Not too long ago, two teenage boys from Steubenville, Ohio made national news when they were convicted of raping a drunk girl at a party. The act itself apparently involved more people than that and the details are sickening on many different levels.
Those tragic events led me to grab a few elements from my book project as they relate to teaching our boys the importance of guarding women. For our purposes here, I have streamlined them into four key lessons that we need to teach our boys about "chivalry." This term we seldom use anymore captures an element of manhood that has been lost in our sons' generation.
Boys must be taught from an early age that there is a certain calling upon men to protect and care for women. Starting with their mother and their sisters, boys should be coached in what used to be commonly known as “chivalry.” As your son gets older, you can begin to elaborate the general concept of chivalry into more abstract values that apply to his mom and sisters but also to every other woman in his life. Four values that should be championed are protection, honor, gentleness, and sacrifice. Read on for more detail...
1. Teach Your Boys to Protect Girls
Our young men must understand that when a girl is with them, they are taking responsibility for their protection and well-being. They are temporarily taking on the role that was given by God to the girl’s father. In extreme cases, this might require an extraordinary level of bravery and courage from them. The Aurora shooting incident comes to mind. However, this issue of protection shows up in everyday situations, as well. It has implications to how your son drives, where he takes his date, and how he protects her from what is perhaps the most surprising of threats: himself.
Chivalrous young men who are beginning to tip their toes into romantic relationships will realize that the potential for becoming sexually intimate is a real possibility. He will make sure that he avoids situations that might lead to temptation for either him or the girl. He will be aware of how easy it is to cross moral boundaries in their relationship so he will be diligent to protect the relationship and, just as important, the reputation of the girl. But there is a need for emotional protection, as well.
Because girls can have an overly-romanticized view of how boy/girl relationships should go, they are often prone to quickly getting their hearts tied up in an emotional dependence that they guy is oblivious of. He thinks it’s a good friendship or a casual dating relationship while she is at home dreaming about what it would be like to be married to him. Men are not typically known for deep introspection about their relationships. Women are. They begin to hone these skills at an early age, so parents must be diligent to talk with their sons about how easily a girl’s heart can be caught up in an emotional relationship.
2. Teach Your Boys to Give Honor to Girls
Every woman desires to be treasured and put upon a pedestal of honor. Ideally, this need will be met by a girl’s father and she will expect nothing short of that from the other men in her life. Unfortunately, the fractured relationship between many fathers and daughters often causes girls to settle for far less than honor from men. While these girls may not demand honor and respect, our young men should give it nonetheless. Because that is what chivalrous men do.
One good rule of thumb is to train your son to always honor the girl exactly how he would if her father was standing right beside her. That will dictate how your son speaks to her, treats her, and cares for her.
3. Teach Your Boys to Be Gentlemen
While our boys need to be taught basic manners and common courtesy, gentleness implies far more than just an absence of rudeness. As they interact with the girls in their lives, boys must come to an early understanding of the implications of how husbands are called to treat their wives: as “weaker vessels” (see I Peter 3:7). As a married man of more than 23 years, I am still learning that my wife requires gentleness in how I care for her, talk to her, and even argue with her. I cannot interact with her in the same way as I do a guy friend.
Training in gentleness does not mean that you are encouraging your son to go soft or even to “get in touch with his feminine side.” In fact, it is just the opposite. True gentlemen are able to successfully channel their manhood in a way that is marked by both strength and tenderness; by an understanding that the feminine nature of girls demands that we treat them differently. Our boys will not know how to operate with gentleness unless they are regularly reminded that it is an essential part of manhood.
4. Teach Your Boys How to Demonstrate Sacrifice
Finally, our sons must be trained to love like Jesus loved: generous, elaborate, and marked by sacrifice. Ephesians 5:25 commands husbands to be like Christ in this way: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Young men with a self-centered bent (which includes just about all of them) should be consistently reminded of the need to put others first and to model Christ’s sacrificial nature in every day things.The most important lesson they can learn might be that they not be permitted to enter a dating relationship until they can prove that they can love sacrificially in the midst of it. While I experienced several long-term relationships in high school and college, I can recognize now that I didn’t learn what selfless love was until I grew up a bit and arrived at marriage. Allowing our boys to “practice” love that is self-centered at its core only serves to handicap them for a successful marriage down the road. Wise parents will closely observe the maturity of their sons to determine if they are learning to love others in a sacrificial way. Until then, they are likely to be unwittingly practicing ways to use women, not care for them.
Q. What can you do TODAY to teach your boys to guard and protect the women in their lives?
*Check out my brand new book: The Talk(s): A Parent's Guide to Talking about Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables. It has been developed to assist parents as they help their kids navigate our hyper-sexualized culture. Whether your kids are 6 or 16, it provides practical help to help your kids to make wise choices in a messed-up world.