What about the Boys?

This post is more about questions than about answers.

See this picture?

I took it months ago but every time I look at it, I feel like I’ve been given a glimpse of Big Roo as a teenager. The tousled hair. The deep eyes. His skater shirt. All of it.

And I start thinking.

About boys. And about gentlemen.

I remember two posts about little girls. One from Jill from Scary Mommy and Brittany from Mommy Words. Jill wrote about her daughter sneaking food and claiming certain clothes made her look fat. Brittany wrote a few months back about her daughter thinking she’s not beautiful enough to be a princess.

Both stories punch me in the gut. For a second I said to myself, THANK GAWD I don’t have girls.

But then it hits me.

I have boys.

And as kids grow into tween, teens, college kids and, well, FOREVER AND EVER, boys will be part of the reason that girls will feel like that.

That shoots off a flurry of questions in my brain.

Am I doing the right things so they grow up to be gentlemen? To open doors for a lady, see inner beauty not just outer, be an equal partner in marriage and in parenting?

In the nearer future, what can I do to prevent my boys from calling a girl fat or ugly in the schoolyard? Or from going all Brett Favre on some chick? (shudder) Or from being the college punks who slip girls roofie at a party? (double shudder)

I imagine part of raising gentlemen just happens naturally in good parenting. And I try my best to be a good parent. But I grew up in a house of three girls so I’m learning as I go in the realm of raising boys.

Some things I teach are gender-neutral lessons in just plain being nice. I teach Big Roo to say “please” and “thank you” and to help a teammate up when he or she falls on the soccer field. Kids learn by watching parents too and I’m proud to say that I have a strong marriage. Daddy Roo treats me as an equal partner. He knows that it’s not a “woman’s job” to cook, clean, get the kids to bed or any of that. And he sure as heck doesn’t “babysit” the kids when I go out on a rare girl’s night. He’s their parent not a babysitter.

But etiquette and role models only go so far in a world of peer pressure, especially when it’s fueled by technology and social media.

I don’t have the answers. But I do have lots of questions about raising gentlemen. And given the fact that Jill’s daughter was five and Brittany’s was four, I don’t think these questions are too early to start asking.

I just wanna raise good boys. The ones that will tell others to back off from picking on the shy girl in class. The ones that will make a teenage girl forget all about her latest diet or the acne on her face. The ones that will one day make the love of their lives feel like the most special women in the world.

I just wanna raise gentlemen.

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  1. says

    I’m with you on this. I want my son to be a gentleman. Thankfully my husband and I also have a 50/50 marriage and we don’t play into gender roles either. But yeah, you’re right. Peer pressure is huge. Do you watch “The Big C” on Showtime? I just saw it recently and the teenage boy was with that girl from Precious and his friends suggested that he was sleeping with her and he screamed “NO WAY” in total horror that they’d even suggest he was having sex with a fat girl. The boys laughed. And she, of course, was hurt. It broke my heart and I too thought about my son. I don’t want him to think being with a non-size-6 girl is disgusting or something to be ashamed of. I want him to love people for who they are not what they look like.

    So yeah, I’m with you.

    I just wanna raise a gentleman.
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    • melissa says

      I haven’t watched that show but yeah things like that break my heart too. I know my boys won’t always be perfect but I hope they’ll be able to rise above most of it.

  2. says

    Great questions Melissa. I think about these things too. I think a lot has to do with breaking stereotypical parenting behavior. Not just “should my son play with dolls” but I think society has a habit of treating girls with kid gloves and leaving boys to figure it out on their own. I know I am guilty of this…like when I think about my child’s “first time” I think ok if I have a girl I want to tell her this and this and that…but when I think of boys my list is much shorter. Why? It should be as long if not longer.

    I think taking specific interest in communicating with our boys will go far.
    Andrea (Lil-Kid-Things) recently posted..November!

    • melissa says

      Good points! Since I didn’t grow up with a brother, I think I’m really at a loss. I’m sure I’ll figure it out as I go along… at least I hope so!

  3. says

    I’m right there with ya, girl! There’s a lot of pressure, we’re raising the ‘future leaders’ here! :)

    If I come across any encouraging inspiration, I’ll send it your way. In the meantime,I think you’re on the right track setting a good example in your own home life.

  4. says

    My only child being a girl, I had never thought of the other side. Now I have a grandSON. Those questions have crossed my mind too. It’s a little scary.
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  5. says

    Believe me I have all the same questions about Miles! (and Jill has 2 little men too so I’m sure she does too). Boys have so much to learn about life too and I think the earlier we start talking to them the better. I think its hard because as mommas we are worried about losing our little men some day but also about riaising boys who are too attached their mommas. I have thrown this out the window and I’m hoping and believing that giving the same love and care to Miles will teach him the same skills and care I am teaching his sisters. I know it will be hard for our kids to make the right decisions as they get older but to actively engage with our boys as well our girls can only be a good thing.

    Great post and great questions.

    This was typed right after hubs sent me a picture of Miles and Sophia in full princess garb. Hehe – no gender rules here!
    Brittany at Mommy Words recently posted..The Princess and the Pea and Fairy Tales…and a Cat

    • melissa says

      haha- I have a pic of Big Roo in my niece’s fairy costume. Good times!

      I agree that I’m not worried about raising mama’s boys. I think boys who are shown love will only know better how to give it to others!

  6. says

    I think you are– and that you will, raise gentlemen. Just by recognizing everything you wrote, you are on your way. I hope I’m doing the same thing. Right now, Lily is certainly seen as an equal in my boys’ eyes, so I suppose that’s a start. It’s all tough!

    • melissa says

      Thanks for the sweet words. Yes, it’s tough no matter what! I think we’ll get far just by simply teaching the golden rule— do unto others… That applies to everything.

  7. says

    I am right there with you. What I have found is that my husband’s influence is greater than mine. My sons learns from his manners and actions. From my husband they will learn how to treat women with love, kindness, and respect. It’s much more effective when he points out gender injustices around than when I do. My husband is the one constantly telling the boys that there are no such thing as “boy” and “girl” colors and that the only thing girls can’t do that boys can is pee standing up. We want to raise gentlemen who also treat women equally. Basically, I just don’t want to raise assholes.

    • melissa says

      You make a good point. They will probably learn so much by watching how their daddy’s show affection, more than we can ever see on the surface. And as I said on Twitter, thanks for giving me an alternate title. :-) No assholes here.

  8. says

    god – what an awesome post – I also read both those blogs and had the same reaction….thank god I have a boy. I’m a single mom and I often wonder if he’ll have a different type of angle on things as growing up in a household without a male figure. Will he be more sensitive, better able to respond to women…then I think – ACK I’m dropping the same stereotypes! I think we recognize it and do the best we can!
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  9. says

    This is such a great post. I’m the mom to a 5 year old boy, and I work in sex crimes and family violence. So, I worry, how do I raise a child not to do those things. To be polite. To respect women. It is hard. Thank you for writing this.

    • melissa says

      You’re welcome! I just see so many things on the news about so-and-so boys did this and did that and it’s hard not to picture what their parents are thinking.

  10. says

    EXCELLENT POST! I have a little gentleman of my own and I think about these things all the time. You articulated it very well–I just want him to be a good boy.
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  11. says

    It’s nice to hear a mother speak of the value of boys. As a mother to two myself, it’s something on my mind constantly. My husband and I are trying to raise little gentlemen, future men, who will respect women, but more importantly, themselves.

    Maybe this is just my perspective because I’m not raising a daughter as well, but are girls being taught to treasure men as well? That most aren’t assholes who will put roofies in their drink? That most will be supportive partners in whatever endeavor they should choose? That should they open a door for a girl as I am teaching them to do, will they be lectured with “I can do it myself because girls can do anything and I find your gesture to be chauvenistic and condescending”?

    I promise, as a mom to two little men, I’m doing all I can to make sure my boys will be gentlemen. But are future women being taught to appreciate it, or to expect it, then blow off its value?

    Sorry for the heavy comment. Obviously a hot button for me : ) What about the boys for sure.
    Ash recently posted..It’s Nancy and a drinking game – two of my favorite things!

    • melissa says

      Such GREAT questions, Ash. It’s definitely a two-way street. I don’t have the answers but you’ve definitely got me thinking!

  12. says

    Oh man. I so know what you mean. I have two boys and a girl. So I worry about both sides. Makes me want to go buy a farm in Montana and homeschool!

  13. says

    I forever stress about how the hell I will make these two boys great. I’ve seen good little boys go bad too and it seems at times no fault of their parents either. Sometimes I feel like we can do our best but its really up to them to make the right decisions. Regardless, we have put recent emphasis on making good character choices (being polite, saying hello to ppl, caring about your family & sib, thinking about others, etc). Its a shot in the dark to ingrain something good in them. One day at a time and many many prayerful whispers that they will be good boys that turn out good afterall.
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  14. says

    I tried to get to my comment before I posted it, but comments from iPhones make me want to jump in front of a bus. Anyway, I meant to put in the first sentence that respecting themselves is just as important as respecting girls. I feel like a lot of the violence towards women is based on the man’s own disgust for himself, taking out his frustrations and anger for his own world on someone viewed as “weaker.”

    Hope that makes sense. My 4-year-old son doesn’t know I’m championing him.
    Ash recently posted..It’s Nancy and a drinking game – two of my favorite things!

    • melissa says

      Another great point! I think so much of the way people in general behave is due to their own insecurities. It seems that being a gentlemen will come naturally to those who learn to love themselves for who they are, practice the golden rule, etc.

  15. says

    You seem like you are doing a fabulous job already! I have a little girl, and I worry about how she will be treated as she grows older. At the same time, I want to instill self-confidence and self-reliance in her so that she is capable of being strong, even when others try to bring her down. Kids learn by example, and the fact that you and your husband have such an awesome parenting situation will teach your boys all that they need to be gentlemen. Having an interested and present (and definitely positive) male in the home will provide your little ones with an excellent example of what it means to be not only a gentleman, but a true MAN.
    From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for what you are doing. I hope that many other parents can read your post to see what they can do to raise the gentlemen of the future. Big hugs to you!

    • melissa says

      Thank you for such a sweet comment. Really made my day (back on the 4th when I actually read it and today when I’m finally replying!).

  16. says

    My goal is to teach my boys to be empathetic and to respect all other people. I don’t think I’ll specifically need to teach them not to slip girls roofies, you know? I’m not really sure about the whole “gentlemen” thing… why not open doors for ALL people if you get there first. Why just women?

    I think politeness is something easy to demonstrate and teach, so it’s good to start there. As they get older and can understand more complexities of socialization and relationships, I will make sure we take the opportunity to discuss these life situations in depth.
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    • melissa says

      I hear ya. I was just using those as examples. I sure hope my son would open a door for anyone. I really think if everyone would just abide by the golden rule we’d all be better off. Wish it were that simple!

  17. says

    I’ve also often thought I dodged a bullet by having 2 boys, but you’re right, it’s a whole other set of issues. I am a big believer in learning by example. We don’t talk a lot about how we look or our weight or things like that. I don’t want my sons growing up judging girls by their appearance. I was thrilled when my 4y.o. said he liked playing with a certain little girl because he “liked the way she laughed.” I think he’s off to a good start.
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  18. says

    I agree 100%. I want my son to respect all girls and be a gentleman. I hope that his father and I can set the same examples that you and your husband are setting for your sons.

  19. says

    Wow, now you got me thinking about this. I’m just trying to get my introverted and wildly active boy to look his teacher in the eye when asking a question or not fidget while waiting his turn in karate class. All the while, he has to keep up with his extremely extroverted twin sister. I’m hoping that having a twin of the opposite gender will go a long way in teaching him to give the respect that he would want anyone to give to her. But I do think I have my work cut out for me on both fronts. Thanks for such a thoughtful post. And thanks to Brittany for tweeting about your page. I’m glad I found it.
    Grateful Twin Mom recently posted..Boredom- a Boy- and a Roll of Foil

    • melissa says

      Thanks for stopping by! I imagine you’re right in that having an extroverted sister will definitely work in his favor! Boys, girls… it’s all tough isn’t it?!

  20. says

    My too! I want boys that respect women and love them for who they are on the inside.

    I do tell my boys almost weekly that they need to marry someone: stable, smart, good with money and kind. When my son was 4 he asked, “Can she be pretty??” I assured him yes, as long as she had all those other qualities too.

    So I guess I am trying to point out to them that noticing more then looks is what is really important.

    They already are pretty kind and respectful and polite. But at 12,10 and 5 they all still have a long way to go!
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    • melissa says

      That’s a good way to approach it. I hope my son will look beyond good looks too and appreciate a girl for who she is. Got a while to worry about it, but it’s still something to ponder!

  21. says

    I was the only boy in a house full of girls so I learned a lot about girls that many of my friends didn’t. I also had a father who repeatedly impressed upon me that someone would treat my sisters the same way that I was treating the girls I knew/hung out with/dated.

    It made an impact upon me.

    As a father of a son and daughter I am very cognizant about this. I want my daughter to be safe and to be treated well. But I also want my son to receive the same courtesy and respect.

    Sometimes I question if that is extended to our sons with the same effort as it is to our daughters.
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    • melissa says

      I wonder that too. Another commenter posted that sometimes boys are just tossed out into the world to figure it out on their own. Glad to see you weren’t and what an impact it made. Thanks for a male perspective– I really enjoyed your comment!

  22. says

    my boy is only 18 months but i think about this too. a lot! i wonder how you do it exactly, or is it only that you have to do the wrong thing to get the un-gentlemanly result?

    i think your relationship with daddy roo and daddy roo’s relationship with you will teach them what it means to be a gentleman. not that it doesn’t require verbalizing from time to time, but actions are louder than words and they’ll see it all.

    makes you appreciate your own parents all the more.

  23. says

    I never it looked at it like that before…I have been telling my 2 yro for the past year that he needs to be gentle with girls in regards to my 1 yro niece but I never really got it…

    My son could potentially be the reason some young girl is crying herself to sleep at night…

    Really good post.

  24. says

    Oh, I know…I know. I think of this daily with my own son. He is 5 and is really coming into his “boyness”. He’s a sweet kid but like you said, how do we ensure he becomes a gentleman? I currently struggle with allowing him to be a boy in all his glory and tempering that with reminders about manners, kindness, and empathy. It’s hard.

    I grew up in a house of 5 girls…so I’m with you on that one too.

    Plus, I have a 3 year old daughter. So I worry on both counts.

    BTW, that is such an adorable picture of your little boy.
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  25. says

    You know…I think about this often as well. Two boys. Twice the worry. Twice the gentlemens I hope and yearn for them to be. Then I remember their daddy. The most romantic, caring, gentleman…who still opens doors for me and surprises me with out of the blue coffee runs, and I realize they’ll be alright….just look at their dad.

    Great post!

  26. says

    Hi there – Great post and great question. As a dad of two boys – 8 and 3 I have seen my fair share of dads, who completely disrespect their wives even in front of their children. I just shudder at the example their providing for their kids, especially their boys.

    If we want our sons to be gentleman, as dads we need to act like gentleman and be good role models.

    Secondly, we need to form a relationship with our boys so that when they get into social circles that disrespect women we can steer them away.

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    • melissa says

      Man, it ticks me off to hear that you’ve witnessed that. I imagine they don’t realize the impact it’s having. You said it perfectly here: “If we want our sons to be gentleman, as dads we need to act like gentleman and be good role models.”

      I totally agree! Thanks for a male perspective on this!

  27. says

    My boys are 8 and 7 years old, and I struggle with this as well..their in school now, learning the cirriculum, and who know what else! So everyday I ask them about their day, and it makes me smile when one of them reports that a friend was picking on someone else, and they stood up for the person that was being picked on…that alone lets me know that even though they can be rambunctious boys, and sometimes act a little selfish, that in the long run they are getting it! Good Luck with your journey!!

  28. says

    Such a great post. I’ve been having a hard time summarizing to myself what my goals are for my son. Being a gentleman is the perfect way to describe it.

    Here’s to a world full of gentlemen, if we get our way!

  29. Larry says

    Boys are fun and I have 2 sweet boys. 5 and 10 they are the breath of joy for each day I am with them. I am recently divorced and have come to the conclusion that Women are never happy. I teach my boys to respect others, and teach them at church that its not just me that says to live a life of morality, but God wants that also and the reasons for that. I play a game of give to them. If they do something caring, polite, helpful, unselfish but they cant tell me about it. I have to see it or their brother will tell me about it. then I will give them a quarter that they put in their zip bag. then at the end of the month if they get 10 quarters or more they earn $20. its better than giving them allowance. it instills in them that these qualities are rewarding and they are understanding that. Lets all raise good boys, I love mine so much ! IM an active dad in my sons life’s.

  30. says

    love, love, love this post. i am hoping to raise two gentlemen as well. love everything you said. i, too, have a great husband who sounds like how you described yours. i think this is HUGE for young boys to model after, someone who respects their mom and pitches in and hangs out/not babysits. well put.
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