Who is a gentleman?
Is he a man who gallantly opens doors for women, and offers his seat for the elderly on the bus? Yes, a gentleman is definitely that…but also so much more. In a world where sexual assault is common and the cultural acceptance of the objectification of women seems to be norm, to find a man who may be considered a gentleman is a rare. And while we may have little control over how the grown men around us behave, we can raise our boys to be a generation of men we can be proud of. Let’s not allow our society’s gentlemen to go extinct.
It all starts in the home. As moms, we play a vital role in the formation of our sons. Here are a few pointers on how to raise our sons to become the gentlemen the world needs them to be.
1. Encourage empathy. Develop in your son a sensitivity towards the feelings of others, by first teaching him how to process his own emotions. Ask him questions like “How do you feel?” If he is able to answer, “I feel sad,” you can then ask him, “why?” Once is able to identify his own emotions, you can then take this a step further by asking him questions about how his actions affect others..in other words, how his actions make others feel. This knowledge will influence the decisions that he will make in the future.
2. Teach him how to listen. Teaching a child how to listen also teaches the child that the thoughts and opinions of others matter. Gently correct him when he interrupts you while you are speaking and explain the importance of why he must listen and allow others to finish what they are saying. He will learn that listening, and waiting for one’s turn is a sign of respect and love.
3. Correct with promptness and with love. A big teaching the right behavior is helping our children their less desirable (and less charming) behavior. Nip it in the bud, they say. Children must to be corrected as soon as the bad behavior takes place because delaying the teaching moment may cause the child to a.) fail to understand the gravity of the situation b.) forget what happened altogether. Remember to correct in private so as not to embarrass your son. Shame will only traumatize, and not educate.
4. Teach him the basics. Start small, by teaching them how to say please and thank you, and greetings such as good morning, good afternoon and goodnight. And then you can introduce table manners such as “no elbows on the table” or “no talking while chewing/chewing with one’s mouth closed.” Manners will teach them how to consider the feelings of others which will eventually prepare them for having a general attitude and inclination to put the needs of others before their own.
5. Everyday is an opportunity for teaching. The most important lessons in life are not taught in the classroom. Use natural situations to teach them the basics on good behavior, so that they will also know how to use what they are taught when the opportunities present themselves.
6. Set an example. Children are keen observers of the behavior of those around them. Practice what you preach (and often!) because actions speak much louder than words. As someone your child admires and respects, your testimony will inspire your child to mimic your positive behavior act the same way.
7. Affirm positive behavior. Your boys are more likely to repeat positive behavior if they are praised for it. If your son is able to apply what he is taught, reinforce this by saying “Good job son, thank you for ________________.” Remember to be very specific about the behavior your are praising so that he knows exactly what he is getting attention for.
8. Teach him how to put the needs of others first. Teach him by example to put the needs of others first by encouraging him to give up his seat, open doors, and allow others to go before him in line. These opportunities to be a gentleman will eventually carry over into other situations as well, especially when he is able to form these as habits and derive his own satisfaction from being chivalrous.
9. Expose him to positive role models. Allow your son to spend time with men you trust. While his father must be his foremost role model, it will also help that he has older friends, mentors, teachers, or even coaches who will model for him what an authentic testimony of what it means to be a gentleman looks like.
10. Give him mountains to climb. Nothing builds character quite like obstacles. Whether it be in the form of competitive sports or physical challenges such as hiking and deep sea diving, encourage him to develop his willpower as a muscle, because he will use this same muscle for moments when he will make the difficult decisions do what he must, and not just what he wants.
The hope for the next generation of men is in our hands.
What kind of values do you teach your sons? Share your experiences and tips on teaching in the comments section below.