What Happened to Southern Manners? Raising Gentlemen and Ladies

photo 2In our relatively quiet neighborhood, filled with young families and elders, there lived a couple of college students. “Beep, beep.” Pause. “Beep, beep.” Unfortunately, this was the sound that used to resonate in our neighborhood anywhere between eight in the evening to two in the morning nearly every day of the week. I would cringe every.single.time that horn blew followed by the noise of a front door and car door. I did so because what happened to the “southern gentleman?” And, young ladies not answering to the sound of a horn?

I grew up watching my grandfathers and father opening doors for their wives. And, my grandmothers and mother preparing their dinner plates. To me, these were, and still are, signs of mutual respect and love for one another that my husband and I emulate. These truly simple acts of tenderness reflect mutual respect and putting others before oneself. I acknowledge that courting has evolved for an array of reasons since our grandparents were teenagers and that “old fashioned” and traditional courtship rituals are sparsely practiced in today’s society. But, honestly, would it be too much for this young man to take a moment to park the car and knock on the door? And, for this young woman to wait for her partner? And why does our society use such phrases as, “Boys will be boys,” and “Girls, will be girls?” Is this phrase sometimes used as an outlet to avoid addressing disrespectful actions?

As parents, we lead and teach our children through examples. From a young age, children are already absorbing and noticing behaviors of others, from exemplifying good table manners, to helping and being polite and respectful to others. What I consider simple acts of daily kindness, like holding a door for an elder, offering a seat for an expecting mother or a simple, “Thank you,” are also acts of respect that we can teach our children now that will carry with them as they start and build relationships with others.

How we communicate to our loved ones and the strangers we encounter throughout the day, through our actions and words, has a domino effect on how our children communicate with their playmates on the playground and eventually their life partner. I believe it is never too young to teach our young boys to treat all women, from their grandmothers, teachers to female classmates with respect as they were, are or will be future mothers. And we should not only teach but also convey to young girls that they are loved and respected for all of their strengths and weaknesses, no matter what.

It is these moments, witnessing our children responding to others with respect as if it is second nature, that will remind us that we have raised thoughtful and loving individuals in our families and communities. When it comes to dating, I hope our children carry these simple acts of respect, as our sons will set the tone of the relationship and our daughters will respond with respect for themselves and their date.

Whether you agree or not that men should hold the door for women or put the toilet seat down, my point is that if we take a few moments out of our busy day to think about others before ourselves, then we are teaching younger generations to respect others as they would like to be respected.

What tips do you have to raise a young gentleman and a lady?


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Growing up, we had to recite our manners before getting out of my parents’ car – yes maam, no maam, yes sir, no sir, please, and thank you. And if my mom or dad called our name, we responded “yes maam or yes sir.” We were not allowed to call boys and we were to instruct any suitor or friend that we would not repsond to the sound of horn. There were times when those rules made me shy to accept an invitation with someone new who I’d have to explain these things to, but I am so glad that my parents set these standards for us. It taught me a sense of respect and appreciation for the people around me but also for myself.

    We expect Jane to use her manners at all times. She knows to ask for something by saying “May I please have” and to say thank you. I’ve have had people say that she is too young for all of that, but if a child can say “give me x, y, or z” they can remember to say ask politely. She still struggles with knowing whether to say maam or sir, so for now I will take yes please and no thank you, but anything less is not acceptable. She might be two and a half, but she can still have manners.

    And if later in her life she feels the need to comiserate with someone about her uptight mom, I’ll send her to your kids. It’s nice to know another mom who believes that manners and respect are important!

    • Thank you for sharing, Jennifer! I think the world would be a better, and happier, place if everyone just took a moment to respect their neighbor. It is never to early to have manners.
      Thanks again!

  2. I love this! Some of the first sign language we taught Addison was for please & thank you. Of course, she frequently forgets to say it these days but we constantly remind her. She just recently started saying “what?” when we call her name, so we had a nice little talk about that. We’re definitely still working on the yes ma’am and yes sir but we’re getting there.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here