more involved in their kids lives, especially in their online lives, I think you’re placing a lot of the blame on the girls (and their parents) rather than the boys. You say, “I’ve got boys to raise, with an eye toward holiness.”, I think the focus should be on teaching your boys that no matter what the girls are wearing or how provocative they’re being on social media, they need to respect them and control themselves.

        It shouldn’t matter if a girl is stark naked in front of them or if they’re completely covered up, boys need to treat girls like humans and not objects. No matter how much you try you’re not going to convince all teenage (or adult) women to cover up. What matters is how boys and men behave towards them.

        A boy’s holiness shouldn’t depend on what anyone else wears. Ask them to respect all women and be kind no matter what a woman or girl wears and they’ll truly be following in Jesus’ foot steps.

        • Kathryn on June 16, 2015 at 3:23 pm

          As the mom of SIX – 3 boys and 3 girls – I am no stranger to respect among my kids, their peers or with me. I hope that my concern was equally placed within the post, because it is. Boys should be aware that girls aren’t theirs for the taking, no matter what a lady is or isn’t wearing. But those young ladies have an equally important job to present themselves as such. And, actually, it totally matters if a girl is standing naked in front of them. Not sure I can adequately address that here in the combox. If our job is to get others to heaven, then everything we do should reflect that intention. And, I’m always reminding my kids, “don’t be another’s invitation to sin.” Meaning, strive for holiness. Always. That means striving for holiness in dress, action, word and example. Thanks for your comment!

        • Rose on June 16, 2015 at 4:30 pm

          Katie, your second-to-last paragraph is a perfect example of how far to the other extreme the pendulum has swung in the whole modesty discussion. Why is all of a sudden modesty 100% on the shoulders of the men? Really, it doesn’t matter if a girl is running around stark naked of her own volition? Does it not matter to that girl and her soul in any way? How about BOTH men and women respect themselves (by how they dress) and other people (by how they treat others no matter what)? I’m curious to your thoughts on sexually explicit magazine covers (Cosmo) and billboards. Do you have zero problem with them because by your logic, modesty is just “is a man’s responsibility”? (And yes, all kids should be taught to pray for them, to not objectify them no matter what, but what about the effect these have on developing boys AND girls?)

          In any case, the post had a few paragraphs posting about bikinis and provocative poses among a whole range of topics for both boys and girls- I didn’t see any unfairness there.

        • Myra on March 21, 2021 at 11:59 am

          A girl should wear she she feels comfortable in. It is never appropriate as a parent to make a teen feel self conscious. If they feel good about their bodies, then there is nothing wrong with a two piece bathing suit! I wear one as a 49 year old!
          At 12 and 13, girls are just figuring things out about their own bodies and this time can crucial to building a life-long love of self. Never put the thought into their mind there is anything to be ashamed of and you avoid eating disorders, body dismorphia and other problems.
          My daughter is all about comfort, so she likes to wear a one piece suit with ample coverage in back. I’m fine with that because it makes her feel good about herself.

    • Lauren on June 16, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Yes, but there are parents, like the Whitakers and me, who want more for their children than “intelligent, wonderful, wise, loving, and good.” We want heaven for them, which will also require holiness and virtue. THAT is hard to do in our current cultural climate.

  23. Jen @ Faith and Fabric on June 15, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Well said! Social media is a very scary thing when not used responsibly. My son is very young, and I’m apprehensive about what the social media world will be like when he comes of age. Thank you for sharing your thoughts – and great reminder.

  24. Pam on June 15, 2015 at 4:48 pm


  25. Dana Whitaker on June 15, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    I came across your blog and couldn’t believe it was you! I’m the other STCS Whitaker family. Enjoying your writings.

    • Kathryn on June 16, 2015 at 12:02 am

      {{Waving}} We have heard so much about “the other Whitaker’s” HA!

  26. Kim Paulus on June 15, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Hi Kathryn,

    Kim from CA here. This blog post had me practically standing and cheering! Your words and thoughts are mine, almost to a tee.

    It brings me back to two years ago. We had a pool party for Garrett and his friends as they had just graduated 8th grade. 13 year olds. Fearing lots of skin, I went as far as to print on the invitation kindly requesting modest swimsuit attire (the bulk of his friends happen to be female). My house. My rules. My son was not mortified with our request. Every girl showed up in a one piece or tankini with shorts. It was great, and much appreciated and we didn’t get any poor feedback from anyone. I was refreshed. But, when my now 16 year old goes to a pool party at another’s house, the pics on Instagram are a whole different story than two years ago. Ugh.

    It is dang hard raising boys (teens especially) in this world, let me tell you! Dan and I try our best every day to not ‘phone it in’, like so many do. They need our guidance and presence now more than ever! I say all the time how very challenging this season of parenting is for us. Harder than any other. Give me a screaming newborn and tantruming toddler any day! Raising respectful and holy young men in this culture of ours…sigh. Swimming upstream against a very strong and immoral current.

    Thank you for the post. I will be sharing it. This vent felt good 🙂


    • Kathryn on June 16, 2015 at 12:03 am

      Glad I could help 😉 I really, really want to raise boys who are respectful, faithful, compassionate and level-headed. So happy to hear there is solidarity in the trenches.

  27. Laura on June 15, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Great post! You said it all!!

  28. Lauren on June 15, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Yes to this! In my experience, I have found that most parents want the same things for their children in a very general sense, but unfortunately find that my husband and I are largely alone (at least in our neighborhood and public school community where our children used to attend) in our desires for our children to be chaste, holy, and virtuous. Which is to say that for my husband and I, our long-term goal for our children is heaven. I think that the average parent, if asked, would answer that their long-term goal for their children was for them to be a happy, productive adult, or something along those lines. So the fundamental goals are different, which produces a fundamentally different set of parenting standards and decisions. I think that’s often what’s going on.

    I die a little inside every time I hear a parent shrug their shoulders and ask rhetorically, “Oh, well. Whatchya gonna do about it?” Oh, but no. We’re doing something about it in our house!

  29. Lori on June 15, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Amazing post! Thank you for writing this!! God bless you and your family.

  30. Claire in the UK on June 16, 2015 at 5:32 am

    A great post and just right for me / my daughter at the moment as we are having to deal with all these pre-teen issues. On the same subject here’s a story from today’s newspapers in the UK – – under 16 years old having access to morning after pill.

    It’s so sad….

  31. Robyn on June 16, 2015 at 5:43 am

    Stay strong. Keep having the conversations, setting the guidelines, and telling them why. Let them know you care about their morality and why, and hopefully they will, too. Giving them valuable reasons beyond “do as I say, not as I do,” or “because I said so,” will help them continue to make the same good strong choices when they are grown and gone.

  32. Fiona on June 16, 2015 at 7:07 am

    Wow, yes!
    I don’t even have kids or am at a time of my life where this has any direct bearing on me, but here’s a wholehearted Amen.

  33. Flavia Ghelardi on June 16, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Great post. Do you mind if I translate it to Portuguese and share at my blog? I´m from Brazil.

    • Kathryn on June 16, 2015 at 10:58 am

      You’re certainly welcome to translate, just please credit the blog and link back. Thank you and God bless!

  34. Theresa on June 16, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Thank you for your words of wisdom! I have four adult sons who I tried to raise in the way you describe. I felt the same way about some of the girls that I saw with them. Oh my, the clothing! I sympathize with the mom who could not find modest swimsuits for her daughters. I see what is for sale in the stores and it is awful. If parents are not involved in the choices, the young men and woman have no guidelines except the shameful things they see in the celebrity world. I am thankful that social media was in its infancy when my boys were teenagers… Instagram is a plague.

  35. rose on June 16, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    A wholehearted yes! I have 3 girls and a boy. Thankfully now there are tons of cute, modest styles available at big retailers and online (Rey Swimwear comes to mind, but we’ve found adorable suits with rash guards at Target every year). Growing up, I remember arguing so much with my mom over letting me wear a bikini like everyone else. It was an issue from which she refused to budge and I am so thankful she held firm. She always said, “I’m not going to let you run around in a bra and underwear, why would you even want to?” Truer words, right? Keep on keep in’ on, mama and I am so glad to see so many positive comments. Here’s hoping the people accusing you of “slut-shaming” (oh, the irony in that phrase, right? Like why would you ever call someone a slut while accusing someone else of shaming them) understand where you are coming from- a place of love and real concern.

    • rose on June 16, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      I meant the people who might think to accuse you of that. Haven’t seen any comments to that effect yet, though 😉

      • Kathryn on June 16, 2015 at 3:28 pm

        Oh, the power of the anonymous comment. Yes, they’ve been there and I appreciate your words more than you know. Thank you!

  36. Sarah on June 16, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Awesome post! nice reminder that YES, it starts with me as a parent. I will keep this bookmarked/tagged/copied somewhere for when my children are around 7-8yo… don’t you think by that time, kids start acting like they’re10? and the 10 yo act like they are 13-14??? (crazy!)

  37. Autumn on June 16, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    I’d never advocate for “phoning” in parenting, but I echo some of the other concern of focusing on the way teen girls dress. Is it not the viewer that’s sexualizing that child, not the child herself? Can we not agree that the way girls dress aren’t responsible for the thoughts/behaviors of our boys and other young men? As a parent of both a boy and girl, I caution placing the responsibility of holiness/purity/virtue on clothing instead of the hearts and minds of BOTH boys and girls. I’ve heard similar arguments about hemlines and collar style. What about girls dressed modestly, but more developed compared to her peers? She can dress like a nun and still draw the unwanted allure of rude boys not taught to value hearts and minds over bodies. I teach my son more than respecting me, but judging his female friends based on their actions and intentions. Otherwise this thinking is a slippery slope to “what was she wearing?” when a boy crosses the line and hurts her.

    • Kathryn on June 16, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      Autumn, I’ve said it earlier, but perhaps it’s worth repeating. This post is not solely about what girls wear, nor is it about placing blame on them for inviting boys to sin based on their clothing choices. Rather, it’s about how we instill values within our kids and by standing up for them, guiding them in how they approach life – clothing choices, social media use, etc. It’s just too easy to let our guard down and this post is a reminder to us all – me included – to stay vigilant and be ever-present to our kids. I’ve got six kids – 3 boys and 3 girls. I am fully aware of the mutual respect that must take place between boys and girls and between parent and child. Thanks for your comment!

    • Bonnie on June 16, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      I thought it was pretty clear that it wasn’t just the amount of skin showing but also the way the girls were acting and posing on the pictures they were then PUBLISHING ON THE INTERNET. Can girls in one pieces or jeans and sweaters still act and pose inappropriately? Yes! But the whole picture of String Bikinis + Immodest Posing + Posting Pictures Online = a really bad situation, one parents should be addressing.

      And furthermore, as a woman and a mother of boys and girls, I am tired of people saying it’s the boys’ responsibility to not objectify the girl. Kathryn and her husband are obviously doing their hardest to raise virtuous children. I find it shocking that other parents so readily blame the boy instead of considering what kind of job they are doing raising their girls. If you’re doing a great job raising holy, modest girls who are making wise choices – great! But even for me, with my oldest being only 7, this was a great post for helping me think about the conversations I need to be having with my kids and the choices we need to be making, even now, as a family.

  38. Katie on June 16, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    “Don’t be another’s invitation to sin” is a great thing to teach our kids, but we can’t be naive and assume that others feel the same. All we can do is focus on ourselves and our families. I suspect this is where you and I differ in our personal beliefs about God and our jobs as Christians. I don’t see it as my job to get anyone else into heaven, but rather to concern myself with living what I feel is the core of Jesus’ teaching: showing the world kindness and compassion and the love of God. If others want to follow that AWESOME! if they don’t, well, it’s their own choice. As far as raising children is concerned I think it’s really important to stress that you can’t control others actions, but you can control your own reaction.

    I 100% agree that we should all be teaching our children to make good choices and regulate the choices they make when they’re still in the home. Unfortunately, the truth is that other people don’t always do what we want them to, our responsibility as Christians is to send love their way and model good behavior and that extends to our own children.

    For me I guess this boils down to: do we concern ourselves about the temptation or the sin? Temptation exists, it always has, even when everyone was covered head to toe, and I suspect it always will. Keep loving your children and teaching them to be the best people they can be! Just don’t expect that others share your views and don’t judge them for what they wear but rather what they can grow to be.

    • Kathryn on June 16, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      Katie, I so wish we could have this conversation in my living room! But since we can’t…Christianity is never just about us. God doesn’t call us to minister to our own families and leave it at that. We are a missionary people. And as such, we have to live our lives in a way that draws people in, that shows them the truth. Of course it’s our job to get people to heaven, otherwise what the heck are we doing here?! I don’t go around micro-managing people’s choices and fully recognize the beauty, and challenge, of free will. My judgment wasn’t on those teens, rather this post was about a call to action to parents: be intentional, be loving and be mindful that others are watching. Have a beautiful evening.

  39. Kathy on June 16, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    I just ran across your blog via a friend who follows you. This is a critically important message, but I don’t know that you’ve taken it far enough. I have three sons (24,18,16) and one daughter (15). We are nearing the end of our at-home parenting journey and are now seeing the fruits of parenting decisions we made long ago. Those decisions were to raise our children ourselves and not give them over to the influence of the culture. We have remained our children’s parents; we have made conscious choices regarding what we allow and do not allow in our home, where our children go, with whom they interact. We as the parents are the guardians of our children’s souls and have accepted the responsibility to protect them and keep them on the path to Heaven. As they grow into adulthood, they take on more responsibility for themselves but we never stop guiding and helping them.

    When my second son was just 13, we stopped going to the public pool and beach because he told me he was bothered by the girls in their swimwear. We just don’t go there. We don’t NEED the beach or pool. We don’t go to places where I know my boys will have to struggle. It is bad enough that girls and women at Mass dress immodestly. I have taught my sons “custody of the eyes” and they know to look away and down when they encounter immodesty, but I will not consciously take them somewhere where I know they will be assaulted by immodesty.

    Modesty is not about keeping the boys from ogling at you, but about self-respect. We have taught our daughter that modesty is beautiful.

    Don’t be afraid of what your children will face in their teenage years. Take control. Be the parent. Direct them in the way they should go. Keep them from temptation as far as is in your control to do. Our children have been raised without computers, video games and cell phones (and now TV since we cancelled it four months ago, and haven’t even missed it). These things are not a requirement for life, but they may well be occasions of sin for them; they made lead them away from God and you.

  40. Erin on June 16, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Amen! It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one! My oldest, who is only 10, gets so mad at me when I tell her that she cannot buy the shorts on the rack. I get that it’s her birthday money, but I don’t want my girls to be a target for boys or for men of any age by wearing “booty shorts”. Unfortunately, that is what our society pedals to our children, these days. It’s so hard to find clothes that are modest. She doesn’t understand that they’re inappropriate in a sexual way–it’s so hard to explain.

  41. Jennifer on June 16, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    What a wonderful article I totally agree however I think we are the minority but I will persevere and my 12 year old is already annoyed with me and my 10 year old daughter is famous for telling me how everyone else has one! I love them so much I will never give up and sometimes it is so easy and I can say things so matter of factly. Continue to pray and do the right and just for your babies for no one else will.

  42. Jenny on June 16, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Great post, Kathryn! My kids are 5, 3, and 1.5, but the training for modesty and respect (for both my daughter and my sons) starts ASAP. It’s frustrating that our culture makes it hard even for little kids! My 5 year old is long-legged and is getting into the sizes for elementary school girls…and it is hard to find clothes that aren’t “sassy” or itty-bitty. Ugh.
    I don’t take her clothes shopping so it’s all my call right now, but it won’t always be. And I agree about the modeling part…which makes me rethink my outfit choice today of yoga pants :/
    Learning proper boundaries for parenting isn’t coming easy for me. I’ve read Love and Logic and we try to use its principles (although my husband isn’t fully on board, which makes it difficult). Any other good books you’d recommend for parents specifically on setting boundaries with kids?

  43. Linda on June 17, 2015 at 3:58 am

    Yes, yes and a resounding yes! I’m a stepmother to a teenager and an early twenty-something year old. My husband tends to turn in the parenting card at times saying that it’s the age they’re at. I tend to see things much more the way you do. My husband and I have a toddler together and you can bet your bottom dollar that I won’t be handing in my parent card and letting her do whatever the heck she wants to do. I have no intentions of being a helicopter parent, but I sure won’t be getting her a cell phone or buy her whatever her little heart desires because I want what’s best for her–not what she thinks she wants. It’s no different than when we pray for something. We may want something SO BADLY, but God doesn’t give it to us because He knows what’s best for us. He gives us what we need, which may not always be what we want.

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  45. Julie G on June 17, 2015 at 10:22 am

    I always appreciate bold Truth written eloquently, respectfully and with zeal. Thank you for standing strong and putting into words that which gives mothers and fathers encouragement and support.

  46. Mary on June 17, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I agree with your thoughts on parenting and modesty. So not arguing the point, but more expressing some thoughts on the subject. it’s hard. We gave our older children I-phones, when they turned thirteen, and we were the last in our circle. I bought my daughter, she will be 14 this summer, a two piece swimsuit. it is not a tankini and shows her belly but I still consider it modest. However, I felt pressured to buy it. I admit it. However, I didn’t phone in the decision. I dress modestly and so does my husband. We are careful with out children but try to allow them more freedom as they get older. I constantly feel like I am walking a tightrope, and I also try not to judge others as lightly as I may have in my younger days of parenting. By I repeat, it’s hard. Thanks for sharing.

  47. Shannon on June 18, 2015 at 8:12 am

    I agree. We have to be alert and aware of what our kids are exposed to when it comes to the internet and TV. Both my boys, 12 and 16 have flip phones. I thought because there wasn’t access to the internet, it would be safe. Then I looked at my oldest’s phone and found several seductive pictures sent to him. So, I went to my cellphone provider and had them remove texting and the ability to send pictures from their cell phone. Of course this was not received with cheers from my children, but I am not here to make my kids happy. I’m here to protect their hearts.

    When I was young, I was allowed to dress showing too much skin. I thought I was cute. I had no idea what the sight of just a leg did to a boy. Once someone actually told me that my choice to be cute was hurting others, I changed the way I dressed. I don’t blame the girls for how they dress, this is a problem that comes from the parents.

  48. Leslie on June 18, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Having to monitor social media adds a whole new layer of complexity to parenting that just didn’t exist only a few years ago. I was FB friends with my kids so that I could see what they were up to, but I saw many wide-open walls of their friends engaged in objectionable activity that their parents clearly had no idea about.

  49. Jennifer @ Little Silly Goose on June 18, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    I think about this topic a lot Kathryn, and my oldest is only 4 years old. I’m married with kids and am still trying to improve my modesty so that I can set an example of dressing stylishly without showing too much skin. I was never “slutty,” but I have found that an undershirt here, and a coverup there, can go a long way toward keeping me from accidentally sending a message I don’t want to send. The other issue I’m dealing with is my kids wanting to run around naked, which of course is innocent at their age, but I’m working on teaching my 4 year old basic things like he cannot wander into the front yard in his underwear.

    I also have found that many people assume that certain things like under age drinking and premarital sex are just inevitable, and I think that is sad. My parents didn’t just make that assumption with me, and I’m very grateful, and I have no intention of making that assumption with my kids.

  50. Tia on June 18, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Good pep talk for all of us. This struck a chord for me because I sort of wish my parents had stepped up their game in this department when I was in high school, at least in retrospect.

    In general I’m not down with seeing women shamed for what they’re wearing.

    But on the other hand, even though my parents were comparatively strict about my clothing, a lot of sketchy, iffy clothes got through their filter. And when I look at those photos from junior high and high school, I wince. Just wince. Because what I can see now is a girl who didn’t understand that she was objectifying herself.

    I so wish someone had explained that dressing modestly wasn’t about protecting boys from lust (sorry, that’s their job), but about projecting that I was a full human being with infinite worth, not just a bundle of attractive body parts and a vessel for someone else’s sexuality. So few girls realize that they have intrinsic worth that is not</i? contingent on attractiveness or "sexiness."

  51. devon zukowski on June 18, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    First of all i love yoyr stella & dot necklace! The medina was my 1st statement necklace! Are you a stylist too?? 2nd as a mom of a boy and a girl i have already started praying aboyt these things. Hubby and i were just talking about this exact subject. We are attempting to teach our kids how to love people and themselves and not raise jerks. Thanks for your article!

    • Kathryn on June 18, 2015 at 11:03 pm

      LOL. It’s one of my favorites. Teaching our kids how to love, themselves and others, is an important lesson.

  52. Kim on June 18, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    I am the mean mom around here, but now that several of my kids are in graduate school or past, they are the police on the younger one. My 17 yr old does not have FB or a cell phone. He will get them sometime his senior year and there will be rules to follow or I will have 2 phones! Actually, the kids say it was helpful to be able to blame it on mom to save face with their friends for something they did not really want to do anyway. Be the parent! They will be your friend later…mine are.

    • Novella Byrd on June 26, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Amen, Kim!

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  55. Novella Byrd on June 26, 2015 at 8:07 am

    As a mother of 30 year olds I feel your pain as a young mother. It is a very real battle, one I fought every day. Years later both of my children have come back and thanked me for the limits set, “now they understand what you (mom) were doing for me”. Don’t ever take a back seat when it comes to parenting, yes it’s the harder road but so worth it in the long run. Good luck and God’s blessings on all you mothers of teenagers, oh the Rosary is one of my go to weapons and St. Anthony, St. Therese, and St. Jude!!

  56. Jodi on June 26, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I think you may have made a mistake of wording: “hottest isn’t modest” – don’t you mean “modest is the hottest? Or is there something I’m missing?

  57. Ms. P on July 4, 2015 at 8:33 am

    I am a teacher and have experienced several sad situations with parents and their kids’ social media. During a conference, a parent begged me to talk with her sixteen year old daughter about her clothing and dating choices! She said, “I can’t do it because ______ will defriend me, and I worked so hard to get her to accept my friend request!” The parent tried to cajole me by telling me how much her daughter admires me because I am “smart, hip, and young.”

    This happened during my third year of teaching and taught me a shocking and valuable lesson: many of my students’ parents are not parenting the way my parents did. This fact is accompanied by many implications: this is probably why many of my students do not respect adults the way I did when I was their age; parents feel overwhelmed by the existing torrent of social media apps and can’t keep up; parents are more concerned with being a friend than being a parent; my students are exposed to much more – of everything – than I was at their age; and my students have little or no sense of privacy because everything is public (and permanent) in their digital world.

    More and more responsibilities fall on our schools and teachers, for it is our job to help this generation see that what they do and post on the Internet will remain there, even when they’re 93. I would love to see teachers and parents work together to create a responsive culture within the community so parents feel equipped with tools and understanding and support, so they can make the responsible parenting decisions required of the twenty-first century.

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  59. Paige on March 21, 2021 at 11:59 am

    While yes I don’t believe that young girls should be wearing modest things you can’t place all of the blame on the girls and there moms it shouldn’t matter what girls wear we should be teaching guys that they can’t be turned on by things like this. I see a lot of posts like this but the truth is why should a girl be the one to get the blame we are covering up because guys get turned on by that maybe guys should be the ones looking away. I believe this but girls shouldn’t be the ones to get blamed,

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