From Little Boys to Gentlemen

I was a junior in college working at a grocery store. I remember leaving work on a hot summer day, and I found red roses on my car. I had never had a boyfriend treat me with such chivalry.

He would open the car door for me EVERY time. And, y’all … I hate to admit this — I asked him not to because I wanted to be treated equally. I just can’t even.

Holds head in shame.

Oh, how I wish I could turn back the clock! I twisted his chivalry in my mind and convinced myself it meant I was unequal or too delicate. Even though I had mental issues, I knew he was a keeper. So, I married him.

Sixteen years later, here we are teaching our seven-year-old son to have chivalrous old-fashioned qualities. We want to raise a gentleman who will:

  • See a girl’s heart, not just her figure;
  • Follow through on the integrity of his words, not make empty promises;
  • Truly care for others, not have selfish ambitions;
  • Work hard and model financial responsibility, not just getting by; and
  • Treat everyone equally, not ever showing disrespect.

Here are six things we’re doing now to raise a gentleman:

Look at the Heart
We discuss girls who are showing lots of skin (in real life and on screens). One day, our son was playing a car-racing arcade game at a kid-friendly restaurant. He came to me and whispered, “There is a girl on the screen only wearing a bikini.” Sure enough, she was holding the sign (barely dressed) for the finish line. I’m so glad a red flag went off when he saw too much skin because it is slowly preparing him for the day he is exposed to porn (the average age of first exposure is 11). I want to teach him there’s so much more to a girl than her figure. Of course there will be physical attraction to girls and that is normal, but I want him to know there’s so much more to respect and adore. As he gets older, I’ll talk with him more specifically about what it means to look at her heart.

*By the way, I have much more open communication with my second child at a younger age. I’m learning as I go. If you missed my post on the parenting mistake I wish I could redo, click here.

Keep Commitments
When he signs up, he has to finish. Every sport. Every activity. You can model this in your own life. My son has definitely heard me say, “I really don’t want to do this, but I made a commitment.”

Put Ladies First
This is so simple to incorporate into everyday life. When we’re having pizza, my husband will say, “Girls first. Let them get their slices first.” Model this in everything, and it will be engrained in his behavior.

Teach Chivalry
When he was little, my son held the door open for an elderly couple at a restaurant. As soon I saw him, I said, “Wow, sweetie, you’re such a gentleman.” He beamed. You can’t go wrong with positive reinforcement. It encourages repeat behavior. Now, there are times when I’m waiting on him because he won’t stop holding the door!

Model Empathy
Volunteer. Teach him to respect and be sensitive to others. Recently, my son had a friend whose dog died. We talked about how awful it must’ve felt. Then, my son came up with the idea to make him a card.

Teach Money Management
For us, our kids earn a small allowance (if they don’t complete chores, then no money). They divide their earnings into 10% giving, 10% saving and 80% spending. Most banks have free savings accounts for kids. Let him buy a mutual fund or stock with $20 and see how it can grow slowly over time. Show your son when you’re giving to a charity. Talk to him about why you’re donating money. A great resource for financial management is

What would you add? If you have good references/resources for raising little boys, please provide them in the comment section below. My favorite book so far is by Dannah Gresh, “Six Ways to Keep the ‘Good’ in your Boy”.

The Parenting Mistake I Wish I Could Redo

The preschool years were tough. Every day was SO lonnnnnggggg. No time for showers, no sleep at night. That depression diagnosis sent me down a deep, dark hole I didn’t think I’d ever escape.

So, when my oldest started school, I could breathe … a little. They were bathing themselves, brushing their own teeth (greatest gift EVER) and I was thinking … Aaaahhh, I survived. I actually started painting my toenails again.

Then, I got lazy. Or, I just didn’t know what to do next.

Fourth grade hit. Questions, asked in innocence, about sex, drugs and bad words started flying. I even had to Google some of them (ex. Meow Meow drug she learned about at recess).

I knew I had missed something as a mom. The tween years hit, and I wasn’t prepared. It’s the parenting mistake I wish I could redo.

Most people define the tween group around ages 8-12. Here are four things I wish I had done differently:

When my child was between the ages of 5-7, I would’ve read these books by Dannah Gresh:

“Six Ways to Keep the ‘Little’ in your Girl” and “Six Ways to Keep the ‘Good’ in your Boy”

I would’ve created more open communication.

I would’ve set a precedent in my family that it’s a safe place for any topic of discussion, especially starting in kindergarten. Talk about everything with no embarrassment. Now, we have a set time at dinner for our conversations. It has become routine. No technology. TV is off. Here are some starter questions:

  • Did you hear any new words that you don’t know the meaning of?
    (*Don’t freak out if you get the F-bomb. Calmly explain what it means and that it’s a word we don’t use.)
  • What made you happy, sad, excited or scared today?
  • Was there any drama?
  • Who got in trouble?

Nothing is off-limits. Here’s our only rule: what is SAID at the dinner table, STAYS at the dinner table.
image13I would’ve set technology standards before the tween years.

I would’ve set parental controls when they started using technology. That way, it’s common practice to need a password for sites. Apple products offer great parental restrictions. Go to Settings/General/Restrictions, “Enable Restrictions” — you can set your music to clean (instead of explicit), PG for movies, etc.

For social media, I would’ve specified the rules before she asked. Most social media sites are prohibited for kids under 13, but most of them do not ask for a birthdate when opening an account.

I would’ve built a bigger support group of other tween parents.

There are many times I’ve felt like I’m the only mom saying “no.” It helps to know I’m not alone. Build a community of moms you trust. Have a mentor with grown children (who turned out great) and call them for advice.

I’ve started a group called “MomTalk” in San Antonio. We also have a closed Facebook group (so you don’t have to be in my town to be involved). Comment below with your email address for additional information.

 **This has been approved by my tween. I don’t share anything about her without her permission.

Now, it’s your turn. What else would you recommend to prepare for the tween years?

Open Communication with Kids

I remember those long days. Sanitizing bottles. Changing diapers. Mastitis. NO SLEEP. Depression diagnosis.

That stage was brutal.

Now, my kids are in elementary school; I have different challenges as a mom. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is:

There is this small window between kindergarten and middle school where our kids still think we’re cool. They value our opinion. They listen. They emulate us. And, they’re learning to function in the world.

These years give us an opportunity to lay the foundation for open communication with our kids.

If it’s common practice for our kids to talk with us in elementary school, it will be their gut reaction to seek our opinion when they’re older.

So, we have to be available at any moment for any question.

Here are some of the most important conversations we’ve covered:

  • “Not everything you hear is true.”
    My concern was misinformation from other children. We tell our kids if they hear new words and don’t know the meaning, ask us. We promise to be honest. On a side note, when you hear them say that cuss word or ask that sex question, don’t freak out! Be their safe place to ask anything, without embarrassment or shame. They’re looking for a calm explanation.
  • “Do not search the Internet for answers.”
    It’s a good thing my daughter has not googled some of the things she’s asked because the pictures would be traumatic. We have a rule in our house that a parent has to be in the room when googling. God tells us to guard our minds, and we want to keep out negative images. “More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, CEB)
  • “The Bible is our moral compass to determine right and wrong.”
    My daughter came home from school one day and immediately looked up “lying” in the Bible. One of her friends asked her to lie about a secret. My daughter wanted to know what God said about it. Another way to communicate this — the popular choice may not always be the right choice. What does God say?
  • “Respect Everyone.”
    I love that my kids are learning about different religions, theologies, etc. because I think it’s important for them to understand what and why we believe. They are discovering differences in opinion. Equally important in this conversation, we are to “respect everyone” as instructed in 1 Peter 2:17.
  • “Sex is a gift to enjoy when you’re married.”
    As for talking specifically about sex, it’s an ongoing discussion. I write about it here: Talking to my Kids about Sex

What other conversations would you include?