what is the halacha regarding tznius for a 4 year old?when do i have to stop letting my daughter stop wearing short sleeves?pants?
There is a halachic basis for it from the age of three. The rules for modest dress are based on the requirements for davening. The Chofetz Chaim rules that a man cannot daven in front of a girl who is at least three years old if she is not dressed modestly. The Chazon Ish disagrees. He permits men to daven in front of little girls who come to shul in sleeveless dresses, as long as their physical development cannot be viewed as “feminine” (he does not use that word, but that is what I think he means) and liable to cause sinful thoughts in a man. Three-year-old girls do not usually fit into that category. It is possible for a five-year-old girl to already look like a girl as apposed to looking like a baby (where boys and girls look very similar). Such a girl would have to dress modestly even when no one is davening around her.
Another issue is chinuch, which can be isolated from the requirements of halochoh. Even if a five-year-old is not required to dress in a completely modest way, developing a bad attitude towards tznius and dress is liable to affect her style as an adult. Although a five-year-old girl is allowed to wear slacks, for example, she is usually aware by that age that adult women do not dress that way; therefore, it may not be a wise parenting decision to allow it. The message conveyed is that this clothing is appropriate but becomes prohibited as she grows up. It is unhealthy to raise Jewish children to think that the Torah forbids things that are appropriate for us. It is more educationally sound to dress a young girl in keeping with the rules she would follow as an adult, so that she learns what is appropriate. If the girl is so young (three years old, for example) that she would not take much notice of how she is dressed, you can dress her as you like. This depends on how socially precocious the child is. For instance, a mother may buy flashy clothing for her little girl even if the mother would not feel comfortable wearing it, if the flashiness will go right over the girl’s head and she will not appreciate the difference between this type of outfit and another.