Tips for Teenagers That Keep God in Mind
We can help our sons and nephews learn to be gentlemen, especially now — and find God's intended 'harmony and peace'
Given the recent tidal wave of accusations and allegations about sexually inappropriate and horrendous behavior, here’s something that addresses this issue.
Boys need to be trained at home in the art of being a gentleman — and in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The best gift that a man can give to his son is to love his mother.”
Several years ago, I worked with Matthew Williams, at the time a Regnum Christi Mission Corps helper with me in Washington, D.C., and we interviewed several moms and women to get their feedback on some tips for teenage boys on respecting girls. This list here is principally the fruit of their insights and reflections.
I hope this is something dads, uncles and other guardians and caregivers can personally share with their sons and boys as they enter the teenage years. (George Washington’s rules of civility would also be a helpful resource.)
Tips for teenage boys on respecting girls. These tips are useful both in and out of dating relationships, both in high school and college. I do not recommend having serious dating relationships in high school. In general, it’s better to stick to larger groups — and any relationship should be paced, chaste, respectful, nonexclusive, and public.
1.) Be sincere. Don’t try to be somebody you are not. Girls see right through this. You are much better off just being yourself.
2.) Don’t brag. Don’t talk too much about yourself or speak poorly of others.
3.) Be kind to everyone. (A girl judges whether you’re a good guy not just by how you treat your buddies or herself, but all people: the janitors at school, waiters, kids you’re not necessarily friends with, etc.
4.) Be respectful of the rules imposed by a girl’s parents. Every family has different guidelines with respect to movies they’re allowed to watch, parties they’re allowed to attend, curfews, etc. Don’t criticize, make fun of, or even worse — encourage her to break them — no matter how much you want to spend time with her.
5.) When you go up to talk to a girl, make a point to say hello and talk to her friends as well.
6.) Don’t expect a girl to hang out with you and 10 of your buddies. This can be very uncomfortable for a girl. Ask her to bring a few of her girlfriends along as well, or don’t insist she come over to watch a football game if the crowd will be guys-only.
If you always try to see a girl the way God does, you won’t ever have a problem treating her with respect.
7.) Be selective in the movies you take girls to see. Inappropriate content makes a girl feel very uncomfortable — and it is simply not considerate to put her in that position.
8.) Be a good listener. Ask questions and allow the girl to talk (don’t dominate the conversation). When a girl has a problem, she needs to talk about it. She is looking for empathy (not sympathy) and not necessarily a solution. If she asks for advice, give it to her (and give it some thought).
9.) Give special attention to etiquette and chivalry:
- Stand up when she stands up from the table, and stand up when she returns to help her with her chair.
- Hold doors for the girl, especially car doors.
- Give the girl the seat of preference — and offer her a seat if there are none readily available.
- Walk a girl to her car if she is driving alone.
- Check on her to make sure she gets home safely.
- Come to the door when picking a girl up and meet the parents; come to the door when you drop her off as well.
- Stay out of bedrooms.
- Keep eye contact.
- Walk on the outside of the sidewalk (the guy is the protector).
- Don’t cut off conversation for a social text or call.
- A guy should be the one initiating contact (phone calls, etc.).
- Give preference to calling over texting, and always take care of important business face to face.
- Respect girls online and via text the same way you would face to face.
10.) Most importantly, treat a girl with respect. She is not an object, but one of God’s beautiful creatures.
Dating and friendship are for getting to know the person rather than for physical intimacy. Girls are created in God’s image just as guys are. If you always try to see a girl the way God does, you won’t ever have a problem treating her with respect.
This list is certainly not exhaustive, but one element that is critical for success is the need for God’s grace. Grace perfects our weak and flawed human nature — and allows us to see every person through the eyes of God with great dignity and respect. Daily prayer, regular confession, and a strong Eucharistic life can greatly help with this needed self-mastery.
Rules and guidelines are helpful, but there needs to be a desire to want to be a gentleman, too, to consciously love and respect women for their unique gifts and qualities. Only then will relationships find the harmony and peace that God has envisioned.
Fr. Michael Sliney, LLC, is a Catholic priest based in New York.