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You taught him to say "please" and "thank you" as soon as he could speak, he respects his elders, and even his table manners are impeccable, but there may be three important lessons you've neglected to teach your son to ensure he's a perfect gentleman.
When I accompanied my husband and two teenage sons to the barber shop recently, a young male customer seated in the waiting area displayed three habits which I realized a lot of young men think are "just part of being a guy" but which give others, especially women, a very negative impression. If your son is prone to these habits, maybe it's time for a talk.
Girls are taught to sit with their legs together, taking up as little space as possible, and yet, boys often turn into grown men who sit with their legs splayed, sometimes unintentionally taking up three seats. Not only is it especially rude in a crowded bus or waiting room, but it shows a sense of entitlement and can even have sexual overtones. Why are we not teaching our boys to be just as courteous about the way they sit? Talk to your son about body language including slouching and arm crossing, and the unintended bad impression they may be making on others.
Silence the smartphone
Changing times and technology bring about changes in etiquette, and a huge source of inconsiderate behavior these days is the smartphone. Most would agree, answering a phone call when you're in a closed area with other people is bad enough, but actually making a phone call for the sake of chitchat is a new level of rude. Even worse in my book? Those who play videos and music without earbuds. Teach your son that scrolling through social media sites in public is fine, but if it has an audio element to it, no earbuds means you browse with the volume all the way down, or wait until you're back in your own car or home. No one else wants to hear it.
After all this rude behavior in the waiting room, the young man finally sat down in the barber's chair and they got to chatting. At some point the conversation turned to women and the customer mentioned how he doesn't like a girl with "too many miles on her." His comment was followed by a laugh between them both.
While I'm aware that the barber shop is usually a "man's domain," there were young children seated nearby, and women (myself included), all within earshot. But none of this deterred the young man from making his sexist remarks, which quite frankly he shouldn't have made at all regardless of who was around.
Do you know your son's thoughts on women and the types of things he says when you're not around? Ensuring your son believes in gender equality can't happen after a one-time sit-down chat. If you haven't started already, use everyday opportunities to model feminism and foster respect for women. Point out sexist advertising, don't body shame yourself or other women, model acceptance for behaviors which fall outside stereotypical "gender norms" for both males and females, and encourage empathy for all.