When we raise our sons as gentlemen, we are giving them a powerful rulebook to guide them through life. Being a gentleman teaches a boy three important lessons in life:
o How to honour their masculinity and manliness
o How to treat other people with respect and courtesy
o How to be build a character to be proud of
It may seem an old fashioned concept, yet raising our sons to be gentlemen is as important a part of being a parent as teaching them right from wrong. It means teaching our sons to be courageous and considerate; to protect, not abuse; and to choose solid values to live by, rather than the poor values promoted in the media.
How Do We Teach Our Sons to be Gentlemen?
As parents, we need to both model and teach our boys how to be gentlemen. It won’t happen accidentally – we need to deliberately teach the qualities we want our boys to display.
1. The first step is to realise that our sons are watching the way we treat each other, so be kind and respectful towards each other. Manners are both “caught” and “taught” as children observe their parents showing courtesy and kindness to each other. So, mums, let your husband open the car door for you!
2. Teach boys to have a respectful attitude towards others. The rule you are teaching them is to ‘treat others as they would like to be treated’. Encourage them to greet people with a handshake and a smile; to always say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ instead of ‘huh?'; to not use words that could offend the listener, such as swear words (I tell my son that swear words were invented for times of extreme pain or emotion – if he chops off his finger with an axe, then he can swear all he likes!). Gentlemen are also courageous enough to apologise when they have hurt someone so teach them to say ‘I’m sorry’.
3. Teach boys the many little gestures of respect and courtesy that they can show towards women, such as opening doors and pulling out chairs at the dinner table. Although there was a period where women felt it was condescending, today most women recognise that it is just a way of showing respect and kindness. By teaching our boys these little gestures from an early age, we are inculcating an attitude of respect towards women which will last a lifetime. Here is a list of courtesies we can start teaching our boys:
o Always open car doors for your mum
o Always pull out a chair for your mother before sitting at the table
o Always stand up and offer your seat to women or old people, whether in a waiting room or on a bus
o Always offer to carry packages for your mum
o If a lady drops something, pick it up for her
o Always stand up when a lady enters the room, when she leaves the table or when you are introduced to her.
4. Limit the media that your son is exposed to, as many of the messages objectify women or encourage bad behaviour. Teach your son to be critical instead of blindly accepting the media messages being given. Talk with them about the scenes in TV shows, commercials and music that depict males as crass and women as deserving of disrespect.
5. Teach our boys to have the courage to accept responsibility for their actions, good or bad. A boy can learn to be proud of himself, even when he has done something wrong, if he has learned that you will respect him for owning up to his mistake.
6. Give boys a code of conduct. Teach them that real men don’t lie, steal, cheat or bully their way through life. Show them that real men act with dignity and respect – for themselves and others.
7. Teach boys to honour their masculinity and manliness. Teach them that their strength and courage is to be used to protect women and the weak. Teach them that boys NEVER hit or hurt a girl, but instead always protect them from harm. Teach them to look out for the weaker child in the class, to speak out when someone is being bullied, and to have the courage to say no when they are being pressured into doing something they know is wrong.
8. Develop a habit of reading stories of brave men who act with kindness and honour. This will allow them to imagine themselves as such men one day.
Little boys become teens and teens turn into men. By teaching our sons to be gentlemen from an early age, we are arming them with the skills and knowledge they need to confident, good men that they – and we- can be proud of.