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Teen mom’s photo of little boy goes viral for all the right reasons

When former 16 and Pregnant star Nikkole Paulun posted a Facebook photo of her 6-year-old son counting money on a mother-son dinner date, she was not at all prepared for the responses she would receive.

Here’s a hint: It was overwhelming. On Jan. 1, Paulun, mother to 6-year-old Lyle and 2-month-old Ellie living in Monroe, Michigan, posted a sweet story with an accompanying photo to her Facebook page — Paulun regularly takes Lyle out for dinner dates so she can teach him how to handle money and treat women with respect. As Paulun explains, she instructs Lyle to open doors for her, pull out her chair, engage in conversation, pay with his own money earned from chores and even tip the server.

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Paulun says that her motivation in teaching her son how to respect women at a young age comes from her own experience of abuse and disrespect from men in the past.

Considering that her post quickly went viral with almost 3 million likes and close to 500,000 shares already, it’s unsurprising to see a fair amount of Internet hate woven in with the positive comments in support of Paulun’s parenting. Paulun received plenty of praise for teaching her son respect and responsibility at a young age, though many commenters pointed out that her lesson was skewed.

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While we can’t discount the fact that Paulun deserves credit for putting so much effort into her parenting, there’s a shred of truth to what these commenters are saying. It’s critically important for kids to learn respect and responsibility, but money management and dating lessons apply to all kids — whether a boy or a girl.

First, the money. If you have ever worked in the service industry before, then you know how poorly treated (and badly tipped) most servers are. And there’s also a common saying: “If you want to see someone’s true character, just watch how they treat the wait staff.” The point is, every child should be brought up to respect and tip people in the service industry (with a 20 percent tip minimum, for the record). Many of these kids are going to work in fast food or restaurants at least once in their lives, and teaching kids to treat people well in the real world is one of the most basic of life skills. Financial experts also recommend using teachable moments like this to help kids understand the value of money as early as kindergarten.

More: Smart strategies for teaching kids about managing money

Now, on to point number two: dating. Admittedly, this is a much stickier topic when you are trying to teach rudimentary dating principles and respect to a child in elementary school, but it’s still a great place to start — Paulun is on the right track. However, living in our modern world where feminism is becoming the norm and an estimated 10 percent of the population is gay, we are doing our kids a disservice if we present them with such a limited boy-meets-girl picture.

There are several ways a modern date could go down, and these are all scenarios that our children need to know about at an age-appropriate level. A girl could earn her own money and choose to split the bill, or she might decide to pay for the entire date herself. It’s also possible that a young boy or girl may grow up to prefer dating people of the same sex, who deserve to be treated with the same care and respect on a date.

Paulun’s lesson for her young son is a powerful one, which is exactly why it’s going viral, but it’s much more open-ended than it seems. Our kids need to know how to manage money, respect themselves and respect others — regardless of their gender or future sexual orientation. Teaching our kids these principles without limits is one of the best ways to build kindness and character.

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