How Do You Raise Gentlemen In This Aggressive World?

03/03/2017 09:10 am ET Updated May 14, 2017

You know a gentleman when you see him. And I’m not talking Pierce Brosnan in a dinner jacket. I’ve seen scruffy dudes in jeans and beards who were gentlemen. I’ve seen rich guys in expensive suits that could use a refresher course.

As a mom of sons, I’m very conscious of raising good men. Lately, I’ve wondered what goes into making a gentleman. For me, its these four traits…

Kindness – I can’t help but feel pride when I see my boys capture an insect indoors and set it free outside. I know, maybe its hokey and I understand bug-phobia and revulsion. (I’ll also admit houseflies and ants don’t get this same level of amnesty). But run-of-the-mill spiders and moths? Why not?

My sons have seen their mother do it all their lives. I like how they do the same. Small an act as this is, for me it speaks to them becoming gentlemen. They see how all life has value, from the tiniest to the mightiest.

Respect for Women – Years ago, I’d cringe when I’d hear a mother say of her young son (usually with a hint of pride), “Johnny won’t play with girls.”

I wanted to tell this woman she’s not doing her boy any favors encouraging this belief he’s superior. He’ll always need women for love and support. He’ll encounter female doctors, lawyers, and someday may have a female President. A misogynist attitude will only hinder his journey in life. It might even affect his most precious relationships with wife and daughters.

For me, she’s teaching him the opposite of being a gentleman. She’s teaching him that females are “the other.”

I love the fact both my sons have always had female friends. These young women are confidantes, concert buddies, and many times, fellow artists and musicians. They’re treated with respect, as equals.

In some ways, I think this generation has an easier time, since gender roles aren’t so rigid. How wonderful for them. I believe this can only help.

Affection – Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing a father only shake hands with his son, as if real touch is for sissies. On the other hand, I love seeing a grown man kiss his father on the cheek, like my brother used to do with my late father. I love how my husband Randy has always encouraged hugs with his sons.

What a wonderful lesson to give young men. Affection is a sign of openness, warmth, and sometimes vulnerability. It’s healthy and human.

I see certain politicians (*cough*) and wonder about their upbringing. Were they given any affection as children? Were they allowed to express any emotional need?

I’m no psychologist, but I wonder what that does to males. I wonder if boys who grow up starved for touch grow into men who have trouble expressing any tenderness. Touch becomes only sexual. Women are there for conquest, conduits for unmet (and no doubt, subconscious) needs.

And if you go through life like that, always on the prowl, you’ll never be a gentleman. Instead, you’re a hunter. A true gentleman cherishes all a woman has to offer – mind, body and spirit.

Openness – My husband Randy can never get in a taxi without learning the driver’s life history. He jokes around and is curious with all, including waiters, mailmen and cashiers. He sees and honors the humanity in everyone. He’s quick to smile and laugh. For me, that’s being a gentleman.

What a great lesson to give our sons. Besides teaching them basic manners, they’ve learned to be open and friendly to the world, not fenced off by race, creed or religion. I’ve always believed if there are no built-in enemies to life, it’s an easier, even happier, existence.

Let’s face it. The world’s scary and I admit, I get spooked. Now more than ever, we need gentle men, not bullies and aggressors.

And who’s better qualified to teach these softer virtues than mothers? Then again, who better to show how to navigate this world as gentlemen than fathers? What better place is there to raise good men than starting at home?

Today, I feel urgency more than ever. I see adorable baby boys in strollers, in pictures on Facebook and next to me in supermarkets. It’s exciting. We have a new generation of males to make this right, to not only raise good brothers, sons, and fathers, but something even better.

We have a chance to raise more gentlemen…even if they’re scruffy dudes in jeans.

Laurie Stone writes from the woods of Easton, CT. Her blog, “Musings, Rants & Scribbles” shares thoughts on growing up, older, and (hopefully) wiser. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

CONVERSATIONS