Eduardo García believes that modern men can be gentlemen, and that modern women can raise their sons that way.
The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.
The Good Men Project has a lot of female readers, considering that it’s a site dedicated to men’s issues. It’s great that there are so many women who care about men so deeply, and it’s those women I want to address in this article. In other words, I’m taking a break from ranting to the guys about their obligations to ladies.
Today I come to tell you about what you can do for men and for society; starting with your sons. Regular readers might know me as the Caballero who tries to sell men on old-fashioned ideals of chivalry and gender oriented duties of gentlemanly behavior. Interestingly, most women have reacted in a rather positive way to my quest for a rebirth of a Modern Gentleman, a set of New Gallantry ideals, creating a Contemporary Cavalier, for Being Caballero.
In particular, I have talked to many women, especially single mothers, who have told me how they would love to have their sons behave more like gentlemen, but feel powerless to make that happen. They have also told me how they feel it’s a challenge to model that behavior if their boys don’t have a strong male role model around. Also, many women are challenging restrictive female gender roles, and want to avoid imposing restrictive male gender roles onto their own sons.
The truth is, we all have a responsibility to be role models to those around us. As a child, I was taught to be a gentleman and to show decent manners, mostly by the efforts (and some threats) of my mother and my aunt, so it’s not something that only men can teach. On the contrary, as women you can give your boys the female perspective no man can properly give. You are the first impression your sons will have of how a woman is supposed to be and on how they are supposed to treat a lady.
Here’s a thought experiment: think of the last few exes you’ve had in your life, and recall every time you thought to yourself that they had no idea how to treat a woman. Now consider that your exes have mothers themselves; mothers who could have taught them the manners you wished they’d known. So you must ask yourself: will you be the mother whose sons the next generation of ladies will complain about?
I am not saying that good mothering will guarantee a good man. It’s up to them to actually become one. Also remember that after you are done raising your boy, the rest of the world has to deal with them. Most of the comments below will be generalizations to one degree or another. Some are about learned behavior and some are about social chains that can actually be broken. Good kids can come from bad parents and bad kids can come from good parents. With all that cleared up, let’s look at five things you can do increase your chances of raising a proper gentlemen.
1) Teach them to respect women by respecting yourself. You are the first example your son will have of what a woman is. In simple terms, if you’re a lady, they’ll recognize one when they see her. That’s true no matter what being a lady means to you.
Do you take care of yourself in a manner that makes you respect yourself, or are you ashamed of what you see in the mirror? If you want your boys to learn good grooming and taste, you should model it for them, not push it on them. How can you tell them to clean up their room if your own room looks like an episode of Hoarders? If you expect them to act a certain way, you have to set the example.
Maybe it’s time to start giving yourself some love. Between life and kids, parents forget about themselves. I know that you have enough on your plate, but you know deep down that kids learn more from your actions than from your advice. You have to treat yourself right, take care of yourself, and try to create some order and stability in your life. Self-respect and self-love are contagious, but so is self-loathing.
Remember that these ideas apply to all other personal behavior. Are you modeling healthy relationship dynamics for them, or are they seeing choices you’re not proud of? Do you swear like a trucker? Are you authoritarian? Had your third beer by noon? They will take your behavior and attitude as the norm for women, and might actually seek out women like that. Ask yourself: are you the kind of person you’d like him to bring home as your new daughter-in-law?
2) Teach them how to treat a woman by how you let them treat you. Do your boys raise their voice to you or swear in front of you? Do they make sexist or degrading comments about women in your presence? Do they have tasteless posters objectifying women in their room; a room that is in your house? Have you laughed any of this off with “boys will be boys”? If you said yes to any of these questions, you’re not contributing to making a world with more gentlemen in it. Everything you let them get away with is what they will expect other women to put up with. Teach them to respect you as a woman and as their mother.
Remember, it is your home, and they have to abide by your rules. As much as you love your kids, you know that one day they’ll move out to create their own space, sooner or later. And that space will be modeled, for good or ill, on what they’ve learned from you.
Let them know that you are not their maid or personal chef. Make them realize that being part of a household means contributing to it. Teach them about the chores of having a home, and their obligations of being part of a family. Teach them how to cook for themselves and how to take care of their own clothing. Again, ever had an ex who couldn’t even make his own sandwich or clean his own underwear? Do you want to inflict that guy on the next generation of women? Too many men move out from living with their mothers, thinking that their girlfriend or wife will take up your role. Teach them independence and self-reliance.
3) Teach them how woman should be treated by how you let men treat you. Your current partner or the kind of men you date will influence your boy’s behavior. If you are with a man that ignores and neglects you, the kid will see that that’s normal, and may do the same with their future partners. If your spouse abuses you, verbally or physically, stop reading this, get out, and look for help. (Here is the link for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Gentlemen, this link works for you too if you are being abused. Abusive behavior does not discriminate by gender) If you stay in that relationship (please don’t), your sons will learn that abuse is acceptable behavior and might even think that this is how you show women love. Insist on respect and attention from your partner. Insist on them treating you like a lady. Whatever way your partner treats you, be it well or badly, your sons will view this as what women ought to expect or what women actually seek in a man.
4) Teach them how men should be treated by how you treat your partner. Take a minute and look at how you treat your current partner and your past partners. The same way I mentioned you might forget about paying attention to yourself because of life, you might end up doing the same to your partner. You might not have noticed just how you treat them, or might have noticed and don’t really care. Try to dismiss your immediate reasons as to why you act the way you do and think about it this way: if some girl treated your son the same way, would you think badly of her? As I mentioned in item three, whatever way you treat your partner, be it well or badly, your sons will view this as how a woman will treat him during a relationship. Again, what kind of daughter-in-law do you want?
5) Show that you are not dependent on a man. Never stay with a man because you can’t be on your own. Teach your children that women are self-reliant; teach them that no woman will stay with them just because they are the “man” in the relationship. Teach them that a partner is just that, a partner. Boys have to learn that if they treat a woman badly, that woman can just leave! Men who see their partners as dependent tend to stop appreciating them because they are convinced they can’t lose them.
Understanding that a strong woman is self-reliant will teach your sons to avoid women who might be looking for a “sponsor” for their lifestyle. They will stop being intimidated by powerful and independent women, and will actually seek them out. Women everywhere, especially your future daughter-in-law, will appreciate your teaching them this vital lesson.