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Raising a Young Gentleman

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (April 21, 2016)

Jason had asked for permission to go to the bathroom at JEMS and he quietly left his classroom to head to the bathroom. Upon arrival, there was someone in the cubicle so he was the first in line and waited patiently. The person in the toilet was taking a particularly long time and he just continued waiting. As the student in the toilet finally came out, a little girl rushed over with her mother and it was obvious that she was desperate to go to the toilet. The little girl exclaimed “I reeeeeeally need to go” to which her mother explained “but there’s a line here and we have to wait at the back”. Jason, being the first in line, saw how desperate the girl was and said “it’s okay. I’ll let you go first”. He continued to wait patiently after having let the little girl go first. What a gentleman!

It was such a sweet and considerate thing for Jason to do and it I realized that such chivalrous behaviour is hard to find these days – even amongst older men. Gone are the days when men open car doors for women, offer to lend a hand when a woman walks up stairs and let women go first. I actually think a lot of it is because women have taken a strong stand on feminism, being independent and showing the world that what a man can do, a woman can do too. And it leaves men feeling like they don’t need to, and shouldn’t, offer help to women.

Call me archaic but I think it’s important that men still show chivalrous behaviours to women and I see it as a way to respect and have manners with women. Perhaps I’m thinking more about this as I prepare to welcome my son to the world later this year. I hope that he will know how to care for others, know how to put others before him and show consideration, to male and female alike.

Some things I think boys can start to do:

Opening the door for others

Something that’s a small gesture but can say a lot about a boy’s manners – opening the door for someone. So before walking in through the door, to prop it open and let others go first. I remember in boarding school, younger girls were expected to open the door for older girls as a sign of respect. Boys can do it too!

Letting others get food first or serving food to others

I was at a dinner once with a 10 year old boy and his parents. As soon as the food arrived, the boy picked up his utensils and started getting food for himself, before anyone else on the table had started! It didn’t help that his parents also started dishing out food for him and choosing the best parts of the dishes to give to him. I was shocked! I think a man, or anyone actually, should let elders go first and if the child is old enough, to serve food to those around the table.

Helping to carry bags/shopping for others

Growing up, my cousin (male) was the only boy in the family as we have a family of girls. I remember his mum teaching him to always offer to help carry bags for others. And it wasn’t that I, his older cousin, couldn’t carry the shopping bag that I had, but it was that it was good training for him to show respect to elders, especially women.

Playing in a gentle manner

Sometimes people consider it a good thing for boys to be ‘rough and tough’ and I agree, that at times, this is necessary. But I think it’s possible, and necessary, to also know when to be gentle and sensitive. Those seemingly opposite qualities are not contradictory. Boys need to learn how to play in a gentle manner with younger children and certain girls.

I hope that as we teach and model for our boys to do the actions above, that we would see more boys become young gentleman who will then become adult gentleman. I certainly look forward to seeing Jason growing up to be a real gentleman.


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