Teaching Chivalry – We are doing it.

As soon as W began to properly form words I began the introduction of manners. I didn’t care how well he was able to say the word but I wanted to emphasize the intention. If he wanted an object I wanted him to say “please”. Upon receiving the object I wanted him to say “thank you”. If he hurt someone, intentionally or not, I wanted him to say that he was “sorry”.

Please. Thank you. Sorry. Those are the basic and elementary manners that I am working with right now, the foundation for which I hope to build a true and sincere form of etiquette.

In the beginning things were obviously rote and every action took sometimes three times as long because until the “please” happened nothing else did. Please was the first word in his manners tool box that he truly owned. It was a really awesome moment when he used it correctly on his own. Every time he does he is rewarded with much positive appreciation. Oh how Mama LOVES to hear the word please!

Then he owned the words “thank you”. This was a most wonderful day in our house. He understands the power of these words. He gets that it is an exchange and a connection between people – it’s a gift. I thank people all the time and I hope that W grows up knowing the beauty of thanking others. Yes it is a simple sort of thank you now as he thanks me for his morning sippy of milk, but when he says it I feel so pleased that he gets it.

The hardest word for him is “sorry”. I actually don’t know if this is a concept he is capable of fully getting right now. I can sense when he is sorry for making a giant mess (but only because I sense that he is sorry that I am upset, not so much that he is sorry for the mess making). We use the time-out discipline technique where a “sorry” is asked of the child at the end of the time-out. I can’t stand that. I know he doesn’t comprehend it yet, but like “please” and “thank you” I continue with it because I know that some day the coin will drop and he will understand.

The truth is I don’t want W to be an asshole. I have known and dated some real jerks and along the way I have noticed what never goes out of style is manners, etiquette.

See how I just made it about his maleness and not about his person-ness? I am very aware of that. And this is where we start to talk about chivalry and male children. Don’t get me wrong, if W was a girl I would totally be teaching the her version manners as well (just as I was). But as a girl I was never taught how to hold the door open for another person or to stand when a woman walks into a room. And yet, as a girl, I have always appreciated these things. I know that some (many?) women do not. But I would rather W encounter these women and be kindly asked to not stand up.

Chivalrous men are said to be courteous, loyal, considerate, gracious, honorable. Those are ALL qualities that I would hope that W will embody. And these are all qualities that are taught. Yes I know that there is a bent to think that chivalry is kindness to women – and women don’t NEED any extra kindness, thank you very much. Wait. Who thinks that way?

And here is where my inner feminist does battle with my inner woman. Oddly I always have felt that my femaleness, my woman-ness, was a separate entity from my feminist leanings. I absolutely think that women can do whatever they aspire to do and that women and men are equal and should be treated accordingly.

Did you catch that? I said “treated accordingly”. So here is where a feminist might have a problem with a man holding the door open for her. Has opening the door for a women become an act that puts her at a disadvantage? I overcome this inner battle by being a woman that opens doors for everyone. I think opening doors for people, all people, is kind and I intend on teaching W that it is something that we do for others – not just women.

I am chivalrous and I plan on raising W to be as benevolent as possible. I won’t have an asshole son. Not if I can help it!


  1. Such a good post! This made me smile because we’re doing the same with B… pweas, tank-oo, and sawwy. But B only really does please on his own if he REALLY WANTS something. Otherwise we have to wait for the “what do you say?!” every single time. Thank you is the same. But he is all over the “sawwy”, and that makes me heart sing. He knows he can’t get out of time out until he gives the offended parent a hug and smooch and says “sorry”. So now he’s interrupting his timeout to willingly calm down, and come over with his apologies.

    Little sponges, they are!

  2. or it makes MY heart sing… unless we’re speaking pirate today.

  3. I completely agree. I often have difficulty resolving my feminist side with my feminine side. But, I too, open doors for EVERYONE. And I appreciate when a man pushes my chair in when I sit for dinner at a restaurant. To me it’s a sign of respect, not of treating me as if I were frail and helpless. It speaks to his character and that is exactly what you are trying to help W build – character.

    • You do have difficulty, because the two can’t be reconciled. You can’t truly believe in gender equality if you also believe that women deserved better treatment than men. That is what chivalry is.

  4. Haha, I love it! My mother raised me to be very polite, and I’ve always felt that good manners are a badge of honor that you can wear no matter where you are in life — even if you don’t have two quarters to rub together, if you have manners, you can hold your head up high. I’m always shocked by the poor manners I see out and about, and it frankly makes me sad, this lack of regard for others. I’m glad to see that there are people out there who are raising a new generation to be polite and gracious.

  5. Ha. We are doing the exact same thing with Cam. It’s funny – because Maggie still isn’t talking, but by her age, cam was already saying please and thank you.

    I have a neice who IS an asshole. She just treats everyone nasty and when she says please or thank you, it manipulative, not thoughtful. One time we were visiting them, she smacked my dog in the face – and I said to her – please don’t do that! And she asked Why not? And I asked her if she would like to be hit in the face? And explained that you should treat others like YOU would want to be treated. I swear, she just gave me a blank stare. *shivers*

    That is what I’m drilling into both Maggie and Cam – if it’s something you wouldn’t like done to you – don’t do it to others. And so far (fingers crossed) I’ve got some pretty sweet kids.

  6. Smooch has taken to saying “No hank you” (no T in thank you for him) when he doesn’t want something. It always surprises me and makes my heart pitter patter a little! I hope that I raise a very polite young man and I do think at 3 he is getting it.

    Stolen eggs said it exactly as I was going to put it-opening a door or pushing in a chair is “a sign of respect, not of treating me as if I were frail and helpless.” I open the door for everyone. If someone holds it for me the next door I hold it for them-male or female. I’m also shocked when a man stands when I enter a room or pushes my chair in. I don’t expect these things and I don’t get upset when they happen. I typically think “gee, that is a really nice guy.” And, I certainly don’t think the man doing it is looking down on me as a woman when they do it.

  7. I am pretty sure that sometimes Elizabeth thinks that PEASE means “I really, really mean it” but whatever. And the sorry JUST clicked for us here, that one took a long time.

    Manners are awesome and so few people seem to have them lately.

  8. By having a son and a daughter simultaneously, I think I’m forced to teach them gender-neutral manners.

    Somehow I have to reconcile my upbringing (I was raised by a mother who went to finishing school!) with DH’s egalitarianism — not just for male-female, but for age and class. To him, people earn respect by earning respect, not just by being old or male or rich etc. Which didn’t get him in many teachers’ good graces when he was a kid, whereas I was every teacher’s pet.

  9. Dr. Molly says:

    Love this! I was just talking with my sister about the importance of manners and, yes, women’s studies prof talking here, a certain degree of chivalry. I told her I intended to start in with etiquette lessons with the nephews and niece, although they’re pretty polite kids already. I just think good manners make the world a kinder, gentler place.

    And, for the record, you are indeed one of the most chivalrous human beings I know. Love you!

  10. I couldn’t agree more! It saddens (and irritates) me to no end the lack of manners I witness in the world today. As my other half would say “home schooling”. I believe it is our responsibility to teach our children manners and etiquette.

  11. I also open doors for everyone, and likewise appreciate it when anyone opens a door for me–or at least glances backward to make sure the door he or she just went through is not about to hit me in the face. I also write thank you notes and send them through the mail. The so-called “chivalrous” action that I don’t really love is when I get up from a restaurant table and the man or men with me insist on also standing up out of “respect.” I just see it as a vaguely passive-aggressive way for those men to tell the rest of the restaurant that I have to pee.

  12. This is so true! From someone who did the exact same thing with my son growing up (and now my daughter with the manners thing), I can tell you that it DOES sink in. The other day at school The Boy and I were walking around the edge of the playground on a wooden ledge and another little girl came up (doing the same thing) to him. He hopped down, waved his hand, and said, “ladies first.” I BEAMED! And the other mother looked at me like I had created the most gifted and amazing man known to mankind. (Little does she know he still sometimes eats his boogers and that MORTIFIES me…). So keep at it! It does sink in. And one day he will make you SO proud!

  13. Love this! And I agree. Sad that even in the corporate world these days, more and more often men don’t hold the door for women or let women enter/exit the elevator first. Without that unwritten rule, it actually makes these encounters more awkward… Here’s to Chivalry!!!

  14. Yay for manners! So many people don’t have them these days. You’re a good mommy, Calliope.

  15. I was raised by feminist parents who didn’t like and did not teach any gender-related manners. I understand where they were coming from. But, after years of aloneness, and years of fractured relationships with the other gender, I believe that many gender-related customs related to etiquette and eventually to dating are important. I think that men are wired to be assertive or the initiators in many things, and that we women are part of that dance, which means sometimes knowing how to wait, how to be pursued, and how to receive a courtesy. Due to my feminist upbringing I tried it all – opening my own doors, refusing help, being a woman who calls and asks for a date, trying to make something happen when a man wasn’t doing anything. Ultimately I don’t think those things were wrong, but they sure didn’t get me what I wanted, because in the end I had a man who wasn’t doing anything. While I think my parents were overboard with the refusal to open doors (when out with my dad now, I have to remember so the door doesn’t break my nose), they taught me in far more important ways that i CAN do anything. They made sure I played sports, and taught me to speak my mind without apology, and all that. I too am hoping to change the world, one boy at a time. It seems to me that gender courtesies can be taught as just that – courtesies – that are separate from anyone’s true opportunities or abilities. But like everything in parenting, it all seems easy until we actually try to do it. Kudos that you are doing this early and recognizing its importance.

  16. I totally agree that we need to be teaching our children kindnesses/manners towards all people. I get so irked when I go to Target and a “kid” lets the door close on me because they are too busy texting on their phones.
    I am teaching my daughter manners towards all people and just hope that the same kindness is extended to her as she grows up.

  17. I loved reading this. We have no idea what our children will grow up to be, but dammit, they will be POLITE 😉 And whomever ends up with our sons will be lucky to have found such good men.

  18. You are raising a boy who will one day be treasured by his partner. I try to do similar things with my children and, while they don’t always remember their manners around me, I’m always told by others that my children are very well behaved.

  19. Manners are very important for us as well. Thank you clicked first, now we are also working on please. And, thanks to you, I now know that sorry will be next. I am probably an ‘over’ thanker toward others, but I would rather be that way than ungrateful.

  20. I started with please & thank you very early with both of my kids, an 18 yr old son & a 13yr old daughter. Saying sorry for behavior that was hurtful, disobedient etc was another story. We decided to teach our children to say “I apologize” instead of “I’m sorry”, apologizing or being sorry is not always easy for some people, it’s like you said it’s an ownership thing and not everyone wants to own the hurt they cause be it purposeful or accidental. It took awhile but eventually they grasped it, but not before we had instances of “but I didn’t mean to _____ ” On the flip side I taught both of my kids that when someone apologizes to them that they should say “thank you” instead of saying “thats ok”. It isn’t ok when someone wrongs or hurts us even if accidentally.
    Fast forward to now, both kids are polite and respectful, they look people in the eye when speaking, they shake hands when being introduced to someone new. They both open doors for people as do I, when out to eat if an elder person we know stops by our table my son stands and extends a hand, that one he learned on his own and for him its a sign of respect. When going out to eat I’ve taught both kids that if you don’t have enough money for tip than you don’t go out to eat in a restaurant, you go through a fast food drive thru, but if out to eat I’ve taught both how to tip.
    I’m like most Mom’s, I love my kids and think they are awesome and like to brag a bit, but they are far from perfect. I was a single Mom for 7 years and I believe that that played a part on how well my kids have turned out, statistics may say otherwise but mine are proof that statistics aren’t gospel. Being a team of 3 for 7 years I made sure to always be honest with them, being a product of a single parent home was not an excuse for being anything less than their best.
    ps. My daughter will be attending a 2 week summer intensive camp at The Rock School for Dance in Philly. It will be our first trip to the City of Brotherly Love :-)

  21. Please, thank you and sorry were the basics for us, too. And Kerry mentions, the next huge one for us was ‘look people in the eye when they’re talking to you or vice versa.’ Stop and pay attention, basically. And table manners! Not ladylike manners, though. I find myself sometimes stopping to ask myself whether I’m enforcing a ‘ladylike’ behaviour, and if so I stop. Ladylike is all about self-repression, to me. About squashing spontaneity, and encouraging self-consciousness. So we insist on mannerly behaviour – pay attention, be appreciative of others’ efforts on your behalf, take responsibility for your actions, help out without being asked, don’t take up more than your fair share of space (verbally, physically and socially). And I think that if both men and women abided by those kinds of rules, the world would be a lovely place.


  1. […] appreciative of others’ efforts on your behalf, … … See the original post here: Teaching Chivalry: Toddler Edition ← Serena's Autumn%20Wave » Dating Tips & […]

  2. […] I want to make sure he knows that women and men can be and are equal. I have written before about chivalry – I believe it is a courtesy to extend to all. We don’t hold open the door for a woman […]

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