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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Precocious Standards of Modesty?

I had what I think of as a not-quite-dilemma today.

We had decided to drive my daughter to Brooklyn this morning, to have plans with her bunkmate from sleepaway camp last summer. Of late, they had been rekindling a phone friendship that had sort of petered out since last summer's declarations of being "Best Friends Forever". I guess they are preparing for being best friends forever again this summer - at least for the month of July.

I woke her up, and told her to get dressed in the outfit I had laid out on her desk chair. A few minutes later, she met me in the kitchen for breakfast, fully dressed. But dressed in a completely different outfit than the one I had selected for her to wear.

Which would have been fine had it simply been a matter of her exercising her fashion sense. But that's not why she told me she chose another outfit. Apparently, she had decided that the outfit I laid out for her did not have sleeves that she considered "long enough" to go see her friend in Brooklyn. As a matter of fact, she continued, she didn't really "feel comfortable" in that outfit at all, and wanted to wear only sleeves that reached below her elbow in the future. I explained to her that she might be reacting to the externals that she sees when she goes to visit her friend in Brooklyn, and that simply because her friend dresses a certain way does not mean she is required to comply with those external standards, and even if she felt more comfortable doing as the Brooklynites do, she should certainly should not feel compelled to do so when not visiting her friend's home neighborhood. To no avail. She is determined to banish all of her short sleeves and skirts, as well as her ankle socks, from her closet. And I (I am not proud to admit) am an unhappy mother.

Now I am well aware that a girl begging her parents to dress more modestly than they would expect would not by any means be looked at as a problem by most parents - whether Orthodox or non-Orthodox. And I fully understand that compared to other clothing requests that some parents put up with from their "tween" daughters, her desire for increased modesty is a veritable gift from God. But still. She attends a relatively Ultra-Orthodox school, where she is required to wear long sleeves and knee socks every day - even at her tender pre-Bat Mitzvah age. She will thus be dressing and accessorizing in these modest fashions for a long time to come. In sleepaway camp, the rules are the same. Knees and elbows covered for every camper.

So my thinking is, that soon enough, she is going to have to wear this kind of clothing all day, every day. I just worry that by imposing these extra layers of modest dress on herself at an age that is younger than her parents would expect it of her she will burn out on all this modesty at an earlier age than I would like her to. Does that make sense? Is my thinking on this ridiculous, to worry about the potential future of her wanting to foist off all these layers - when she is only a child? Am I overly fearful? Have my friend's complaints of their daughters trying to dress like the Orthodox Britney Spears unduly influenced my decisionmaking capabilities when it comes to my dear daughter?

I also can't deny my own reasons of wanting her to remain a little girl as long as possible. All of the complications that go hand-in-hand with the increased body awareness of teenagerhood is not a stage that I look forward to. So I admit to trying to push that milestone off as long as humanly possible.

But the question, readers, is - what do I do? Do I "let" her wear only long sleeves and knee socks - no matter the weather - even when I, myself don't necessarily set quite those standards for myself? Do I have a choice? But is she setting impossibly high standards for herself that are going to cause her to rebel in a manner that she may not have had she enjoyed her carefree years as a child a bit longer? Is this thinking, the nervous worrying that she will rebel at all, a twisted mentality?

Please, everyone, especially parents of "tweens", I would love to hear you weigh in.

113 Comments:

Anonymous MJ said...

Wow, first comment. You need to face the fact that you were outmaneuvered by the schools camps etc. you sent your daughter to. They have drummed this externalized machmirized idea of tznius into her head since she was little. There is no point now trying to get her to dress otherwise. This will only cause her to question whether her parents are (gasp) really frum after all! And that maybe she should listen more to her teachers than her mother. All you can do is reinforce the message that these things are only externals yada yada, that you think girls should not spend so much time focusing on their bodies and that this only reinforces it yada yada, and that reading tznius lessons into everything from tanach to the holocaust is not the best pedagogical method. When she’s 21 you’ll know if a) it worked and she uses common sense when dressing or if b) she bought the frummie line and dresses like a frumpy nun, or c) she really embraced what you see all around in yeshivish circles be they in Brooklyn or Lawrence, and wears long clothing that is so tight it cuts off the circulation to her brain.

Hey no one said it was easy being a parent.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no answer because i have no kids, but awesome post.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a mom of a young girl, I find myself laughing. Public school parents have just the opposite problem. Short Short Shorter. My daughter knows what I think is appropriate and has enough sense to know shorter is not better. When she wants to wear something that is "safe" that I am not crazy about I give in. You have to choose your battles. Let her be. I don't think she will burn out. I think she will find her own way on who she wants to be. The less you say about modesty,body, the more positive she will fell about hers. I hoped this helped.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous uncle moishy said...

I don't find any of your arguments for forcing her to dress your way especially compelling, so I think you should let it be her call. And if you do -- despite your shaky footing -- force her to do things your way, I'd be inclined to view your actions as basically a "power trip." Worse yet, Orthodaughter might view it the same way.

(FWIW, I have 3 kids all past tweens. They are still talking to me.)

11:35 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

You need to face the fact that you were outmaneuvered by the schools camps etc. you sent your daughter to.

I know, I know. Trust me. I wish there was a school just like me, but that's asking for too much, I think.

As a mom of a young girl, I find myself laughing. Public school parents have just the opposite problem. Short Short Shorter.

LOL. I hear, and had that in mind when writing this. You can probably relate to the "Britney Spears" wannabe trend that my friends are complaining about.
uncle moishy said...

I don't find any of your arguments for forcing her to dress your way especially compelling, so I think you should let it be her call. And if you do -- despite your shaky footing -- force her to do things your way, I'd be inclined to view your actions as basically a "power trip." Worse yet, Orthodaughter might view it the same way.


I don't see myself attempting to force her to do anything. That's never been my or my husband's MO. I am just trying to explain what my inclinations are, and maybe get some feedback. Thanks for yours, the fact that your daughters still speak to you is heartening.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Malka Esther said...

I'd let her dress the way she wants. I think by fighting kids over how they dress when it is within the acceptable standards is likely to cause her more problems with tznius in the future than letting her wear longer stuff now. Keep a few of the things she wants to throw out in your room or in a box so if she feels like she has overdone it you can pull the other stuff out but don't make this a battle.

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. Interesting to see the flip side of the kids who are pushin the envelope in the other direction.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in a reform household one of four girls. My parents never told us what we could wear as long as it was appropriate. We all had different style's different flare. My sister went through a jean and flanner shirt thing, that was definitely well interesting to say the least. My mother embraced all of our individuality and said very little. We all still speak to her, and she always said she chose her battles. Good Luck

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and the sister who wore the lumberjack look now looks like a talbots commercial.

11:59 PM  
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12:52 AM  
Blogger Chana said...

My daughter is 7 and I hope and pray to HaShem that I have your problem when she is your daughter's age!!

It could be worse, trust me - she could be insisting on wearing this

1:01 AM  
Blogger XVI (R) - NY said...

I dont have kids, so I am in no position to give any real advice, but I think that communications is key as in all aspects of parenting. Explain your point of view clearly, try to have her do the same, and see if you can have an intelligent conversation about it. Guys and girls are discovering themselves and their bodies with their various functions at much younger ages than ever before. It may be a discomfort on her part and a response to a personal awkwardness or it may just be the orthoschool machine turning its gears. As long as you can find her own reasons for wanting to be particulary tznius, then I guess its a wonderful thing that she is so concerned for it.

1:39 AM  
Blogger queeniesmom said...

Let her dress how she wants but try and make sure she isn't learning that her body is something to be ashamed of; therefore it must be covered at all times. Let her know and understand that her body is nothing to be ashamed of and yes it will start changing. Also realize that by sending her to the school and camp that you have as oppose to a more "modern" one, you are giving her double or contradicting messages.

This is the beginning of conformity, the question is conformity to what? Hopefully you and Orhodad have raised her to think for herself and not be a sheep.

Queenie is in this age group, possibly a year or so older. When we shop I let her pick and choose knowing that I have ultimate veto power. i haven't had to use it lately as she understands what is acceptable and what isn't. It has been a gradual learning process, with her making decissions re: pants, short for herself (we're on the MO, YI spectrum as oppose to TAG, Shulamit group).

Good Luck! At least we know that our daughters won't be semi dressed as many of my 9th grade students are.

1:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No reason to forbid her from wearing longer clothing, but make clear that she's not doing this for you and she's not doing this for religion. She's doing it because that's the standards for the community and her friends. That way, if she does decide to change again, she won't feel she was pressured by you and she won't feel that Judaism is so restrictive.
Probably the worst case is her deciding you aren't frum enough, but a good education is probably the best way to prevent that.

2:12 AM  
Blogger Yehuda said...

I'll weigh in.

As a parent, you can forbid clothing that explicitly violates your religious beliefs, such as those that are severely immodest or with Christian symbology.

Anything else, the less interference the better. Your daughter is not doing this because of modesty, she is doing this because of conformity. That's what every other girl does. So I wouldn't worry about any future effects of modest clothing choices.

If you want to talk to her about conformity that's a different issue, but nothing to do with the modesty issue. And I wouldn't, since there are plenty of other things about which to pick fights.

Yehuda

2:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Teens are teens. They change their inclinations weekly, if not daily. One day they're all spiritual and davening with lots of kavana and the next, they're looking for answers in pop stars. What I do is let them know what I believe, stick to my guns, insist on a certain behavior at home, but otherwise go with the flow, listen a lot and let them choose their directions. For a while I thought one of my two was going in the (my) wrong direction but, surprisingly, he's come back stronger than ever. And both my teens are still talking to me and discussing with me their different directions. And I still think they're great people, so this is what works for us.

4:14 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

But the question, readers, is - what do I do? Do I "let" her wear only long sleeves and knee socks - no matter the weather - even when I, myself don't necessarily set quite those standards for myself?

Yes!!!-It is silly what she is doing but it is not worth the battle.


Do I have a choice?

No!!!!!

But is she setting impossibly high standards for herself that are going to cause her to rebel in a manner that she may not have had she enjoyed her carefree years as a child a bit longer?

Very possible-but that is the schools and camps fault that you are sending her to-but Ortho lay off.

Is this thinking, the nervous worrying that she will rebel at all, a twisted mentality?
No.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Orthomom: If boys wanted longer payot, would you prevent them from growing them longer than "modern" length?

We let our kids have a level of freedom in both directions (to some extent)...

Believe me - this is NOTHING compared to when they get slightly older.

You'll look back at this post and laugh at yourself :)

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aha. So the Orthodaughter goes to TAG or BBY. Getting out the checklist!

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Orthomom's daughter must go to TAG. A BBY girl would come from a home that insists on sleeve length etc. from a fairly young age. My girls go to TAG. But since we live in the 5 Towns, they are not placed in the "klay kodesh" class. So they are in the minority in wearing sleeves past the elbow even at home from age 8 (though I am not personally makpid on knee socks). The selection of age from which to enforce the dress standards is somewhat arbitrary. I know a family that chose the age of 9 (though really that is the age where certain restrictions kick in for boy). The most machmir -- but with good sources for it -- is age 3. R' Feitman once indicated that 6 or so was already the mekil view.

While many families like to let the girls dress however until 12, just like other areas of chinuch, it should begin earlier. You can consult you Rav for suggestions.

However, I think you are not disturbed so much by her choices as for her choosing to comply to standards that you feel belong to a separte community and society.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While you found it disturbing, your daughter may have been halachically correct in adopting the more stringent standard of dress for the place she is visiting. While many girls of 10 sport short sleeves in the 5 Towns area, in Borough Park she would draw attention and be seen as immodest in contrast to the "native" girls who do keep their elbows covered. Part of tznius is not calling attention to your appearance -- so when in BP, you may have to do as the BPers do.

10:06 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

While you found it disturbing, your daughter may have been halachically correct in adopting the more stringent standard of dress for the place she is visiting. While many girls of 10 sport short sleeves in the 5 Towns area, in Borough Park she would draw attention and be seen as immodest in contrast to the "native" girls who do keep their elbows covered. Part of tznius is not calling attention to your appearance -- so when in BP, you may have to do as the BPers do.


I agree, (though it is not necessarly as you say in Flatbush) and pointed that out in the post. I didn't find her desire to wear long sleeves and socks to Brooklyn disturbing - I just worry about her wanting to adopt such stringencies full-time at a younger age than I feel it is required. Honestly, I don't want to get into a Halachic discussion here, but I'm not really sure that all of the stringencies her school requires are what I even consider to be required by Halacha.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Yehuda. You can set basic standards but don't micromanage -- that will backfire.

Also, a child who is old enough to go to sleep away camp is probably too old for you to set out clothes for, and certainly old enough to decide how comfortable she is dressing differently from her friends and the general environment. If you don't like the religious environment she is in, you can change it, but you can't control her responses to it.

Encouraging her to be different when she is uncomfortable being different is not productive at this age -- it will not help her confidence later, but can actually hurt it. The message to give is that her decisions are her own, and that her choices are ok with you. In fact, it is known that children whose parents are more authoritarian and set down more rules tend to be later more sensitive to peer pressure.

10:25 AM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

Mom

As most others have already pointed out, this is a no brainer.

You have no choice but to let her dress the way she wants. It IS all about conformity, not religion. Starting at this age what her friends think is MUCH more important than what you think. Just hope she has good friends.

10:27 AM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

it does not matter what city you live in tzinus is tznius.
but this is somthing your daughter came to you with, not the other way around. so she was not told or forced to do it by her parents. you see a lot in shul the little kids forced to daven the entire time or forced with rules very young are the ones more apt to have a bad taste in teir mouths.
i think the key is she is the one doing it and you and your husband are good parents, i believe you should allow to do this and most importantly do not draw attention or question it but rather support it. i think b"ah she will turn out just fine.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

personaly approaching this from the tznius aspect, i don't think this is one bit tznius. tznius is modesty, and more important that external shows of modesty is modesty of character and modesty of ones actions. focusing on the body undoes litteraly everything tznius is supposed to accomplish and in the end actualy makes the kids untznius.

in terms of the clothing length i think you should simply set your minimum standards and quite litteraly take them for granted. focusing on them is only going to hurt. and i think you really should have a talk with your daughter about what being modest really means, what you feel it means, apart from the whole clothing issue. this kind of additude is downright dangerous to teenage girls, at least based on my own experiance in talking to girls on all ends of the spectrum from orthodox to reform to even non-jews. boiling it down its simply objectifying her.

i think this is an issue, but the clothing isn't the issue, its mearly a symptom of a weed that your should carefull kack short before it gets out of control and she thinks skirt length is all there is to do with tznius.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orthomom, teens are teens, as I read the writing of all we all of the same problem, be it reform children thinking really short is better, or the religous community to long, it seems to me there is one answer. Our little girls are growing up, and hopefully the lessons we teach them, no matter what we believe will sustain them from the next eight years where they know everything and we know nothing. My mom laughs when I call her complaining. My husband wonders why I need to speak to my mother again, and my little girl is not longer little.....

11:43 AM  
Anonymous talmid said...

tween girls are required by halacha to follow halachos of tzeniyus. If the school is teaching her what those halachos are, even if your poskim disagree, it would seem to me to be bad chinuch to insist that she violate halacha as she knows it.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take heart, OM. At least you know she won't be the one people can point out from across the room as that girl with the VERY LOW neckline :)

12:20 PM  
Anonymous BELLLAW said...

Oh how awful that your daughter has chosen to dress more Tznius.

Does that make you feel bad?

How dreadfull.

All those extra layers of modesty.

Time to pull your hair out.

Ask yourself where oh where have you gone wrong.

Next time you walk the streets and see a girl "vamped" or dressed in a mini mini will you say to your sorry self. "Gee I wish that was my kid"?

Perhaps in our day and age you are one of the lucky ones!

12:21 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'I'm not really sure that all of the stringencies her school requires are what I even consider to be required by Halacha.'

I visit my local MO HS for morning prayers and I see many of the young women wearing short sleeves.

And consider the dress code here:

http://www.kba.org.il/dati/dati-english/absorption.htm

Is there a nice Orthodox treatment on tzinut that actually presents the halachah rather than the chumrot of some particular community or communities?

12:38 PM  
Blogger joel rich said...

Conformity with a peer group's norms is not unusual.

To "force" a child to be different to uphold one's own standards can be counterproductive (parent sent to school with this peer defined standard and now complains?) I've heard tell of some MO girls who were "forced" to give a bat mitzvah drasha because their mothers didn't.


IMVHO the best thing to do is use this as a teaching moment to discuss tzniut as a way of life for men and women that goes way beyond clothes (but get ready for - why did you choose to live in a community that doesn't seem to value this way of life?)

KT

12:45 PM  
Anonymous jeruslaemom said...

Om, I'm not sure how you expected any different from her. She's expected to dress in this manner at school and at camp, and she sees her peers dressing the same way in every framework she is. Why would she want to dress any other way? If you wanted her to have more relaxed standards, why would you send her to educational frameworks that have a stricter interpretation than you?

12:50 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


jeruslaemom said...

Om, I'm not sure how you expected any different from her. She's expected to dress in this manner at school and at camp, and she sees her peers dressing the same way in every framework she is. Why would she want to dress any other way? If you wanted her to have more relaxed standards, why would you send her to educational frameworks that have a stricter interpretation than you?


It isn't as simple as that. Many of her peers parents have a more relaxed interpretation than the schools they send their daughters to. And I'm not talking about standards that are absolute - many people don't feel that wearing knee socks is a requirement at all, and elbow-length sleeves are a standard that many of my friends do not expect of their children before they reach Bat Mitzvah.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sad that you'd send your child such conflicting messages. On the one hand you'd send her to a school that obviously stresses Zniut, but on the other hand, when she embraces those same ideals, you try to reign her in. Why should she accept anything taught to her in school, when she can always fall back on the fact that her own mother disagrees with the schools position. Th knife will cut both ways, she'll learn not to respect you, or your opinion, because once the barrier of accepting authority is broken there's no way to plug the dyke.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What? I don't see the anon abova s getting this at all. Om, I totally hear you. My daughter is 6. I still allow her to wear pants now, for bike riding etc. But she is resisting, and I wish I could get a few more years out of being less strict. And not because I care, but because I don't want het to set standards for herself that she is going to regret when she DOESNT have the choice in 2-3 years.

I let her wear only skirts, but it is with deep regret.

1:32 PM  
Blogger gabe said...

OM, can I ask you whether or not you'd feel the same way if your child came home and decided to eat only Chalav Yisroel (without her self imposed restrictions effecting anyone else in the household, of course)? Would you be afraid that she'd 'burn out', and eventually give up on eating kosher altogether? I don't believe that anyone, especially one who professes to be such a devoted selfless parent as yourself, would would be upset if their child would surpass them in levels of religious observance. So the question is, why is this any different? Imho, there is one reason why the Zniut issue differs. You have chosen to send your daughter to a school who stringencies in religious observance are greater than those of yourself, and you friends. And while this seems fine to you when she goes to 'Brooklyn', your concerned about how your acquaintances closer to home are going to accept/react to these stringencies. In essence, you may be guilty of the same thing you were afraid your daughter was guilty of, that being:

"I explained to her that she might be reacting to the externals that she sees when she goes to visit her friend in Brooklyn, and that simply because her friend dresses a certain way does not mean she is required to comply with those external standards"

My point is underlined by the fact that you'd be ok with her changing her externals to conform to the Brooklynites while there, but feel uncomfortable should she conform to the dictates of her peers in 5t. Why should it matter where she is conforming?
I find myself guilty of the same thing. I send my children to Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs whose level of stringencies exceed those of many of my freinds and acquaintances. They go to Miami for Yom Tov or mid-winter vacation, and take their kids to sporting events. I personally go to sporting events, and watch all the games at friends' houses on TV (none at home, was our own decision, nothing to do with the school, we haven't had one since we were married). My children, however wouldn't (Not because I wouldn't allow it, on the contrary, if my sons wanted to go to a game, or watch one on TV, I'd be thrilled to take them, refusing would be the worst form of hypocrisy, same goes for taking the girls to Miami for mid-winter vac.), they'd feel uncomfortable, and like phonies when they returned to their peers. When these trips are discussed, and I have to decline because my children wouldn't go, I always feel uncomfortable, because my friends think that these stringencies are excessive. They'd never scoff, and as a matter of fact, they admire my kids for their consistency, but I personally feel some discomfort.

As to your daughter, it's a no brainer, leave her alone. And as a previous commentor mentioned, any girl old enough to go to sleep away camp shouldn't have her mother setting out her clothes for her.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous YOSEF said...

"but I'm not really sure that all of the stringencies her school requires are what I even consider to be required by Halacha. "

Should not the critera be what your Rav thinks is the halacha?

1:50 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


My point is underlined by the fact that you'd be ok with her changing her externals to conform to the Brooklynites while there, but feel uncomfortable should she conform to the dictates of her peers in 5t. Why should it matter where she is conforming?


I just would prefer that she not take on something that she might find difficult and ultimately off-puttimng simply for reasons of conformity. I think that's fair. There are always occasions when we dress a certain way out of respect, and that is something I think is important for her to understand as well.

1:55 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

YOSEF said...

"but I'm not really sure that all of the stringencies her school requires are what I even consider to be required by Halacha. "

Should not the critera be what your Rav thinks is the halacha?


Of course. I base what I consider to be required on what my Rav has told me.

1:57 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


To "force" a child to be different to uphold one's own standards can be counterproductive (parent sent to school with this peer defined standard and now complains?)


Her peers don't follow that standard across the board. The student body is eclectic, and I would say most of her friends do not wear long sleeves and knee socks yet outside of school - though many will start doing so in the next few years.

1:58 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


gabe said...

OM, can I ask you whether or not you'd feel the same way if your child came home and decided to eat only Chalav Yisroel (without her self imposed restrictions effecting anyone else in the household, of course)? Would you be afraid that she'd 'burn out', and eventually give up on eating kosher altogether? I


It's hard to compare the minor sacrifice of giving up the eating of a few items here and there to making a decision to dress in a way that will make her uncomfortable in the summer months at a young age.

2:03 PM  
Blogger joel rich said...

OM, can I ask you whether or not you'd feel the same way if your child came home and decided to eat only Chalav Yisroel (without her self imposed restrictions effecting anyone else in the household, of course)?
====================
2nd best rebbi I ever had saw me in 7th grade wearing my tzizit out. He gave me a "what's the deal?" look implying that i had a lot of other things more basic to work on. He was quite correct - being different than (parents, peers...) can be cool sometimes. It all goes back to motivations and teachable moments (Imvho)
KT

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's hard to compare the minor sacrifice of giving up the eating of a few items here and there to making a decision to dress in a way that will make her uncomfortable in the summer months at a young age. "

You've got to be kidding -- giving up Haagen Dasz minor compared to wearing knee socks?!

Get those priorities straight . . . :)

2:32 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Our daughter is 11-1/2, but still wears whatever we want her to.

But that's weeks. :)

I don't have any tweens yet, but I'm surprised the obvious wasn't said anywhere above: Why not take this opportunity to learn with your daughter about tznius? Go through the halachos - from the most meikal to the most machmir - and give her a more complete understanding that she will not get from any school? With a clearer understanding of why people in different areas have their different standards, she'll be able to better choose what's right for her. That might be long skirts and socks, that might not be - but at least she'll be doing it for the right reasons, not because she thinks it's "more frum" or whatnot.

It's much better than her receiving conflicting opinions from home and school as to what's right.

2:49 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I'm dealing with this a little myself (no I don't dress my daughters). I became frum in a very MO environment, where Men were Men and Women wore their own hair, pants, and went mixed swimming. Shabbos afternoon in the summer meant shorts and sandals for me.

I moved to really right wing community where wearing a color other than white or black was considered tantatmount to apikorsus. Consequently, my daughters have "dressed the dress" since they were in first grade or so.

Someone on my blog commented somewhere that my daughter, The PT, who is in K-4, doesn't dress like this and that we let her wear pants and shorts and dresses that don't cover her elbows. We are probably the only ones in the school who do this, and thankfully we have not received notes home asking our kids to please put on a habit or a burka.

However, once they get into the older grades, they dress to the community standards, and quite frankly, were I to suggest they relax about this, my girls would feel very uncomfortable.

Believe me, the situation could be MUCH worse. I see lots of kids who are the same age who do dress like tarts and parents who are powerless to control it. Don't complain too much.

No, I don't sit out on the porch in my shorts anymore. It's the community's loss. I have nice legs.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Kraut said...

why are you sending your daughter to a school whose religious standards you find to be excessive? confusion is inevitable when she hears one thing at school and another at home. none of the considerations you mention are as relevant as the fact that you are presenting her with mixed messages, without explaining why you are doing so. the problem seems to be not your daughter's or her school's zeal for modesty so much as your own poor educational or communicative choices.

2:56 PM  
Blogger StepIma said...

I think you shouldn't worry so much about what she's going to embrace or reject down the road - too many other factors are going to be weighing in between now and then for her clothing choices now to be an issue... so long as they're her own choices and not imposed on her.

I'd let her wear what she wants to wear, and if it means going on a shopping trip, that's fine too. But let her know that because of her age right now, she has a certain amount of leeway. And that at age ____, you expect her to switch over to dressing in whatever the way is that your expectations lie (you can be specific). That until then, you'll keep her other clothes in her dresser drawers. So she doesn't have to feel like she's made an irrevocable decision, or feel guilty if it's 100 degrees out and she wants to wear a short sleeved top for the day. One problem kids have around the preteen/tween age is when parents overreact and they feel like they have to keep up the rebellion or their parents will have "won." It doesn't sound like this is a rebellion in any way - it just sounds like she's made a choice about what she wants... but treating it like a line-in-the-sand permanent decision that you have to talk her out of might make her feel like she has to treat it that way too, or she'll be letting your image of her down... even by doing what you say you want.

I think the key is to reinforce that it's her decision right now. Because I think that's what your message is: that you do accept the halacha, and you're not trying to make it a you-vs-her thing... or a Brooklyn vs 5T thing, where she has to choose how machmir to be right now or she's going against G-d. That's where it can backfire down the road. But that you guys are loose because you understand the halacha... not because you're fighting it.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you should empty her closet out and replace it with jeans and halter tops then see what she thinks is "modest"

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While reading all this I feel envious that modesty is a problem.My daughter is in 2nd grade at a local public school. I have witnessed little girls in the latest style's that would make my husband blush. My daughter knows that she can pick her own clothes withing limits. Her cousin lives in Florida where shorts are not allowed to be over the knee for school, we follow that rule. I told her when she is old enough to make her own choice, she must dress like a lady, and if she want to look like Brittney spears, there is plenty of time when she moves out and pays her own bills.

4:05 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Hope she will have enough clothing to wear and you won't be doing laundry all the time. :)

4:11 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

the problem seems to be not your daughter's or her school's zeal for modesty so much as your own poor educational or communicative choices.

That's a silly pronouncement to make. Do you really believe that someone can find a school that suits their family's practices to a "T"? That is rarely possible. Not every family follows the dictates at home of what is expected within the four walls of the school building. Your theory, that the school should ostensibly be catering to hundreds of families who practice exactly the same way as the administration of the school dictates is a pipe dream.

4:58 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Stepima:

I hear you. Of course I will be letting her wear what she wants. Really, to clarify (to you and everyone), of course I am not going to force her to wear short socks and short sleeves. I am just giving voice here to my ambivalence of her choice to adopt such a high standard of Tzniut at such a young age. I stated clearly in the post that I am well aware that parents who are battling the reverse problem with their daughters might find this ridiculous. But honestly, I hear a lot of these complaints from my contemporaries. Friends who wear pants but have girls who want to stop doing so at a young age, friends who dress quite modestly but have children who want to dress similarly to my daughter, friends who have 8 year old sons refusing to accompany the family to the beach. This has occured along the Orthodox spectrum forever, probably. It's just surprising when it happens so young.

Also, to clarify on another issue to many who commented above (again - I clarified it above already, but evidently it bears repeating), many families in my daughter's school do not expect their children to wear long sleeves and long socks at their age. The school requires it, but that doesn't mean that there are hundreds of cookie-cutter families who send their kids there. Is that ever the case in any school??

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orthomom - you should delete maverick's comment earlier...it was just a plug for his website. Do a Google search and you'll see that he (or she) posts the same thing on hundreds of blogs.

6:18 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Orthomom-I know you have good company. I was at a frum clothing sale when I heard a group of mothers of 3 and 4 year old pre-schoolers talking. They were all there trying to find skirts for their daughters who now didn't want to wear pants. The mothers were all a bit surprised by the peer pressure of that age.

Granted, there are communities where tzniut starts at 3 years old and includes only dresses and possibly no short sleeves. But, my community is not one of those communities, so it shocked the parents.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

I've been dealing with this school issue since my daughter was 5 and her school suddenly decided that the Pre1A must cover elbows and knees. I spoke to abou t 60 of the 75 mothers in the grade, and most of them agreed it's ridiculous. I met with the preschool director, and our kids were excused, they're just trying it out. This year's Pre1A moms are glad it hasn't been too hot yet, so they can excuse the long sleeves with the weather.

I'm switching my daughter to another school for next year. I can't deal with the brainwashing. There's no way a 6 year old would otherwise decide to wear long sleeves in the summer. No way.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

with all of the problems that our community is having with kids at risk,let alone what ppl deem appropriate to wear to shul, let alone on the street(hair barely covered, no stockings) this is what you're concerning yourself eith? maybe instead of having the mindset that one must rebel against "bais yackov conformity" (otherwise known in some circles as halacha) you should be proud of your daughter for wanting to dress more in the ways of a bas yisrael.

7:52 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

Don't you think a good proportion of kids at risk are AT risk because tznius was forced down their throats? Because if their skirt was a bit too cool or not exactly 4" below the knee and above the ankle, they got yelled at? I think that forcing kids who don't even have a body image to be so self-conscious can only hurt them in the long run.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

besides, no stockings is a community thing. If you're in BP, fine, wear tights. If you're in Flatbush or 5T, many women aren't covering their legs and therefore you don't need to. According to Hilchos Bas Yisroel.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"tova said...
Don't you think a good proportion of kids at risk are AT risk because tznius was forced down their throats"
this is not an example of someone who was forced into anything, this is about a girl making a choice on her own.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

leaving out half your hair is not a "minhag hamakom" and their is a certain sensitivity trhat should be had in shul.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

I agree. But putting tights and wigs in the same sentence isn't talking about the same thing. Although, of course, our chumradik, forget halachah schools probably think they are equally important.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

"a girl making a choice on her own"
How can you say a 6 year old made such a choice on her own. Only if it's forced on her all year in school would she "choose" it. No one chooses to wear a sweatshirt when it's 100 degrees, and no kid wants to be hot.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Ralphie said...

Professor/author Samuel Heilman discussed the phenomenon of the Modern Orthodox community outsourcing hinuch to the ultra-orthodox educators on an OU podcast that I heard this morning. His upcoming book on the subject is "Sliding to the Right."

(No, I don't get a commission.)

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who said a/t about a six yr old, we're talking about a tween not a toddler

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such a weird discussion. Covering the calf is the basic halacha in the gemara. Period. The fact that some poskim are lenient in this regard represents an attempt to justify ex post facto the practice of many women. So fine, if you want to follow your rav who allows that leniency, OK. But the idea that covering the calf is some "frum chumra" is utter nonsense. That is the default position- yours is the leniency. Get some perspective ladies.

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion, once the school that you chose to send your daughter to, lays out certain rules and restrictions, you, as a mother, have to enforce those rules whether it's a school day, or not. Especially if your daughter herself actually wants to! What she's telling you is that she feels that the way you want her to dress is innappropriate, and she's no longer comfortable with that mode of dress. Furthermore, if your daughter sees you dressing in a manner that doesnt correspond to what she learned in school, she will end up confused and will learn to disrespect you. Children crave consistency.

8:59 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, once the school that you chose to send your daughter to, lays out certain rules and restrictions, you, as a mother, have to enforce those rules whether it's a school day, or not.


I disagree. The school does not have the requirement that students need to be attired in a certain dress code outside of school. Just within their walls.

What she's telling you is that she feels that the way you want her to dress is innappropriate, and she's no longer comfortable with that mode of dress. Furthermore, if your daughter sees you dressing in a manner that doesnt correspond to what she learned in school, she will end up confused and will learn to disrespect you. Children crave consistency.

Again, not so simple. The school never spelled out that the girls (whether pre-Bat Mitzvah or post) need to wear knee socks every day as a matter of halacha. Simply that those are the requirements for attendance in school.

9:10 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


Anonymous said...

This is such a weird discussion. Covering the calf is the basic halacha in the gemara. Period. The fact that some poskim are lenient in this regard represents an attempt to justify ex post facto the practice of many women. So fine, if you want to follow your rav who allows that leniency, OK. But the idea that covering the calf is some "frum chumra" is utter nonsense. That is the default position- yours is the leniency. Get some perspective ladies.


To present the definition of "shok" as calf is far from an unassailable fact. In addition, where did I ever even spell out my own Tzniut parameters? You don't even know of what you speak.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

momof4 is clearly on the defensive.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

My kid has my good example of tznius, and the example of her grandmothers and aunts, etc. She doesn't need the hypocrisy of the rest of the parent body dressing not up to basic standards, while the school is pretending to hold everyone to higher standards. That's why we're leaving. Like you said, send your kid to a school with your standards. Theirs changed, without talking to the parents first.

And OM isn't on the defensive, you are just being offensive. I agree with OM, in case you can't tell.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Huh? I think it more likely that she is responding to a somewhat outrageous statement by an anon...

The problem is that there are people like anon, who think that certain chumros or views are halacha and anything else is some kind of "leniency".... which is why I stand by my statement from above, which is to learn through the subject with your daughter fully and make sure she understands what is halacha, what is possibly halacha, what is completely chumra, and what is not really allowed.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

[I was resp. to anon, not Tova. I agree with Tova, whose comment was not there when I started writing.]

9:55 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

See, that's my problem, Ezzie. That's what the schools should be doing, teaching them halachah, not "teaching them to be machmir so they end up in the middle of the road," according to my daughter's current principal. I called the other school the morning after I heard that speech.

10:06 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

You totally have to butt out. It's not worth fighting about, and if she burns out, well, so what? She can rebel against insanly restrictive haredi dress standards and still be dressing al pi halacha.

11:05 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Let's not be ridiculous. A parent's job is not to enforce a school's dress code (that is beyond halacha) outside of school.

Many schools, e.g., do not allow boys to wear colored shirts in school or non-button up shirts. Since this is for uniformity and professionality, I see no reason for a parent to enforce such standards outside of school.

So, let's not be ridiculous. Orthomom need not make her daughter wear the uniform outside of school!

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had commented on another post when you mentioned that the main thing your daughter learned from Rus was tznius. I had said then what I am seeing more of here. Your daughter's neshama is inclined toward this mitzva. It speaks to her. She is obviously a refined and sensitive girl who is wants to define herself in this way. I wouldn't blame this one on the school or on the camp but rather on your daughter. I wouldn't fight it because it could be this is who she is. Everyone finds expression in a different area. If she finds it is too much for herself it will be a life's lesson in how to grow spiritually in a responsible manner.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

If she came home one day and said she wants three American Girl dolls, does that mean she has a strong leaning toward dolls, fashion, avodah zara, you name it? No, it means that is what she sees is important at school, because so many of her classmates have the doll(s).

If she comes home and insists on erasing her homework several times, does that mean she's so interested in handwriting? No, it's that her teacher gives her a minus when she has a messy paper.

If she wants to wear long sleeves in the summer, why is that any different? It's just what they're hammering in at an age that's not appropriate.

12:10 AM  
Anonymous tova said...

What if she came home saying she refuses to wear long sleeves, as she's only 8. Would you say that her neshama's leaning toward becoming "at risk?" No. You'd say, "She's just a kid, what does she know." Same here.

12:24 AM  
Blogger joel rich said...

regarding the podcast, here's something sent out locally.

present links below to 2 recent audios concerning the perceived slide to the
right within orthodoxy and, in particular, the "year in Israel" phenomenen. The
first is an interview with Dr. Samuel Heilman and the second a seminar held at
Yeshiva University.


http://www.ouradio.org/ouradio/channel/modern_orthodoxy_state_of_the_union_a_gro
wing_divide/

http://www.yutorah.org/showShiur.cfm?shiurID=714995


A brief summary of the points made:

If you believe in modern orthodoxy (for our purposes defined as seeing positive
value in engagement with modern knowledge and culture while being scrupulous in
the observance of halacha) then to preserve it you/ we must:

1. Provide positive role models for our children/successors (to quote Emerson
-What you are shouts so loud in my ears I cannot hear what you say)

2. Be involved in their education (formally and informally - remember CSN&Y -
Teach your children well)

3. Help them pick and support institutions that subscribe to this philosophy
(remember Wordsworth's dictum The child is the father of the man)

4. As a community insure that Jewish education and the pulpit are viewed (paid
and treated) in a manner commensurate with the importance of their roles and
impact. (Remember the old folk saying - we get the leaders we deserve)


Can we be proud of how far the modern orthodox community has come in the last
century? Of course. Is there much for us to do as individuals and as a
community? You bet! It's never the wrong time for a cheshbon hanefesh
(searching of our individual and community souls)

Kol Tuv,
Congregation Beth Israel

5:20 AM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I also treat our school's tznius rules as a school dress code. For the boys, they are required to wear jackets and hats after bar mitzvah. That's not my minhag personally, but so long as I choose to send my kid to that school (who am I fooling, it's the only school) I expect them to adhere to the code and I don't bad mouth it at home. On the road, if they don't wear their hats and jackets, I have no problem with it.

If I don't agree with the school policy, I have a right to show up to board meetings and voice my concern. Of course, I will be voted down.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazaing post - As others have addressed the "you are lucky this is your issue" idea, I just want to address the concern you mentioned that she may "burn out of all this modesty" at a young age. If too much emphasis/discussion is placed on the clothing perhaps she will. There is such a difference between those girls that grew up more modern and then turned to the right and those girls who grew up a bit more to the right. For most (and by no means all so I am not representing every girl) girls who grew up from day 1 dressing a certain way these thing are often just not an issue - they walk into a store and view the clothes the way you view food in Pathmark - kosher and non- kosher - and that's it. The more talk, discussion, fighting that goes on about it will make your daughter place so much emphasis on it so as to burn out. But if it just another fact of life then she won't give it a second thought.

Again, as others have said - let her be, it is not worth the fight!! BUT make sure you emphasize the other aspects of judaism (i.e.- chesed, tefillah) that is also so emphasized in the more bais yaakov schools - make sure your daughter realzies it is inside as well.

11:11 AM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

To all Comments brushing aside tznius:
covering the elbows and short skirts are in the same category as covering the hair. this is straight foward halachah. those who do not do this are not going in accord with halachah.
in fact the halachah is if you are a tailor and a frum women wants somthing tailored above the knee or above the elbow you are to tell them you cant do it.
in fact it is not so simple if you own a clothing store if you are allowed to sell these items in the first place. the only reason why you might be allowed to is b/c the person to go to another store to buy it or have it tailored.
tznius is NOT a chumra, its halachah. it does not matter if you are modern or chasidush, tzinus is tznius.
in closing dina was punished b/c she went out to mingle. yes it sounds absurd a girl should not be allowed to hang out w/ friends. but unfortonatly this is all lacking in todays society, just b/c times have changed it does not mean halachah in this matter changed. we are truly in galus.

1:17 PM  
Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Very well written. I have 4 yr old daughter but she is 4 going on 16 so I qualify myself to answer. This is tough but she is doing a good thing and hope it won't backfire. There is nothing for you to do sorry to say don't be upset.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'covering the elbows and short skirts are in the same category as covering the hair. this is straight foward halachah'

Sources, please?

(I mean real sources, not modern popularizing texts.)

2:50 PM  
Blogger kollel mama said...

Wow loaded post and comments.
The first thing I want to say is, consistency is the key to a well balanced teenager. You must prove that whatever the school wants you agree with. No mixed messages. That is CONFUSING to kids. You gotta work TOGETHER.

"I just worry that by imposing these extra layers of modest dress on herself at an age that is younger than her parents would expect it of her she will burn out on all this modesty at an earlier age than I would like her to"

If you would FORCE modest clothing on her, than yes, maybe. But since it's her own decision she will not burn out or rebel. And you're not IMPOSING anything! It's HER decision, not yours!

All I can say is, trust me on this one. Been there, done that (as the kid) not too long ago.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

I wasn't saying tznius is a chumra. I am saying that making a little girl dress like she's already bas mitzvah is not a healthy thing, or halachah. When the whole sleeves thing was brought up in school last year, in Pre1A, I was told that the rabbi who is principal said it's not halachah, but they're requiring it in school of the 5 year olds -- after Pesach. That's my problem.

I still don't see how anyone can think a little girl who goes to today's right winging yeshivas is "choosing" to dress in long sleeves. She's told to, inappropriately. The schools should say, "When you're older," or "when your parents feel you're ready," not "You must button your cuffs when you're in the playground in first grade."

What happened to being responsible for raising our kids? I haven't handed the reins to the school; I've given them the job of educating her while I'm the one who is mechanech her, raising her with Torah and middos tovos.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Ari said...

I'd also be interested in hearing from "rebba shlita" the halachic sources for covering the elbows and ankles of a pre-teen, and secondly, why that would be on par with the "halacha" of covering one's hair. How specific is the halacha?

As for Dena getting raped because she mingled, well...I know that this explanation is from a commentary with impeccable credentials, but I'd like to think that there were additional reasons outside of her control.

Was she really asking for it? Should we really blame the victim? Or, did she really flout "halacha," and not cover her elbows and ankles?

I'm being a difficult. But I am expressing my ignorance. I understand the custom of modesty...recognize that it is mandatory in some fashion... but i am dubious about how descriptive the Torah, or even classical rabbinical authorities, have been about its particulars.

Educate me. (I mean it)

10:02 PM  
Blogger Kraut said...

ha, ortho, you're just like my real mom; you only listen to part of what i say. but please don't be insulted, i do love my real mom, and you seem ok too.

what i said was that, seemingly, EITHER you have chosen your daughter's school poorly OR you are doing a poor job of explaining to your daughter that the religious outlook of her teachers is neither the final word on the matter nor your own family's custom.

i stand by this observation, which - as indicated by the original "seems" and the current "seemingly" - is just a humble outsider's gut reaction, and not a pronouncement.

indeed, i nowhere suggested or even hinted that "someone can find a school that suits their family's practices to a 'T'" or that a "school should ostensibly be catering to hundreds of families who practice exactly the same way as the administration." your claim to the contrary is nothing more than a rather flimsy "straw man" argument.

best of luck!
kraut

4:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect, in a previous message, you wrote; "Honestly, I don't want to get into a Halachic discussion here, but I'm not really sure that all of the stringencies her school requires are what I even consider to be required by Halacha."
A Jew that considers themselves Shomer Torah Umitzvos LIVES by Halachah - Ki Hem Chayenu Veorech Yamenu!, IN addition, Halacha is not something that is determined by individual considerations..Its not I consider this to be Halacha, you consider this to be Halachah (unless you are Rav Moshe Feinstien or Rav Elyashiv :)
So usually Its like what the Mishna Berurah considers to be the Halacha that we follow... And its pretty easy to look it up if you have a question...
I am sorry if I sound like I am giving you mussar, I also have a lot to work on, but the important thing is not to distort the Torah...We may not be at the level yet, hopefully, one day, we will be, but lets be clear on the emes.

8:00 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...


what i said was that, seemingly, EITHER you have chosen your daughter's school poorly OR you are doing a poor job of explaining to your daughter that the religious outlook of her teachers is neither the final word on the matter nor your own family's custom.


Kraut:

I was responding to the most egregious of your suggestions, but sure, I'll respond to your whole comment if you'd like.
This post is about a dilemma I am facing in regards to my daughter choosing something diferent than the expectation set that I have communicated to her.
Again, to make a suggestion that, based on my post, the situation seems like an either/or situation (EITHER I am doing something wrong in my communication with my daughter, OR I have made an error in choosing her school) shows a woeful lack of understanding of the issues of parenting an older child. Children can be communicated with in the most clear, thought out, and loving manners, and yet, many still choose their own path. Now, while I make clear here my relief that the path my daughter seems to be choosing is not one that is considerably below my expectations, I am addressing the worries that come hand-in-hand with her choosing a more restrictive path.

To reiterate: this has nothing to do with choosing the wrong school (children can get influenced by any number of factors in their lives), nor is it an issue of a lack of communication of our standards (my daughter is well aware that I do not expect her to adopt some of these restrictive standards of dress until her Bat Mitzvah, and why), but a matter of a child's free will, and how far they should be allowed to exercise it.

Hope that clears things up and dismisses your theory of my straw man.

9:03 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, in a previous message, you wrote; "Honestly, I don't want to get into a Halachic discussion here, but I'm not really sure that all of the stringencies her school requires are what I even consider to be required by Halacha."
A Jew that considers themselves Shomer Torah Umitzvos LIVES by Halachah - Ki Hem Chayenu Veorech Yamenu!, IN addition, Halacha is not something that is determined by individual considerations..Its not I consider this to be Halacha, you consider this to be Halachah (unless you are Rav Moshe Feinstien or Rav Elyashiv :)


I addressed this is in comments above. When I say "I consider", I fully mean based on my learnings as well as psak from my Rav.

9:04 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...


As for Dena getting raped because she mingled, well...I know that this explanation is from a commentary with impeccable credentials, but I'd like to think that there were additional reasons outside of her control.

Was she really asking for it? Should we really blame the victim? Or, did she really flout "halacha," and not cover her elbows and ankles?


I agree with you, Ari. I found that remark distasteful as well.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when i was around twelve (i'm 15 now) i took upon myself to only wear sleeves below the elbow & knee socks (I come from a pretty modern orthodox home). I am so happy that I did that and I feel so special. I would not have wantetd my parents to be against that but to encourage the special mitzvah i was taking on. I wouldn't expect my mother to dress like that of course, but I think that you're lucky that she understands the beauty of modesty.

10:03 AM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

ari,
a nice person like you you do not see a lot on the blog universe.
there are two topics so to speak mentioned in gemara kesubas ( i believe) one is called das yehudis and one is called das yisroel.
in these two categories both covering the hear and the elbows amongst other things are included.
now i am not saying a four year old falls under this category, i was mentioning this to the ones it does apply to and that is for sure a girl 12yrs and over. and i am not even getting into the yichud and negiah problems.
as for orthomom ari did not say it was distasteful he even knows of the pirush i quoted. my point from that was and i did write as absord as it sounds, that tznus is a more serious matter and we should not take this lightly no matter what generation we live in.

10:13 AM  
Blogger ifuncused said...

I don't understand the question here. If your daughter is requesting to do something BETTER, why not "humor" her and let her do it. DO NOT put her down or mock her or tell her she is too young to improve herself. That init of itself will lead her to "stray" when she gets older. I think encouragement is needed here. Don't we all want our kids to be better than us anyway?
If she feels that she needs to wear longer sleeves b/c of her friends, why not? Why demand that she wear short sleeves just because she was "brainwashed" by her school. If she wants to wear it assuming you are able to re buy her wardrobe, what are you losing? Are you afraid that she will turn out better than you?
If she does decide that it is too hot to be outside in sleeves up to elbow vs sleeves that are two inches shorter (really, what is the big deal of an inch or so?? so she covers her elbow, buy only 3/4 sleeves!!) Let her go back to her shorter sleeves but help her understand!
Please why are we all getting so upset over a few inches? It is not like we are planning on dressing our daughter in sleeveless and shorts when they are over 5 (are we?) If the argument is whether or not she wants her sleeves to cover her elbow because that is what she is learning...good for her!!
As for the school issue, if you don't like the hashkafah of the school or camp...CHANGE schools and camps!! Don't tell your child that the school is wrong...because when she is older and starts to talk back to the teachers or takes that attitude in life...you will be the one to blame! When my daughter wants to improve herself I am all for it!!

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Ari said...

Thanks, Rebba Shlita. I do understand the concept of rabbonim extrapolating from primary texts like the Torah. I just have difficulty with the specifity involved. Are elbows, toes and knees really that provocative? And if I do find them provocative, why should I assume that others do, too?

And I'm afraid that this overzealous mentality carries over too often into healthy family life, where such things as separate seating for married couples become the norm. We can't compromise on what the Torah explicitly asks us to do, and we need to acknowledge the wisdom of rabbinic authorities, but can I not make a respectful distinction between the two?

As for Dena, Orthomom read me correctly in my doubt that she brought the rape on herself. Now, I wasn't there, and I am not as smart as Rashi, but I think some of the cultural assumptions have influenced commentaries and rabbonim over the years. For instance, the cultural assumptions until recently was that girls didn't need to have formal training in aleph bais, halacha, Torah or hashkafa. I guess I'm saying is that we need to look at some absolutist opinions through the prism of their generation. These days, we understand that it is problematic to blame the victim.

11:44 AM  
Blogger GM said...

I am a new reader to your blog and so far I am enjoying. From reading many of your posts, it is abundantly clear to me is that the schools and camps that you have chosen for you children are “not” in line with your haskafah. I think you need to evaluate the reasons you send your children to their camps/schools and the risks that they pose. I think that sending a mixed message to your children is dangerous. If you tell them that not to listen to their rabbeim/teachers on this issue, then you give them the message that "it is ok to pick and choose", which would be disastrous. I believe that consistency is the best route. Since switching their schools/camps is probably an impossibility, you are probably best off allowing them to continue listening to their rabbeim and teachers and only disagree on issues that you believe are of vital importance for the welfare of your child. I doubt that dressing with more tzenius falls into that category.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous jerusalemom said...

It isn't as simple as that. Many of her peers parents have a more relaxed interpretation than the schools they send their daughters to.

I doubt anything involving tween or teen girls will ever be simple. :)

However, in reality, most of this discussion can really be boiled down to having your parental educational power usurped by your community and/or school. You have certain standards, the school/community have more stringent ones and clearly, your daughter has chosen to go with the community. Since these are the people you consciously chose to surround her and educate her, her choice is hardly surprising. Hurtful and confusing, but not surprising.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I definitely wouldn't pick a battle over this one. I would, as some posters suggested, talk to her about what tznius means to you--all kinds of modesty, and not this ridiculous modern obsession with the body and particular body parts. I also hope that you tell her often and in varied ways that her body is not something to be ashamed of. No part of it.

I'm 26 and when I was about 15 I stopped wearing shorts even though my parents and peers were okay with them. The school was probably not. (I'm an out-of-towner who grew up MO. Out of town, these things are a lot more relaxed.)

3:34 PM  
Anonymous jerusalemom said...

Again, to make a suggestion that, based on my post, the situation seems like an either/or situation (EITHER I am doing something wrong in my communication with my daughter, OR I have made an error in choosing her school) shows a woeful lack of understanding of the issues of parenting an older child. Children can be communicated with in the most clear, thought out, and loving manners, and yet, many still choose their own path. Now, while I make clear here my relief that the path my daughter seems to be choosing is not one that is considerably below my expectations, I am addressing the worries that come hand-in-hand with her choosing a more restrictive path.

I dunno, OM. I think for the most part you seem to be a very self-reflective, self-aware woman but on this issue, I think you're doing a bit of head-in-the-sand. I do agree with the others that this has less to do with "parenting an older child" and more to do with your own choices regarding your children's education.

There seems to be a common thread in many of your posts that your children's school/community does not really match your own. Of course, this is not uncommon and I don't think anybody can be in complete synch with their community.

OTOH, there does seem to be a significant chasm in your case, and I'm wondering why you've made the choice to send your kids to such charedi schools if that's not the lifestyle you've really chosen for yourself. I'm sure there are quite a few fine Jewish schools that take a more openminded approach to many of the issues you've addressed (tzniut, ahavat yisrael, rebbe cards etc) and I'm confused as to why you didn't choose one of them.

4:09 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

I dunno, OM. I think for the most part you seem to be a very self-reflective, self-aware woman but on this issue, I think you're doing a bit of head-in-the-sand. I do agree with the others that this has less to do with "parenting an older child" and more to do with your own choices regarding your children's education.

There seems to be a common thread in many of your posts that your children's school/community does not really match your own. Of course, this is not uncommon and I don't think anybody can be in complete synch with their community.
OTOH, there does seem to be a significant chasm in your case, and I'm wondering why you've made the choice to send your kids to such charedi schools if that's not the lifestyle you've really chosen for yourself. I'm sure there are quite a few fine Jewish schools that take a more openminded approach to many of the issues you've addressed (tzniut, ahavat yisrael, rebbe cards etc) and I'm confused as to why you didn't choose one of them.


I'm not really sure how you have come to this. As I mentioned above a few times over, the majority of parents of my daughter's classmates feel the same way I do about requiring our daughters to follow the school dress code outside of school, at least until they're Bat Mitzvah. And I'm not quite sure how my issues with Rebbe Cards is relevant to the hashkafa of my children's schools being different from mine?? Ditto for the Ahavat Yisrael issue - to imply that a school with a different hashkafa than my children's will have fewer bullies - or that they will teach a different message regarding Megillat Rut - is a bit head-in-the-sand as well.

A school that has a more Modern Orthodox bent still requires their students to wear skirts below the knee to school. If a student were to come home, telling her pants-wearing mother that she no longer wants to wear pants because her teacher taught her that it is not appropriate, would you tell the parents that it's time to find an even MORE modern school - possible a secular school??? This situation is no different, and actually, I see a big anti-Charedi bent in many of the responses I have gotten. I am very happy with where I send my children hashkafically. Do I agree with their schools on every topic?? Of course not. Is that even possible?? Of course not. The reason I have this blog is to vent about the few things I could change if I could. Guess what?? I'm not the only parent in the school. I can't change details about the school that don't grab me right. But I can certainly use my blog as a forum to rant about them.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"

A school that has a more Modern Orthodox bent still requires their students to wear skirts below the knee to school. If a student were to come home, telling her pants-wearing mother that she no longer wants to wear pants because her teacher taught her that it is not appropriate, would you tell the parents that it's time to find an even MORE modern school - possible a secular school??? This situation is no different, and actually, I see a big anti-Charedi bent in many of the responses I have gotten"

Wow. This is why I love bogs. You think you see things clearly, then someone who you would never have a chance to meet "in real life" opens your eyes.

OrthoMom, you are completey correct. I looked at your issue, and my first reaction was "her kids are in the wrong school if they are being told to dress more strictyl inside school than outside". But your point is absolutely true, that this is something that happens in every school, from modern to frummer. And I cant deny now that my initial reaction had some anti-charedi reasons behind it.

Thanks for the eye-opener.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your daughter is learning to make her own decisions. She has not made a bad decision. Let her alone.

Dressing is a complicated skill these days; it sends many messages.

She wants to have boundaries because she is getting to be more of a woman, and knows it. Fine.

Keep an eye on things and offer guidance. Don't be heavy-handed.

I went to Israel, and it was quite hot, and I was all covered, but in loose, light-weight, flowing synthetic fabrics. I looked and felt great, not hot at all. I got a lot of respect. I was also quite fashionable and attractive, but not in a body-revealing way, a chic way. That takes thought, but can be done. I did not spend tons of money on my clothes, either. And they were all washable in the sink.

As said above, pick your fights. There is so much immodesty today. Your daughter has the instincts of a lady; make sure she knows that does NOT mean being a frump or ugly. If you work the fashion angle you will be fine. Every girl and woman wants to be beautiful. If she thinks you are good at that, she will always listen to you. Study up.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Courtney Love/Martha Stewart said...

I agree with others that this is a conformity, not modesty, issue. A concern I have with the focus on extreme "modesty" in dress is that it fetishizes women's bodies. By covering body parts like elbows and collar bones that typically are exposed in this country, you make them more alluring.

I remember the Saudi woman I took a class with in college who only had her eyes uncovered. I spent a lot of time wondering what she looked like behind the veil, but didn't give a second look at the sorority girls dressed for a D.C. summer.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like you would want your daughter to dress this way after Bas Mitzvah, but you think why bother doing it before?

Her teachers have taught her about tznius. Dress codes are part of that. She identifies with it. It's hard to explain to her that she should be tzanua but she doesn't have to keep the halachos. I'm sure you expect her to observe Shabbos completely even though she is not bas mitzvah. Both are restrictions. If she won't burn out on one she'll be fine with the other.

There are many poskim who do say to cover elbows from age 6. and she wants to be machmir like them (whether she realizes this is the root of her decision or not.) This situation could keep coming up for the next ten years or so until she gets married and is in her own home. She may bring home a new chumra every month and you are going to realize it is a chumra. As a parent, I think you have to make her aware it's a chumra (according to your Rav not based on your opinion,) tell her to start bli neder, and tell her not to worry if she feels like backing off because a chumra is only an extra level that we all don't need to do, and that she can't impose her chumros on anyone else. And then don't say "I told you so" if she stops.

It sounds like you are a great mom and you are in for some wild rides the next few years. (I don't have tweens yet so I'm learning vicariously)

8:16 PM  
Anonymous jerusalemom said...

The reason I have this blog is to vent about the few things I could change if I could. Guess what?? I'm not the only parent in the school. I can't change details about the school that don't grab me right. But I can certainly use my blog as a forum to rant about them.

I don't believe I was questioning your reasons for writing this blog, but in that vein, if you don't want to hear responses, you can always turn off the comments section (and I certainly wouldn't make a general invitation of "I would love to hear you weigh in".)


I'm not sure why that the fact that many other parents feel the same way as you your regarding differences in Hashkafa with the school somehow makes them all ok. (It does sound a bit like "All the other kids are doing it") I still don't understand how your kids aren't getting mixed messages.

As for more modern schools, I've known many non-frum parents who've sent their kids to Orthodox schools, and I think it's just as confusing for them as well. I'm not sure what's the difference between learning about Shabbat and Kashrut at school, but not doing them at home and learning certain tznius restrictions and Tanach interpretations at school (that are really reflective of a different lifestyle) and having a mother who doesn't really fully buy into them, except, of cours, in matters of degree.

As an educator, I can tell you straight out that kids pick up on these differences and they don't always react the way you want them to. (ie, your daughter's clothing choices)

You and the other parents might be perfectly fine with living one way and schooling your kids in another. Your kids might not be. Clearly, it remains to be seen, but I think your daughter is letting you know which side she's likely to choose.

From my experiences with chareidim here in Israel, you either buy into the whole lifestyle or not. It will be interesting to see if this American attempt at being "grey" (half buying into it) really works out.

1:10 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...


You and the other parents might be perfectly fine with living one way and schooling your kids in another. Your kids might not be. Clearly, it remains to be seen, but I think your daughter is letting you know which side she's likely to choose.


I find it curious that you consider the choice between expecting a certain standard of Tzniut from out daughters after Bat Mitzvah vs. before Bat Mitzvah is "living one way vs. schooling your kids in another". I can't imagine that most people would find that to be the case.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Kraut said...

Well, Ortho,

I certainly appreciate your considered responses. Though, as might be expected, I still disagree. I see no need to restate my position. Based on the comments, seems like this issue inspires a broad variety of responses.

I would like to add something (in a different vein) similar to what a comment-er wrote above. The last piece of the Talmud Yerushalmi Kiddushin talks about the problem of excessive chumros; something to the effect of "Didn't Hashem give you enough restrictions; you think you need more?" Similar midrash with regard to nazir, who must bring a chatas after his yemai nezirah. The "sin" is abstaining from pleasures that Hashem allowed Jews to enjoy.

Now granted, it is often difficult to define where halachos end and where chumros begin - or when sensible chumros end and excessive chumros begin.

But I think it is a misconception to believe that as long as one veers to the "correct" side - i.e., the more religiously fastidious side - no harm is engendered. Chazal, at least in some cases, believe differently.

The nevi'im seem to believe differently, too. Look at the first perek of Yeshaya - "mah li rov zivchaychem," Hashem asks, "what use do I have for your korbanos," while the poor are oppressed and no one aids the widow and orphans. The whole thrust of nevi'im acharonim is that Israel is too caught up in external "devotion" while neglecting to fix injustice among the people.

So yeah, you've got to deal with this issue one way or another and -in the end - probably let your daughter wear what she wants. But why not try to help your daughter be "frum" in ways that you both wholeheartedly support? Volunteer together for tomechei shabbos, or some other worthy organization. Or commit to giving tzedakah with her every day before dinner. I don't know, obviously you would be best equipped to decide on how to implement this suggestion, if it strikes your fancy.

Anyway, again, best of luck, and I'll make one more (unrelated) point in a separate comment. Sorry for the length of this one,
kraut

1:57 AM  
Blogger Kraut said...

Re: the Dena midrash

This midrash, which seems to originate in Bereishit Rabbah is actually rather astounding in its claim. But it actually is based on a brilliant literary analysis by chazal (who tend to excel at such things). I'll try to explain it briefly but encourage people to look at it on their own.

The midrash suggests that when the Torah says "Va-tetze Dena," it indicates that she was acting immodestly in the same way that her mother Leah acted immodestly. But, the midrash asks, are you saying that both Leah and Dena practiced znus? The midrash, surprisingly, answers in the affirmative.

The midrash then identifies the "va-tetze Dena" with a pasuk that says "vatetze Leah." When does the latter appear? In Bereshis 30:16 - when Leah goes out to tell Yaakov that she has purchased his conjugal rights for the evening from Rachel for the duda'im.

Now, if you look at that episode from a transactional point of view, Leah is - in a sense, according to the midrash (not me!)-practicing znus because she is purchasing the marital rights to Yaakov in exchange for particular goods.

And so, when the midrash notices that only four perakim later, the perek begins "And Dena DAUGHTER OF LEAH WENT OUT," it notes that perhaps there is something of a connection. Indeed, in Shimon and Levi's biting response to Yaakov when he chastises them for killing the inhabitants of the city, they rhetorically ask "shall he treat our sister as a zonah?"

It seems to me that the midrash is subtly suggesting that perhaps Leah is punished for her action by having her daughter be violated.

There are probably other ways to understand this midrash, but i'm pretty convinced of this one.

2:14 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...


So yeah, you've got to deal with this issue one way or another and -in the end - probably let your daughter wear what she wants. But why not try to help your daughter be "frum" in ways that you both wholeheartedly support? Volunteer together for tomechei shabbos, or some other worthy organization. Or commit to giving tzedakah with her every day before dinner. I don't know, obviously you would be best equipped to decide on how to implement this suggestion, if it strikes your fancy.


I appreciate and wholeheartedly agree with this suggestion. We actually pride ourselves on being exactly that type of family - we try to pass a will to do Chesed on to our children by actually doing Chesed with them.

9:00 AM  
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