Love and Relationships

The Art of Raising Wild Boys into Gentlemen

Being the oldest in a family of five girls, I had serious doubts about my ability to raise a son when I saw the evidence of a boy on my sonogram. There were five girls and no boys in our family. There was no shortage of Barbies, ponytails, and bras in our house.

Don’t get me wrong. We were not girly girls. We were soccer-loving, worm-digging, free spirits. Still, when I had my first son, I was a little unsure of the logistics of raising little boys. I quickly learned where all of those boy stereotypes came from. Boys really ARE made of snips and snails, and puppy dog’s tails.

One thing is for sure: I love being a boy mom. I love the ridiculous amount of energy and enthusiasm for life that my two sons have. It’s fascinating to me that if they see anything taller than them, they can’t physically resist the urge to climb it. I admire that walking is too slow of a pace for them. It is fascinating to me that if I offered them a million dollars or a pile of dirt, they would, without a doubt, choose the mud pile.

Sure, it is challenging to not lose my temper when I find them taking apart our remote controller to ‘see how it works’, or to constantly explain that every tree is NOT, in fact, their personal bathroom. It can be exhausting to constantly feel like a referee at a wrestling match; but, I admire their wild energy and fierce curiosity.

My goal was to learn how to focus their energy in positive ways and guide them. Call me old-fashioned, but I want to raise my two sons to be classic, little gentlemen who are confident enough to listen to their hearts; and, these are the 7 simple, day-to-day values I am instilling in them.

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1) Gentlemen Hold doors for everyone

This sounds like common sense, but unfortunately, it no longer is. In this fast-paced world, I feel like this common courtesy is slowly dying. I can’t believe how many times the person in front of me slides through a door, leaving it to slam in my face because they are either in too much of a hurry or they are too focused on their phones to even notice.

When we are out, we always encourage my 7-year-old son to hold the door open for his family and other people. I giggle when I see him roll his eyes at grocery stores when a parade of 10 people walk through the door while he holds it. Sometimes it is a little forced, but he glows when people thank him. I am hoping that if we keep at it, it will be instilled in him to always look behind him and politely hold the door open.

2) Congratulate your opponents

I can’t take all of the credit for this one. My sons play several sports that require him to shake hands with the other team or opponent before and after the game or match -most notably, wrestling. After a wrestling match, the referee asks the two competitors to shake hands, and then they each shake the hands of the opponent’s coach. It is a fantastic show of sportsmanship.

My husband has taken this to another level. He asks my son to personally approach his opponent after a match to tell him “good job”. Although it is still good sportsmanship, when my son has won his match this is easy for him. It is when he loses and he congratulates his opponent that he is truly building character. This teaches our little guy the meaning of hard work and kindness (even when things don’t go your way).

Whether it is after a board game, a spelling bee, or a sporting event, it is important to encourage your young sons to be a good sport. They will always experience loss in their life, and this is a crucial part of learning to do the right thing.

3) Eat dinner with your family

We’ve all heard that sitting down to eat dinner with the family is a very important part of the day. It is a time to turn off distractions and make time to interact.

For us, this time of the day is less about eating, and more a symbolic reminder that family comes first. Often, my kids are busy playing outside with friends when dinner time approaches. They know that this is a time when we all sit together. After dinner, we all run in separate ways to get to sporting events, Girl Scouts, or play dates; however, that dinner routine reminds us of the importance of family.

In my mind, putting family first is a great way to be a role model for your young boys.

4) Look out for the younger and weaker

I want my sons to be the type to stand up to a bully when they see someone getting picked on. Through conversation, we encourage our sons to speak up if they see someone getting bullied.

Recently, my son intervened when someone was bullying his younger sister. He was proud to come home and tell us that he protected her and advised a teacher. My husband and I were secretly proud that we instilled this protective trait in our son, and that he had the confidence to act on it.

5) Gentlemen Let Others go first

I will most likely get criticized for this old-fashioned mindset, but we try to teach our sons to let others go first- especially girls. I want them to grow up being the kind of men who are respectful to girls and women, and I think this has to start at a young age.

My 7-year-old is in the “girls have cooties” phase; but, we still have discussions with him about treating his sister and other girls with respect. Although this is still a bit of a forced behavior, if we continue to talk about the importance of good manners, he will have no choice but to listen.

6) Say sorry if you are wrong

Let’s face it, kids fight. Kids argue. Heck, I have seen my kids get into a WWE brawl over who gets the last Reese’s Cup. After an argument, disagreement, or a headlock, we force an apology. I use the word “force” because sometimes it is as natural as a unicorn pooping chocolate. Both kids think they are right, and neither wants to admit they are at fault.

I am all for letting kids work out their own problems; but, as parents, we sometimes need to step in and guide them. Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and get used to what it feels like to apologize earnestly.

7) Don’t be afraid to be yourself

This is the most important lesson of all to teach our sons. I see my son battling pressures that I never had to. Boys can be quick to bully and laugh at other kids. Whether your son is silly, shy, feminine, or reserved – encourage them to be their true self. Teach them to love their personality.

Join in the activities they love, and be a part of their daily lives. A confident child is rarely a bully.

Final Thoughts on Raising Boys to be Gentlemen

If you met my 2 sons, would you call them perfect gentlemen? HECK.NO.

But it is up to us, as parents, to shape our children. I want to look back knowing that I did everything I could to raise my sons into respectful gentlemen.

Boys can sometimes seem like destructive little energizer bunnies, but if you start instilling these values in them at a young age, they will shine through as they grow up. Give them the tools to be kind, yet confident – and listen to their hearts.

If you love them fiercely and teach them to be strong, you will undoubtedly raise respectful, confident men.

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