Of course, we want our kids to have class. That is to say: A strong sense of decency and taste, restraint and grace, with a set of values that have become virtues by virtue of having consistently lived those values. The question is: How do you teach this? How do you pass on this sort of ineffable, effortless sense of self?
Well, one thing is for sure, you don’t do it the way this mother, quoted in a recent New York Times profile of her daughter, tried to do it. The mother explained part of her process like this:
“We’d drive by a group of older girls, and I’d say, ‘Ok, Sarah, which girl do you think has class?’ She would say, ‘The girl in the red dress’ or something. I’d say: ‘You’re going to be standing in that circle one day. Which girl do you want to be?’”
Can you think of a worse way to teach a child how to embody class and dignity and grace? No, can you think of a worse way to teach them how to be the best version of themselves, the person they were meant to become? There is no dignity in judging others by superficial standards. There is no class in comparison. If anything, it’s classism!
Comparison is the thief of joy. Judge not lest you be judged. There is a reason we have these aphorisms–they are hard won wisdom. But comparison steals more than just joy, especially from youth. It steals their sense of self, just as judging steals one’s humanity. Teaching a child to compare themselves to others is quite literally the most classless thing you can do, because class—*real class—*is knowing who you are and living your life as the fullest version of that person no matter what ‘the girl in the red dress’ has to say about it. Real class is something that allows you to transcend any group or social situation, to remain fully yourself no matter who you’re around or what is happening around you.
Like all the things we’ve talked about here, class isn’t taught. It’s modeled to our children in how we act. So is, as this distasteful example proves, a lack of real class. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have damaged the woman profiled in this New York Times piece–she is a successful, dynamic entrepreneur. She became who she was meant to be…but we can bet she won’t be doing anything like that exercise with her own children. And neither should you.