Chivalry Should Not Be Dead — 15 Things a Dad Should Teach His Son

Thanks to the rise of feminism, the decline of masculinity and the neglect of fathers, common courtesies that men used to extend toward women have been largely lost in today’s generation.  I recall clearly a few years ago that I saw a woman moving toward a store door about the same time that I did, so I quickened my pace a bit, grabbed the door handle, pulled it open and stood back so that the lady could pass through first.  She stopped dead in her tracks and glaring at me, said, “I’m quite capable fathers.jpgof opening my own door.”  I just smiled and stood there until she decided that the showdown was going to be a long one and finally stepped through the door without a thanks or an acknowledgment of the courtesy at all.  Frankly, it didn’t bother me all that much as I didn’t figure that the fact that her mother had raised an angry amazon did not negate the fact that my parents hadn’t raised a self-centered clod.

But today, too many young men are being raised in a culture that treats women as sex objects or social equals unworthy of consideration rather than as feminine treasures worthy of courtesy and as a consequence, they really do not know how to demonstrate the chivalrous and confident helpfulness that projects masculine respect and servant leadership.  This failure to groom young men into humble, yet secure initiators of protection and provision leaves women caught in a culture where they are subject to more violence, rudeness and disrespect.

Some chivalrous acts should be a intentionally taught by engaged fathers who want to see a confident courteousness in their sons that communicates safety, deference, leadership and self-confidence.  Here are a few skills that I believe should be included in this training:

1. Standing when a woman enters the room.

2. Offering a woman of any age your seat when all the seats are taken in a room, on public transportation or in any setting where seating is at a premium.

3. Opening the door for a lady.

4. When walking down a sidewalk, the man should walk nearest the street. (This puts the man between traffic and the lady providing an additional layer of safety.)

5. When going down stairs, the man should go down them first.  (In case the lady falls froward, he can catch her or break the fall.)

6. When going up stairs, the man should go up last.  (In case the lady falls backwards, he can catch her or break the fall.)

7. When entering a darkened room or house, the man enters first to make sure everything is safe.

8. When eating at a table, the man should assist the lady with her chair, moving it to the back of her knees fathersonrex_468×560.jpgand slowly sliding it under her as she places her weight on it.

9. Never use crude, course or vulgar language (or profanity) in front of a lady and show respect by not demonstrating any special skills in belching or other scatological talents one may possess.

10. When shaking the hands of a lady, wait for her to extend her hand and then offer yours with a firm and secure grip that is not too tight nor too loose while looking pleasantly in her eyes.

11. If one sees a women carrying a package or anything heavier than a purse, the man should insist on carrying it to her destination.

12. If a woman appears to be cold and you are wearing a coat or jacket, you should offer it to her.

13. When leaving row seating (like in a church or theater), once in the aisle, step back and let the lady emerge from the row.  If you are making your way through a crowd, the man should lead the way while the woman holds his arm.

14. When traveling in a car, upon arriving at a destination, the man should go around the car and open the door and helping the lady if she is leaving a vehicle that is difficult to get out of like a truck or a sports car.

15. If someone is showing rudeness toward a lady in the presence of a man, he should do whatever is necessary (but not more than is necessary) to protect her.

There are certainly more than 15 actions that young men should learn in how they should treat a lady, but this is a good start.  It is also a good idea to train your sons that if a woman doesn’t want to be treated with respect or more-or-less acts like a guy when she is with him, that she likely won’t be the kind of young lady that a man will enjoy being married to over a lifetime and he might want to look for a woman who appreciates it when a man has enough confidence and strength of character to take the lead in a relationship by demonstrating exceptional courtesy and leadership.

20 thoughts on “Chivalry Should Not Be Dead — 15 Things a Dad Should Teach His Son

  1. Jason

    I can’t imagine my pastor’s wife allowing me to do these things let alone the average woman from my generation. These things were lovely, no doubt, when they were the appropriate cultural expression of respect and protection, but in today’s culture, many of them come across as demeaning. Should we not focus more on the attitudes of respect and protection than on formalisms that have primarily symbolic meaning (if a car ploughs into the footpath, it’s curtains for both of us)?

  2. Dan Burrell Post author

    Jason…seriously? Good manners and respect are now officially “out of style”? We demean women by being courteous and protective? If a women finds the fact that I treat her with respect and deference because I value her to be demeaning — then she’s simply not the kind of woman I would want to marry or be close to. If she communicated to me that she felt demeaned in a work situation I would stop. I’d also want to treat her like one of the guys. If I’d wanted to marry a man, I’d have moved to Vermont. I wanted to marry a lady — and I did.

    Your last sentence implies that it is an either/or situation. That’s a false dichotomy. I want my son to have both the right attitude and the right action — formal or otherwise. In fact, I believe that by willfully preferring others with awareness, he both trains his thoughts and reflects his character.

    I was at the Grand Canyon last month with my 14-year old son. He’s a kid that is 100% boy and has a VERY low filter setting on things like courtesy and deportment. (I’m not going to share an unfortunate, yet deliberate incident that occurred in a large hotel, on an elevator, with a nice young family after a taco dinner while we were out West.) We had gone on a hike and it had been raining and it was cold and windy. We climbed on a park bus to get back to our car. The bus loaded up very quickly. Josh and I were among the first that were on the bus and a seat together. As the doors closed, a lady jumped in quickly and grabbed hold of the strap to ride the bus while standing. Josh immediately got to his feet, walked over to her and said, “Please take my seat.” She said, “I’m OK.” Josh simply motioned his hand to his seat and she relented. As she sat down she said, “I didn’t think there were any gentlemen left any more.” I could not have been more proud of him.

    If it’s archaic, old-fashioned, out-of-date or whatever, I’ll take that behavior over raising a thug who would sit in the presence of a lady — pregnant, elderly, or simply just in need of a seat. That’s the kind of son I want to have. Don’t you honestly think that our world would be a better place if more young men showed respect to women?

  3. Jason

    I appreciate the response.

    My point is that what you’re describing is merely a cultural expression of a good principle. And in many cultures, such behaviour would be odd at best. I mean, if a door is hard to open, by all means, open it. If a door needs to be held open, by all means, the guy should take the initiative. But as a formal gesture…?

    A better example might be “seating” a girl. When both guys and girls have to go through a training process to learn to do it, it’s no longer really about practical respect but rather about respect as defined in a particular cultural ritual. While an American might view the process of training children to perform this ritual as Christian character development, it is in fact a ritual that formalises a principle. This is a practice the Pharisees turned into an art form. Rituals aren’t necessarily bad. But they aren’t necessarily good either.

    To put it another way, if you teach a man rituals he may perform them. But if you teach a man to respect and protect women (the principle), he will naturally express that respect in practical ways. He may not always open the car door or stand when a woman enters the room. But he will respect and protect women. And that’s the real point.

    In my experience, guys who open doors for women and make a show of “seating” women are often the same guys who wouldn’t lower themselves to do the dishes or make their own coffee. Of course I’m sure that’s not what you’re advocating, but I do question the emphasis on the rituals…

  4. Mark Standridge

    Wow Dan, I’m with you on this one. Rap music is a reflection of our modern teens. This is what they listen. To many this is there view of women. You don’t need to listen long, to understand, their view on women. I teach 9th and 10th grade boys in Sunday school. From what I’ve learned from these boys, our culture has gone to the dogs on many issues. I’ve encouaraged them to be the young man that the other parents want their daughters to date. If the things that Dan mention are practiced, better chance you will find that partner that will want a lifetime committment. A little off the subject, recently, the CDC came out with a surprising statistic: one in four teenage girls (14-19 years old) have an STD. Another topic for another time.

  5. Josh

    Best post ever! I have a two year old son who I am beginning to teach this stuff starting with his mother and little sister. The other night we were at an event where seating was at a premium, as you described. My wife was holding our baby and standing (I was holding the 2 year old and standing). There were a number of guys close to her that were in a seat and no one offered her a seat. I began to approach one of them but she stopped me. I vowed then that my son would be taught to never be that kind of man.

    And, Jason, you are out there my friend! Why would you argue against treating a lady with respect? As a husband and dad of a daughter, I would prefer they avoid guys with your thoughts! Spend time with someone who sees you as a daughter of Christ, a treasure!

    Good to debate on the blog again!

  6. L.m.

    Mr. Mark, I almost agree with you wholeheartedly. I respect women in all areas except in dating. I don’t think Christians should date. Young women should be a courtin’. Their father will pick the boy for them. Girls aren’t mature enough to pick their own mates and aren’t mature enough to date.

  7. Greg Linscott

    I understand Jason’s point, and agree to some extent. I am all for using the expressions Dan suggests (and passing them down to my own son), but do think that men should also learn to show consideration in more practical ways (like being willing to help with housework or meals, or changing the baby once you have kids). I am all for tradition, but many women today will need to see more than adherence to older rituals if you want them to see that you are striving to be courteous, selfless and thoughtful, and not just oddly archaic.

  8. Melinda

    Thought it was time for a woman to chime in. :) A man who genuinely respects women will express it in tangible ways, including holding a door open and letting a woman go first–a simple, intentional way of demonstrating that he truly respects the woman and is seeking to honor her over himself.

    As a woman and a pastor’s wife, when a guy approaching the post office door as I was leaving yesterday, opened it then stopped and held it and waited as I left (carrying no packages so there was no urgent need for him to hold the door), my heart smiled. I smiled at him, too, and thanked him with all sincerity for his kindness. He proved in a specific way that he was putting me ahead of himself.

    If a man respects and honors women, he WILL typically and normally hold doors, open cars and offer seats to women. These are still lovely gestures of respect and honor-gestures that are still valued by many women and will be valued for decades to come. The only women I know who would find such gestures “demeaning” are raging femenists who still need to be respected and honored as women, no matter how they may respond to the gentleman.

    Dismissing these courtesies as outmoded rituals makes me wonder why anyone would be unwilling to go out of his way to show his respect and kindness in these ways. I fear that it is not a rejection of formalism that is behind poor manners; it is simply that we are far too concerned with ourselves to think of putting others first.

    P.S. My husband is teaching my husband to be gentlemen. I am teaching them how ladies respond to gentlemen. My boys believe that women enjoy having gentlemen hold the doors, and they will do so at every opportunity. The responses of women (and men) for whom they’re holding the door proves that the vast majority of women appreciate that my boys are willing to put others ahead of themselves.

  9. Dan Burrell Post author

    Greg and Jason — I whole-heartedly agree that a father should be willing to help his wife, change diapers if needed, etc… But I was talking about training boys and I’m not sure that teaching my 14-year old how to change a poopie diaper or cook a souffle is a priority right now. He has to do house chores anyway. But if I can get him to treat ladies as the “treasured vessel” and to assume his role as the protector/provider/priest of his home — then those other things will naturally fall into place. This list isn’t a substitute for anything else that men can do to show servant leadership, it’s a start. I’m also struggling a bit to see diaper changing or cooking as a “chivalrous” gesture.

  10. Jason

    @Josh, It seems to me that you’ve misunderstood my comments entirely.

    @Melinda, Thanks for your perspective. That’s helpful. My concern is that it misses the point (as I think most comments have) that these are cultural expressions primarily. And I say this as someone who does not live in the USA.

    Holding a door open may be fairly practical. But making a woman wait while you walk around the car to open her door is not practical. It’s impractical. In many cultures, the woman would not wait because she’d have no idea what you were doing. Or why. It’s also demeaning because it treats her like she has a disability or something. I think the only reason it seems like an obvious way to express respect and protection to some Americans is because of the culturo-historic context in which it is being perceived.

    @Dan, I would think that chivalry started out as a practical expression of respect and protection. For instance, walking on the road side of a woman was because carriages might splash mud on their dresses. But our footpaths are generally further from the road now and women’s dresses are generally much shorter and less voluminous, so now chivalry has done exactly what happened with the Pharisees laws… there is the cultural shell of a ritual that was originally based on a good principle, but the existence of the ritual in no way implies a deliberate application of the biblical principle.

    At the risk of wearying you, I’ll give the analogy of music standards. A generation of Fundamentalists taught their children “high” music standards, but often failed to teach their children how to discern good music biblically. In many cases, it was the standard itself that set everyone at ease about the child’s development until the shock came. Many parents discovered that the standard merely masked the fact that the children had not learned to love God’s word, to discern carefully, and to develop their own biblically based convictions.

  11. Rebecca Aguilar

    I agree with all your suggestions except the first one. What’s the point of a man standing when I enter a room??? Doesn’t seem to benefit either one of us. I try to encourage girls I work with never to discourage boys from trying to be gentlemen. If they offer to help carry, load, open, whatever, let them. Sometimes they aren’t gentlemen because we gals never give them a chance to be gentlemen.

  12. Melinda

    Jason, your comment made me smile because I grew up in another country. I’ve lived overseas longer than I’ve lived in the States. So I genuinely smiled at remembering how different cultures can be and how often what is American is confused with what is biblical. I still maintain my position, though, that a man’s respect for a woman will be communicated in tangible, practical ways. My husband does not hold the door for me every single time we go out, and we are both practical enough that I don’t sit and drum my fingers when we arrive at a location, while he parks and runs around the car. But when we’re entering the car, we will walk together, but he’ll make sure he gets to the car first so that he can open the door and help me get in.

    There is a balance between practicality and chivalry, I do agree. But a man who is seeking to honor women in practical, daily ways will incorporate many acts of service, otherwise known as chivalry and good manners.

  13. Jason


    “A man’s respect for a woman will be communicated in tangible, practical ways.”

    On this, we can certainly agree. I appreciate the comment. =)

  14. Lacey

    As a relatively young (20-ish) non-Christian female, I feel like I should leave my opinion…
    First and foremost, I absolutely believe that young people should be taught to show each other courtesy and respect. I do NOT think that it should simply be limited to men performing their chivalry rituals to women. For example, I’ve held the door open for many men… I think this is a courtesy that all people should show to whoever is behind them. Raising children properly isn’t a matter of male or female, it’s a matter of mutual respect.
    Unless two people are courting, I really don’t see the necessity of pulling out a chair.. If someone that I wasn’t romantically interested in performed that gesture for me, I’d feel very uncomfortable.

  15. Dan Burrell Post author

    Thanks, Lacey and I do respect your opinion. Mutual respect is indeed a part of basic human decency and is represented in Scripture by the Golden Rule. In fact, more clearly the Bible says that we are to “prefer one another.” Unfortunately, today’s preoccupation with feminism has had a net-effect in denigration that special role of honor that Scripture teaches men should have for women — indeed, to be willing to lay down one’s life as a man for his wife like Christ did for the church. The fact that some, such as yourself, may not desire or even appreciate these gestures of humility, respect and value, does not in any way relieve us of the responsibility to at least offer it. It can be declined, of course, and on rare occasions, I’ve had it done (though usually rather rudely by someone who was trying to make a point and sometimes angrily). I would disagree (as a parent of 4 boys and girls) that properly rearing children does not involve education of how to treat members of the opposite gender and that requires specialized training. It is naive to think that gender doesn’t matter, that it doesn’t create differences in responses, that it doesn’t demand that we educate on how to properly relate.

    Thanks again for visiting this blog.

  16. Tina

    I just wanted to take moment to say I am making sure my husband reads this, he will love it! As for a man standing when she enters the room, this is just a simple way to show respect and I never really gave it much thought until my daughters first date. When her date came to pick her up, he came in (I was upstairs) and plopped into a chair. As I came downstairs, I had to approach him extending my hand for an introduction. My husband was livid! It was extremely hard to even allow her to go. The moral of the story is….we spoke to our daughter about it and she never went out with him again. Se also has extremely high standards and refuses to date anyone that doesn’t meet her daddy’s approval. I’m so glad to see that others are trying, difficult as it may be, to teach their children to be respectful. With 2 boys and 2 girls it can be a challenge at times but is so worth it when you see it play out in a real-life, practical setting. Have a great day! :)

  17. Jenna

    I’m a little late to the party, but I wanted to chime in. I understand completely where you’re coming from on this one, Dan, but on a couple of the points I have to agree with Jason. In everyday circumstances, I would be terribly uncomfortable if a man stood when I entered the room or (other than my sweetie) held my chair for me.

    That said, I’ve been a historical reenactor my entire life. In those circles, whether it’s the Victorian/Civil War groups of my childhood, or Middle Ages (SCA) now, both actions are commonplace. The first because it’s “proper”, yes, but someone to hold a chair still while you sit – and slide it in if it’s at table – is practically a requirement in most hoop skirts, bustles, or farthingales. In fact, if you don’t have someone to hold your chair or the flexibility/balance to hook an ankle around a limb while you manage your skirts, you’re liable to find yourself on the ground instead of your seat!

  18. sarah

    I really wish more men today were this way. I am glad you haven’t let one rude unappreciative lady stop you from honoring your good values. I am always trying to find ways to make my husband act more chivalrous, since I honor my role as a stay at home mum and him as head of the household. He wants me to respect and look up to him, but I struggle to do so when he tries to treat me as his equal and sometimes he makes me feel more like his friend than his wife.


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