I am the mother of three boys, ages three, five and eight. They are constantly pushing each other around and fighting to be first at whatever they do. I feel like I’m a general in the army that has to go around shouting orders all the time. Any ideas to help me get some piece of mind?

Are your sons gentlemen? It’s a word that we don’t use too often these days. The way we raise our boys today will determine the types of men that we have in our society in a decade or so. With more equality for woman and girls, we are now asking less of our young men and boys. Each day I see boys, and girls too for that matter, that are not held accountable for their actions. The older I get the more it scares me. All parents need to teach courtesy, manners and respect for others as a life skill.

Some might argue that, “ladies first,” is a phrase from the past. Maybe so, but as a parent and teacher, nothing pleases me more than seeing a boy with manners. Proper courtesy to others is a reflection of a family’s values. Teaching manners instills both a respect for others (including siblings), and respect for oneself, which in turn will help alleviate the impetuous behavior you describe. Do your sons practice the behaviors listed below? If not, perhaps it’s time to teach them these:

1. Open the door for others, especially women, mothers with strollers and older people;

2. Shake hands and look people in the eye when greeting them;

3. Assist seniors (grandparents, etc.) with getting in or out of the car and carrying groceries;

4. Take off hats during the National Anthem (any country’s) and Pledge of Allegiance;

5. Know not to interrupt adults or peers when they are talking and instead listen and have respect for what others have to say, even if they have a different point of view;

6. Accept responsibility for actions, good and bad, and;

7. Use “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” as appropriate.

Good manners should be an unconditional parental expectation. The best way to teach manners is to model them daily yourself. Although children often learn best by emulating what they see, it’s also important to make clear what your expectations are. Don’t wait for misbehavior to tell your boys what you expect, tell them when things are calm, tell them when they are alone, and tell them as a group. Without “nagging,” tell them often, and praise them when they exhibit good manners. Children want attention and will strive to get it. As you notice and praise one of the boys when you catch them doing the right thing, the others will catch on. If they get more attention when they are praised than when they are corrected, the good behavior will become the norm.

Of course all of the above goes for girls too. Although when they get older they’ll appreciate, “ladies first.” You can count on it!

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  • I am the mother of three boys as well, ages 10, 7, and 4. As I type this it’s raining outside and my boys are playing balloon volleyball in the living room. Never a dull moment! I consistently call my sons “gentlemen” when I’m talking with them. I find they live up to the label because it is announced often. They are expected to say please, thank you and excuse me whenever possible. They are also expected to apologize, own their behavior, and above all, be respectful. All that said, my boys love to wrestle and are all over each other like puppies a lot of the time. I spend most of my days helping them to become fabulous men, like their father; I also save some time for them just to be boys and wrestle and jump all over each other. They just need it. I find it’s all about balance. I let them go at it if they can be reined in quickly and the location is private -as long as they know what’s appropriate and what’s out of control. Kind of like what the volleyball game has escalated to -balloon punching. Gotta go steer this activity on the right direction! Great post about helping boys become the men we all deserve.

  • Thanks for these tips. Far too many parents are more worried about their toddlers reading than they are about teaching manners and socializing.

  • I don’t think it has to be that with more gender equality we have to ask less of our young men and boys, though it is obviously having an impact. Like you said, courtesy, manners, and respect are valuable life skills for everyone.

    I like your list, but I’m torn about the whole “ladies first” thing. While it is something I practice, I’m not sure if it is something that needs to be taught to future generations. Why not “everyone else first”?

    For the first item on your list, I don’t think “especially women” needs to be on there. I think we need to show this respect and courtesy that we hold in higher esteem for women, to everyone. I would still put emphasis on going the extra distance for the elderly, pregnant women, those with strollers, etc…). But then I feel a little hypocritical for saying get rid of “ladies first” but keep special consideration for these other folk. *shrug*

    But again, I don’t practice what I’m preaching above. I’m still a “ladies first” kinda guy, and that’s not likely to change.

  • 8.Respond to directions/questions with respect using “Ma’am” or “Sir”. Good practice no matter who they are talking with, peers or elders. I know it was expected of me, as was opening doors for ladies, and I expect it from my children.

  • Totally agree with everything in that post! I do want to add that I believe the “ladies first” thing is a good thing even now. Our boys ought to learn to respect everyone, but many times men have to work more at “loving their wives” as the Bible teaches. That’s why you see God reminding them of this and you don’t see him having to tell women to “love their husbands” because it usually comes naturally that we women want to please our husbands. Men and women are just different that way. I just think that teaching our boys to especially treat women with love and tender care is important, especially if they get married one day. Women are more sensative to affection and when you teach your boys to treat women with great respect and care, you teach them to get used to thinking more that way too. My husband grew up with his dad, and although my husband is a wonderful guy and I love him dearly, he never learned really how very different women are than men and how to treat them accordingly. There are so many things he’s had to learn about being affectionate, and how to deal with my emotions, because he is just wired differently than me and never had a mom around to teach him and his dad certainly didn’t!

    And I don’t care how “independant” some women may be, deep down every women likes it when a gentleman opens the door for her! :)

    So anyway, that’s my view on it, I hope it made sense!

  • I’m the mom of two sons, 15 and 18 and they are both gentlemen now.

    When they were little, however, they were little balls of terror.

    It was a consistent plan of constant guidance and correction that resulted in the kind young men I now have. I remember pulling them off an elevator once by the scruffs of their necks because they rushed in, nearly toppling a couple trying to exit the car. Let the people who wish to leave get out before you push your way in.

    When my youngest was an infant, I was struggling to push his stroller through a heavy door when some woman quite literally stepped over the wheels to get through the door first. My oldest ran after her, shouting at her “Say scuse me to my mommy!”

    I was quite proud of that.

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  • That’s excellent advice, Maggie. I have neglected the shaking hand/eye contact rule, but I will definitely get right on that.

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