Raising a Gentleman
Rhett Butler will always and forever be the epitome of Southern Gentility. As a Southerner, I had planned for my son to also be Southern Gentleman. However, flash forward 17 years… my non-conformist teenager has never fit a mold and I decided a long time ago that it was okay. He marches to his own drumbeat and as long as he is kind and considerate to others, that has mattered more to me than forcing him to wear stereotypical shoes that weren’t a proper fit. At our house, it isn’t about being a Southern Gentleman. It’s about being a Gentleman. Period. Because what does Southern matter? Isn’t being kind and considerate to others the ultimate goal for any parent, no matter which geographic region they happen to live in? Manners matter and they will never go out of style (despite our media suggesting otherwise!) The way a man acts, the way he responds to various challenges, and the way he treats others is something that should be engrained at an early age. These are the things that can help to shape a gentleman.
Still, parents are often fighting an uphill battle between the lessons they want to teach and outside influences. For instance, the simple matter of holding open a door for a lady. I know plenty of grown men who are afraid to do this for fear of unleashing some feminist wrath. However, I expect it from my son. I think the majority still prefer this small gesture. If he should ever inadvertently cross paths with someone who feels otherwise, then, I hope he will have the graciousness to simply walk away.
Other gentlemanly behaviors I expect my son to embrace:
Being on time. This is just a matter of being polite, whether you’re a man or a woman. Everyone has those occasions where no matter what, they are late for an event or appointment. But it should be the exception rather than the rule. Chronic lateness sends the message that “my time is more important than yours.”
Respect opinions that you don’t agree with. Everyone has a right to their own opinion and a disagreement in viewpoints isn’t an invitation to name call and finger point. One of the greatest strengths is the ability to walk away, even believing you are right.
If you see someone who needs a helping hand, then lend one. Whether it’s someone who can’t reach something on a shelf in the grocery store or it’s someone who is struggling to carry a heavy load, offer assistance.
Demonstrate compassion and empathy. Having feelings isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s an indicator that you’re human. Showing other people that their feelings are valid and understood go such a long way.
Don’t play games or use people. Boys have a bit of an unfair reputation for using others, especially where girls are concerned. I say it’s unfair because the truth is that girls can be just as guilty. But a gentleman doesn’t give any opportunities for people to make this assumption about them. They are forthright, honest, and kind. They live by the motto of treating others the way they want to be treated.
Get out of your car and ring the doorbell. I would snatch my son bald if I learned he had picked up his girlfriend with the honk of a car horn or sending a text message. If she’s important enough for you to spend your evening with, get your butt out of the car and ring her doorbell.
Call when you say you’re going to call. It’s a pretty well established fact that girls are more talkative than boys, but if you’ve made a promise to call, then do it.
Watch your language. These days, people drop four letter words like they are nothing, no matter who is within earshot. Be mindful of your surroundings and just watch your mouth. There are millions of other words to use. Pick another one.
Make eye contact with a woman. She’s not a piece of meat and a gentleman knows how to look her in the eye for a conversation.
Dress for the occasion. I know that this generation loves their t-shirts (what’s not to love?) But have some pieces in your wardrobe that can be used for more formal occasions and at least one suit and tie. There are some occasions for which a t-shirt or casual attire is simply not appropriate, such as a wedding, a funeral, or even a job interview!
Being a gentleman isn’t assuming that women are the weaker sex. The truth is that women are capable of opening their own doors and carrying their own luggage. But making the effort is a way to demonstrate your respect, not your dominance. These tiny little life skills and gestures will carry any man far and he will be recognized as a true gentleman. Whether he’s from the South or not.