Blame it on attention seeking. Blame it on the media. Whoever you think is to blame, we can probably all agree that our culture is cruder than it was a generation ago. In our language, our dress, our manners—we’re becoming rougher around the edges every day. How can you raise kids with class in the middle of this mess?
The good news is that it’s still possible. The bad news is that it’s work. But it’s worth it! Teaching your children to hold themselves to a higher standard than many of their peers will require making them accountable for words and deeds which are beneath their own dignity—even if they’re not expressly “against the rules.”
I know that for our kids, one main battle ground is language. The tween culture is to use words that aren’t quite profanity, but that still have bite. Like “freaking” in place of its bigger, badder F-word cousin. Learn how to reign in the pseudo swear words and other lowbrow habits, and encourage your children to be classy kids.
1. Crass language is a slippery slope.
While, on the one hand, I giggle a little internally around moms who forbid words like “stupid” for their younger children, I have to admit that they’re onto something. Kids tend to push the envelope and throw around coarse words that aren’t quite profanity…until they are. Keep them from tripping over the line into truly undesirable speech by setting the standard high in the early years and striving to keep it there.
2. Don’t let the fashion world cheapen your child.
Particularly where girls are concerned, the powers that be in the world of fashion design can make your intelligent, beautiful child with a bright future look like something…less. (If I see one more rack of cut-off denim shorts with a 1-inch inseam, I might just scream. Daisy Duke has left the building, people.) Let her be current without following the trends off a cliff. Interpret them in a way that lets her feel in style without lowering the bar.
3. Teach your sons how to treat a lady.
There’s nothing more impressive in the modern world than a young man who treats ladies of all ages with consideration and respect. Holding doors, offering a seat, offering a hand to a lady descending stairs—these little gestures indicate that he values women and isn’t afraid to show it. Don’t buy into the postfeminist idea that to honor women in this way is in some way sexist. For women who are comfortable in their own skin, it’s a welcome relief from the often cold world.
4. Keep a close eye on the entertainment.
Here’s an observation from the front lines of modern parenting: Reality TV is not our friend. Why? So much of it relies upon crudeness and conflict to gain ratings in the absence of an actual plot narrative. If your kids take in hours of low-rent reality shows where fighting, bleeped-but-obvious cursing and desperate attention seeking are the norm, you’re slowly whittling away at their aversion to such behavior. Don’t let your child grow up confused about the difference between people with cash and people with class.
5. Set the example.
There’s no shortcut here: Kids learn what you model in front of them daily. If they’re from a family that takes the high road, treats others with respect, uses more dignified language, and expects the same of others, they’ll be more inclined to live to a similar standard.
Which areas are toughest for your kids to keep it classy in? How do you handle it?
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.