In 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.