How do you teach your son to be a gentleman without crossing the line and suffering retribution? Here are five ways to do it.
t I take my kids to Walt Disney World a lot. They believe in the beauty of princesses who find their Prince Charming and hold fast to dreams that come true when you wish upon a star — and I’m happy that my kids do. At least they love love. They see it every day when my husband and I affectionately embrace, and at least my son knows that a man is supposed to be a true gentleman who loves and adores a woman and does not mistreat her by being abusive. I also appreciate that my son wants to be a little Prince Charming — a real gentleman — but I don’t want him to be hurt because he’s an affectionate kid.
t That’s why I’m a little bit dismayed by a recent story about a little boy from Colorado who got in trouble for giving a girl he liked a kiss on the hand.
t It’s never OK for a person to force his or her sexual desires upon an unwilling person, but when a 6-year-old boy is suspended from school for kissing a classmate on the hand, it would seem to be a case of school policy gone mad.
t Many people would think that a boy kissing a girl on the hand is rather charming. If the attention is unwanted, that certainly needs to be addressed, but not by putting the term “sexual harassment” in the boy’s permanent school file. How do you do that to a 6-year-old?
t Sexual harassment is a very big term being used to describe the actions of a very little boy. Let’s face it: The actions and thoughts of a 13- or 14-year-old are different from those of a 6-year-old — and yet, that record and that term are going to follow this little boy for his entire school career. In fact, he exhibited typical behavior for a 6-year-old, and he shouldn’t suffer for a lifetime because of a moment of age-appropriate indiscretion.
t So how do you teach your son to be a gentleman but not cross the line and suffer retribution? Here are five ways to do it.
t Boys are less verbal than girls, says Michael Gurian, a family therapist and author of The Wonder of Boys. He says that when teaching gentlemanly behaviors, you should incorporate three senses — sight, touch and sound — to get your message across. A multisensory approach usually leads to greater success in learning. This can be especially true for boys, who may benefit from teaching methods like putting written material on an overhead projector and then reading it verbally, tracing letters on a form while looking at them and also speaking them aloud. Gurian explains that boys are hardwired to possess certain traits. For example, because of male brain chemistry and the hormone testosterone, boys are apt to relish risk taking and be physically aggressive and competitive.
t My husband always says he was the kid who stood up for the kids who were being bullied. If you want your son to have empathy and compassion, then teach him to feel for others. According to BabyCenter.com, kids don’t have the cognitive skills to truly understand the concept of empathy until they’re 8 or 9, so it’s key to teach boys compassion early on. Since boys aren’t quick to talk out their issues, you should encourage your son to share his feelings. When reading a story, ask him how he thinks a character is feeling. In the Colorado boy’s case, perhaps teaching him empathy would have helped him understand that his advances were unacceptable because they made the little girl feel uncomfortable.
t Opening a door for others and pulling out chairs are practices that will never get old. Teach your son to be a gentleman by showing a little chivalry. Have him pull out your chair and give him the task of opening the door for his lovely lady (Mommy). And saying please and thank-you goes a long way. You’ll cultivate a kinder and gentler kid if you teach him to nicely ask for what he wants.
Teach about charity
t Turn your kid into a gentleman by having him give from the heart. Teach your son to give unto others by having him pick out some of the toys he no longer plays with and then taking him to a homeless shelter where he can donate the toys. Through giving, you can teach your child that his actions — whether kind or mean, good or bad — affect people in some way. But being kind goes much further than being mean, while being mean means trouble. He’ll learn that it matters how he makes others feel.
t If an ambulance whizzes by with its sirens blazing, take that moment to say, “I hope whoever is in there is OK.” Show sensitivity. It will open up your son to caring for the well-being of others, not just of those in his immediate circle and his own world. Be concerned and you’ll soon see that he, too, will start to embrace the world and the workings of those around him.
t Once you teach your son how to be a gentleman, he’ll be armed with the tools he needs to grow up to be a knight in shining armor.
5 Books for boys on being a gentleman
- Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems (Amazon, $18)
- What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak (Amazon, $7)
- The Berenstain Bears Say Please and Thank You by Jan and Mike Berenstain (Amazon, $13)
- Not Me! by Nicola Killen (Amazon, $14)
- Emily Post’s Table Manners for Kids by Cindy Post Senning, Peggy Post and Steve Bjorkman (Amazon, $8 [Kindle only])