Let's bring back chivalry
A major duty of parenting is to nurture our kids and part of the definition for nurture is to cultivate, support, encourage and train.
There are many things that we can nurture in our children but one that seems to be less and less important to today’s parents is the character trait of chivalry.
There is a meme floating around social media that illustrates the growing lack of chivalry in today’s young adults. It shows an older man with a cane standing on a subway while a young man is sprawled across two seats, sucked into his phone.
Many people mistake chivalry for male chauvinism, presuming that only men can be chivalrous and only weak women need a man to hold doors for her or give her his coat when she’s cold. But chivalry is not exclusive to men’s behavior toward women. It’s about one human’s behavior toward another.
One definition for chivalry is “the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.”
Chivalry is not about disempowering another person. It’s about empowering the knight in yourself (male or female). Cultivating, supporting, encouraging and training our children to be chivalrous means helping them develop courage, honor, courtesy, justice and a readiness to help the weak.
We help our kids develop courage when we cheer them on to do hard things. As our children rack up successes and overcome challenges, they will develop both courage to face future challenges and confidence that they can succeed.
Over the years, we have developed our own definition for honor. We have taught our kids that honor means “lifting someone up.” The opposite, dishonor, means pushing someone down.
So when one sibling tells a joke and another sibling says, “That’s stupid,” we can ask that child if he lifted his brother up or pushed him down. On the flip side, when your child loses a game and then tells his friend, who won the game, that he did a great job, you can point out that he just honored his friend by lifting him up.
Courtesy is about paying attention to the needs of others and considering how you might be kind or helpful. The young man in the meme who took up two seats was paying too much attention to his phone to pay attention to the potential needs of the older man.
Going back to the definition we gave for chivalry, the idea of courtesy is similar to being ready to “help the weak.” But again, it is not about disempowering anyone. It’s about teaching our children to hold the door open for any person whose hands are full. It’s about helping kids to notice the person in the wheelchair who is trying to reach something on a high shelf and asking if they can get it for them.
As we focus on nurturing our children intentionally, let’s bring chivalry back and empower the knight in every one of our kids.
Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are mothers with nine children between them, from an attorney to a pre-schooler, and one on the autism spectrum. Together they host a nationally syndicated radio show, “POP Parenting.” They are also freelance writers and international speakers. Get more information on their website, jenniandjody.com.