It’s not that I can’t get to the serving dish on the top shelf. I could – if I want to take the time to drag the step ladder into the kitchen and climb up and down. It’s not that I’m incapable of pumping my own gas on a cold and rainy evening, opening the jar of sauce when the lid is too tight, or carrying out the trash. I could do all those things – or I can give my son practice in the art of chivalry.
In the Middle Ages, chivalry was the methods of training and standards of behavior for knights. Among other things, the code of chivalry emphasized bravery, honor, generosity, and courtesy to women. Many boys glean these skills from watching other chivalrous men. But what if there is not a man to teach your boys how to be a knight in shining armor? There are a few things moms can do to train him to be gentlemanlike.
- Set expectations.
It isn’t weak to teach your sons they should look out for you. My boys know I’m a strong woman. They also know I expect them to be a protector of women and to treat ladies with honor and gentleness. When we understand the roles God gives men and women, we can confidently raise sons who understand their position of strength.
- Give them opportunity to practice chivalry.
When I need something that seems like “man’s work,” I usually call for one of my sons – not because I’m incapable, but because I want to train them to be men of valor and fortitude. I’ve asked my older boys to shovel snowy sidewalks for me, chase a mouse in the garage or even help wash my car. My younger sons are encouraged to hold the door for me or carry a bag from the car. Each time they practice this kind of courtesy toward me, they are practicing to be considerate husbands and fathers someday.
- Acknowledge their efforts.
Men crave respect like women crave love. When my younger sons empty the dryer I affirm their efforts, “Thank you for helping me with that chore. You showed great kindness to me.” When my teenagers climb high up the ladders to take down Christmas lights I make note of their work by saying something like “Guys, thank you for taking care of that. You know I don’t like to go up on the ladder and I appreciate how fearless you are.” Honor and respect their efforts to care for you.
- Reinforce what you want to see recur.
Thanking them in private is good, but try acknowledging acts of courage, strength and compassion in front of other people and your young knight will be intrinsically motivated to continue – without being asked. Once I praised my son in front of another man for standing outside on a cold night to pump gas for me. I made him feel respected and appreciated for his courteous act toward me. (I’ve never had to pump my own gas again.)
Teaching our sons to be strong men begins when they are very young. As moms we can raise the level of expectation for our boys and teach them to be chivalrous toward women in everyday life. Your future daughters-in-law and granddaughters will someday thank you!
About Kim Heinecke
Kim Heinecke wants to live in a world where children listen to the advice of their mothers without question. As a former single mom she’s been encouraging women using her life experiences in parenting, growing in the Word of God and everything in between. When she’s not negotiating with a teenager or wrestling a pre-schooler, you can find her camping in the family RV or pretending to understand sports with her husband and four sons. Read more from Kim at www.TheMomExperiment.com.