When I dated my husband for the first time I felt like a queen. He opened every door, pulled out my chair at dinner, and walked me to my door. By the end of the night I was in love. He smiled and listened as I talked away, asking polite questions that told me he really was listening. My friends told me to watch out, it would stop when we were married. This worried me, until I met his mother. I realized she expected her boys to be gentlemen, and they in turn became gentlemen because of this expectation.
After we were married it didn't stop. Thirteen years later, he still insists on opening my door, carrying my bags and listening respectfully as I tell him about my day.
One of my goals as a mother is to teach my boys to be gentlemen and my girls to expect boys to be gentlemen.
Here are some tips to help you teach your little gentlemen.
Expect your boys to act like a gentlemen, and to treat you like a lady. This does not mean expect perfection, it means expect them to try. Boys old enough to mimic behavior can be included in this. Our four-year-old loves to open mom's door, and says, “Ladies first,” when we dish out ice cream. When I am walking into a store with my 10-year-old son, I stop outside the door and wait for him to open it. This simple act has taught him to show respect to other women. I catch him opening doors for his grandmother, strangers and girls at school. When you reward a boy for acting like a gentlemen, you will be amazed at how he can rise to the occasion.
Expect and allow your husband to treat you like a gentlemen. This may be more of a team effort. Talk to your husband and make a plan for showing your sons gentlemen-like behavior by example. It has been said, “If you want to know how your future husband will treat you, watch how he treats his mother.” Boys learn this behavior by watching their fathers. Dads are a boys idol. Allow your husband to open your doors, hold your bags and be a gentlemen to your daughters. Not only will this give your boys a great example, it will teach your girls to expect a boy to act like a gentlemen. This can make all the difference when she starts dating.
Explain to your sons how to be a gentlemen. Don't be in such a hurry you can't allow time for a teaching moment. The best way to learn is by doing. When you drop something, ask your son to pick it up and then congratulate him on being a gentlemen. When you're out with the family, instruct your daughters to sit for a moment in the car while their father opens the door for them. Explain to them the value of a gentlemen.
When boys are ready to date, expect them to be gentlemen at all times — even when they are with friends. Teenage boys can lose their minds around girls, but don't allow them to loose themselves completely. Give him gentle course corrections, and guidance, by watching how he treat his friends and dates. Explain to him the value of being a gentlemen, and how much respect he shows when he acts accordingly.
Teach your daughters to allow men to be gentlemen. This needs to be taught by example. When I was first married I remember several occasions I didn't allow my husband his gentlemanly right to open the door. Later he explained the feeling of frustration he had. This was his gift to me and by not allowing him the opportunity, I was refusing his offering. This explanation helped me understand him a little better. I use it to teach my daughter the value of letting her father, brothers or dates be gentlemen at all times.
Teaching your sons to be gentleman can be fun. Teach your girls to enjoy being treated like royalty. This may seem of small worth to some, but when you teach this value to your sons and daughters it will bring a little more order, peace and respect to your home.
Shannon and Erin are a mother and daughter with lots of children and Utah and Oregon roots.