What’s a gentleman? Jill Rigby Garner, founder of Manners of the Heart whose mission is to reawaken respect in society for the next generation, puts it best. “A true gentleman is a humble warrior who puts the needs of others ahead of his wants. A man with a strong moral compass who will defend the defenseless and stand up for the right. A man who protects his family,” she explains.
Garner goes on to emphasize the most important heart attribute you can instill in your young gentleman in training, and that is respect. She explains, “An attitude of respect is the foundation of being a true gentleman.”
The initial picture that floats into my mind is Captain America with his shield in hand ready to defend anyone in need. As I think about it more though, I realized that he was willing to do that before the super soldier serum even flowed through his veins. While he was just a young, scrawny kid from Brooklyn, Steve Rogers displayed the markings of a true gentleman: honor, courage, kindness, respect, compassion, and a true genuine heart for others.
You do not need to be the tallest or the strongest individual in the room. You need only a heart for others, and that is something that can be modeled to young boys, so they can hopefully one day blossom into men.
A PARENT’S ROLE
When it comes to raising a boy to become a gentleman, it is imperative that parents lead by example. How a father treats others, how he speaks to his wife, how he treats his kids; young boys see all of this, and they will imitate it. That is why it is so vital that good manners and respect be taught from a young age.
Garner expresses, “A boy with a kind heart becomes a man with a good heart. Teaching young boys how to treat girls and ladies with respect enables them to restrain from inappropriate behavior as they mature. Well-developed manners in the early years become the foundation for morals in the teen years.”
Something as simple as teaching three year olds to put their toys away so no one trips over them shows how their actions affect others and helps develop a perspective of living that is centered around others and not just themselves.
A mother must also encourage her son to be a gentleman towards herself and to others. Grandparents as well have a role to play. The truth is, it is a family effort. Not only does it teach boys what it means to be a gentleman, but it also teaches girls what kind of man to seek when she is looking for a husband. A father should model that by how he treats his own wife.
PRACTICAL LESSONS TO TEACH
There are many practical lessons that parents can teach their young boys.
- Speaking to anyone who enters the room.
- Putting down electronic devices to look someone in the eye who is talking to you.
- Greeting store clerks and asking, “How’s your day?”
- Opening car doors for ladies.
- Pulling out chairs to seat ladies and rising when a lady approaches the table or leaves the table.
- Offering his help to those with their hands full.
- Respecting others the way you want to be respected.
- Saying, “Have a good day,” when leaving someone’s presence.
- Being a good listener.
- Being mindful of foul language.
At Manners of the Heart, two attributes are instilled into children: gentle and gracious. Speaking and acting with tenderness while being courteous, understanding, and generous in all situations are things that boys learn by looking for ways to be helpful. As parents, you must give children opportunities like this, and you must raise them in a way where they look forward to and delight at opportunities to help others.
You can never have too many gentlemen in the world. If there were a plethora of gentlemen out in the world willing to put the needs of others ahead of their own, the world would be a safer place for everyone.