The All Important Image
About the Guest
To a teen, appearance is everything. Rebecca Ingram Powell, a mother of three, talks about how important having a certain image is to middle schoolers. Rebecca encourages parents to talk to their daughters and sons about modesty.
Rebecca Ingram PowellRebecca Ingram Powell is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mother of three, and a nationally known author and speaker. She is the author of several books including her newest release, Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose. Since 2003, Rebecca has been a monthly columnist for ParentLife magazine, writing the popular feature, "A Mom's Life." Her articles have appeared in HomeLife, BabyLife, The P31 Woman, and other Christian publications as well as on numerous we...more
To a teen, appearance is everything.
The All Important Image
Bob: …and Mimi
Dennis: Yes! Whatever Mimi is, okay? You’re really not raising an emotionally and spiritually mature child because ultimately you must raise a child who by the time they’re 17, 18, 19 somewhere in there they are learning to put their own faith in Christ. Make their own decisions. Be responsible and take care of themselves when mom and dad aren’t there.
Bob: Here is the challenge. If there developing that sense of independence which is good and right and healthy, they need to be their own person. Is that being influenced more by the crowd? We’ve talked about that already this week. That there is such a peer influence that their sense of self is now determined by what their peer group is saying about them rather than what mom and dad have affirmed about them.
One of the areas where this shows up big time is in the area of appearance. You asked me this week about middle school memories and the first thing I came up with was an appearance memory. Was the polka dot shirt that I wore.
Dennis: Some of our listeners are still emotionally scarred by that polka dot…
Bob: ...With that visual image!
Dennis: Thinking of you in that polka dot shirt.
Bob: Appearance for girls particularly but for boys as well, this is a part of defining your style, your brand, who you are, isn’t it?
Rebecca: You know, what’s interesting because we talked about yesterday my Nike shoes that I wanted when my mom read the manuscript from my book and she came clean with a confession of her own and she said she hadn’t even realized how important those shoes were to me. She was like… my mom is so precious, she said” well, we would have gotten you those shoes before Christmas!”
Rebecca: I was like, well it’s okay mom. It’s okay now but she had told me when she had been a teenager there was a beautiful raspberry sweater and a navy blue skirt that was in a store window that she pined away for thinking that that would change her life. It is age old for us females.
Bob: Your not saying that a parent’s responsibility is to be alert to what fashion accessory are going to keep you with the in crowd then to make sure your kids have got them, right?
Rebecca: Oh no. No but it is important to be involved and to know, of course, what your kids are experiencing. Today’s girls are looking at… I mean I had Marcia Brady for a role model.
Rebecca: When I watch the Brady Bunch today in reruns I am aghast at how short their skirts were! I mean, they were shorter than some of the things that girls wear today, super short. So, I know that when moms are watching with their kids like Disney Channel or something like that. You have got to look at what those girls are wearing and say “Okay, if I would not let my child wear those clothes why are we spending so much time watching these programs.”
Dennis: Yes but Rebecca it’s not just the Disney Channel that are kids are watching. Our daughters are being influenced by their peer group that are watching MTV and that are texting all kinds of stuff back and forth to one another on their cell phones.
Bob: The fashion magazines have got unbelievable stuff
Dennis: So, tell us how you navigated the issue of modesty with your daughter during these impressionable years.
Rebecca: Well, my daughter is a beautiful girl. She has always been very conscience about the way that she dresses so from a personal view point that is one thing that I have really not had to make a big deal with my own daughter about.
Dennis: You’re talking about modesty at this point.
Rebecca: I am talking about modesty. What we have done many times is talked with her friends. She has had to rake a stand with her friends to explain why she chooses to dress the way that she does.
Bob: You have to have had some influence in her making those choices in the middle school and senior high years. There had to be something…
Bob: … you guys were doing to help reinforce what appropriate clothing ought to look like.
Rebecca: Right. Where we have always gone is to the word of God and to our children’s hearts and saying “Okay, your body is really not for you and it’s definitely not for all these people around you but it is for your future spouse.” So, in saying that God has given you this gift then we need to be very careful what we expose and how much we let other people see. We have always gone at from this is a heart issue and I learned early on from an abstinence teacher that I heard speak on it one time Marilynn Morris.
There are three reasons why a girl would choose to dress immodestly. The first one is that she just doesn’t know. She doesn’t understand what her body and the exposure of her body does to a male. No one has ever taken the time to teach her. The second thing is that the reason she is dressing that way is that she is a tease. She knows what she is doing. She knows she is getting guys attention. She knows that she is causing them to have sexual thoughts about her and she is okay with that because she is not going to let them do anything.
Bob: In fact, there is something in her little heart that hungers for that kind of attention.
Rebecca: Right, for that attention.
Rebecca: Right. Then the third reason that a girl would dress immodestly would be to say I am available. So, with my daughter early on I said” Here is what you’re saying to boys and here is what they’re thinking, even the godly Christian guy. It’s the way they’re wired. They don’t mean to, they don’t want to. You know a Christian boy isn’t even going to hang around you if you dress that way because he doesn’t want to be tempted. So, here is the way you need to dress.” She got it.
Dennis: Now wait, Rebecca. Now wait. You have got to tell me that you’ve never had a run in with your preteen or early teenage daughter around modest dress all the way through junior high and high school?
Rebecca: I haven’t, so do we want to talk about something else?
Bob: No, but there are a lot of moms who want you to come to their house and have whatever the magic rub off.
Dennis: Could your daughter come and…
Rebecca: That’s who you need to have on the show!
Dennis: Yes, mentor to my daughter because we have a ton of moms who are listening right now and are going” This is numero uno issue!”
Dennis: What are they going to wear to school every day and then on the weekends? Unbelievably, what are they going to wear to church? I mean it’s a battle!
Rebecca: It is. It is.
Dennis: You know? Your fortunate God gave you a child who got it quickly and didn’t need to test the limits.
Rebecca: It goes back to that heart relationship that my daughter has with the Lord. Now you know, everybody makes choices and decisions and I am not going to say she is always going to be that way. I pray she always is very close to the Lord. I think it’s critical that our kids understand that it’s about them and Jesus and that’s who they answer to.
Bob: That’s what’s driving her choices.
Rebecca: Exactly! Even with boys, my youngest the other day when we went to go get a pair of jeans for him. The jeans were designed in such a way that they had a bandana hanging out of the back pocket. Well now, we minister to an inner city church and I said” that looks funny there is that a new style?” My son informed me” well, that’s how the guys in gangs wear their jeans.
That reflects what their color is.” So, we didn’t buy the jeans. I could have bought them and taken that out but to me and my son and I discussed it, if we did that we’d be telling manufacturer who wouldn’t know that we altered the jeans at home that that was a good style.
Rebecca: We have a kid who has actually been a part of our church who is now in Juvenile for getting involved in a gang. We don’t want to support that. So, for boys too what they wear says something about who they are.
Bob: Talk a little bit about that because whenever we get into the subject particularly about modesty or appearance it does kind of seem to separate into girls need to do this so that boys will be okay. But it is both a boy issue and a girl issue. What we’re wearing and how to respond to what other people are wearing. If you’re raising a preteen boy, what kind of heart issues are you trying to address with that young man about the choices he is going to make in what he wears?
Rebecca: On what he is wearing or what he is looking at?
Bob: Well, let’s talk about what he is wearing first and then what he’s looking at beyond that.
Rebecca: I think for boys, they have it so much easier than girls because their styles are jeans and t-shirts. Girls we just have total fashion psycho with all the different choices for us. Young men a lot of times will wear t-shirts with different slogans and things on them or endorsing certain companies that they might just think is cool but again it’s saying something about who they are.
So, they need to be careful with what they wear, like different bands. I have talked to some boys before about “Why are you wearing that bands name on your body? You’re displaying that when you wear that. People are going to think your okay with that band?” “Well it was the only thing clean”” Well but then don’t wear that! You are endorsing it. You are saying I approve of this band.”
Bob: Yes. When a young man does see girls some of them are dressed really cute. I mean you see those girls and there are the cute girls and then there are the kind of doughty looking girls and your kind of more attractive to the cute ones.
Rebecca: Right. Sure. I have two boys 15 and 12 and my fifteen year old and I have had a lot of different talks about this. One of the things we talked about doing is called an “I Bounce” where you bounce your eyes away. There was a girl in our church that asked me once, she said” Why doesn’t David ever hang around me?” and I told her that it was because of the way that she was dressing.
Rebecca: Fortunately, I had a relationship with her and I could tell her that and I could explain that to her. She finally connected the dots and she said “Oh! Now that you’re telling me that, I remember that time I wore such and such and you know he didn’t even say hello!”
Rebecca: So, it’s just helping them to understand.
Bob: Wouldn’t even look at me.
Dennis: With a young man have you had conversations with your boys during again those middle school years around pornography?
Rebecca: Absolutely! In fact they remember a conversation I had with them this time last year in the middle of Best Buy. They have teased me about it.
Bob: This is mom having the conversation with the boys in Best Buy.
Rebecca: They had teased me about it afterward but I actually got a phone call from a lady who had just discovered some things on her son’s computer and she was just very upset, of course and torn up about it.
Dennis: Was her son a friend of your sons?
Rebecca: No, actually it was someone that I had met in another state. She had called me. When I got off the phone with her we were in Best Buy looking for Christmas gifts and I said “boys come over here.” I just got them together and I said, “okay, let’s go over this again” because I talk to them regularly about pornography and what a poison it is. Just like you are going to talk to your kids about drugs, you’re going to talk to them about alcohol; you’ve got to have a pornography talk. We talked about it more than once because I’ve told my boys every time you turn on the computer you are going to be making a choice. Every time something pops up it’s a choice. You’re successful that first time you make a great choice; okay Satan is going to pop up that choice again. You are going to have to make the right choice over and over and over.
Dennis: I am glad you delineated between having a conversation one time, kind of like an inoculation of a shot where you get it once. That’s it for a lifetime you don’t need any more conversations from us. In this day and age it’s not a matter of having a birds and bees conversation with a child when they’re six, seven, eight years old so they know the very basics of sex education.
It is a repeated revisiting of their bodies, their lives as their own sexuality emerges and as their attraction for the opposite sex occurs. We got to enter in to those discussions and have that conversation with them.
Bob: You know you can jump start some of that when you use the resource that we created that I’ve already mentioned this week the Passport to Purity material: which gives moms and dads an opportunity to get away with a son or a daughter right before those middle school years kick in, to start talking about peer pressure and talking about being friends with members of the opposite sex.
What dating is all about and any number of issues that are going to crop up during the middle school years. There is information on our website FamilyLifeToday.com about Passport to Purity and there is also information about Rebecca’s very helpful book which is called Season of Change. You can order that from us as well. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com or call calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again it’s 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY.
You know we are more than halfway through the month of May into the home stretch of the month and we want to thank those of you who have gone online or who have called to make a donation this month to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We have a matching gift fund that was established this month. We have had a number of folks who have pledged to match every dollar we receive from listeners on a dollar for dollar basis up to a total of now more than $300,000 that’s been pledged to that matching gift fund.
We are hoping that before the end of the month we will have heard from enough listeners that we can take full advantage of what these others have pledged to do. So far we have been very encouraged by the response we are getting from folks but we still have a long way to go. I say we are half way through the month but I don’t think we’re halfway yet to our goal.
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Now tomorrow we’re going to talk about dating during the middle school years. Is it a good idea? What’s the down side? What’s the upside? We’ll unpack some of that tomorrow. Hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team.
On behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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