Girls and boys and a lesson in chivalry

Girls and boys and a lesson in chivalry

Dear H,

The other day as I was
taking my walk I saw you pulling a girl by her T-shirt. At least that’s what it seemed to me. She was yelling and struggling to free herself. I was appalled. I made you let go and
apologise too. Oh I did see those tears of anger, frustration and humiliation that sprang up in your eyes. I didn’t mean to humiliate you but this needed to be done.
Later, much later when
we’d both cooled down, you’d explained, “Ma we were playing Chor Police and I
was a Policeman. We have to hold the ‘thief’ to a count of 10 for him/her to be
declared out.”
“You cannot pull a
girl’s shirt,” I’d said.
“I wasn’t pulling, she
was. I was supposed to be holding her.”
“No matter what, you CANNOT pull a girl’s shirt,”
“Why,” you’d asked, ‘Why
can’t I ? That’s how she catches me too, that’s how I catch the boys and everyone is fine with it.”
You had a bit of a point. 
Here is my answer. Listen patiently for this is something that will stand you in good stead all your life.
The problem was not that you were holding that girl. The problem was that she didn’t like being held. That she was asking you to let go and you weren’t.

It’s simple, actually. If a girl doesn’t like you holding her T shirt, let go. If a boy doesn’t like it, let him go too. LISTEN to what the other person is saying.

Yes it’s tough. Yes it’s easy to get carried away by the game. Yes it’s easy to take people’s reactions for granted. But it’s crucial to remember that it’s a game only if all people playing it are enjoying it, or else it’s plain bullying. Sounds harsh, I know. You didn’t intend to bully, I know. But that’s what it was.

I hope that answers your ‘Why?’.

Here’s what you can do. ASK what everyone is comfortable with. Put the rules in place before you start a game. As you grow up you will realise, many times people don’t even speak out when something makes them uncomfortable. You have to learn to listen, even without words. This ‘watching out’ for the other person’s reaction is very very important. It’s called being ‘sensitive’.

And while we’re at it, here are a few more things for you to remember…

– Caring for other people’s
feelings is way more important than winning any game.

– Your responsibility
doesn’t end with good intentions. If the other person feels hurt, wronged or even uncomfortable by your behaviour, don’t do it. Take time to understand and explain.
– Open
doors, hold the lift, help with bags. Practise chivalry for no other reason but that you are a gentleman. 
– Respect not just girls,
not just people older to you, but everyone. You have an even greater
responsibility if the other person in not as strong as you.

– Never be an unintentional bully.

You might not always win the game but you’ll win over many many more people and that, dear H, is way more important and much more fun too. This is a BIG thing and needs plenty of practise, but you’ll get there. And like I always say ‘You are the best’. I know that.

Hugs and love,


We’ve had our ‘big talk’. And I am hoping it made some impression. Have you handled similar queries from your son/nephew/friend’s son? So how do you teach a boy to be chivalrous without being sexist? How do you tell him he doesn’t need to do this because the other person (girl or not) is weaker but because he is stronger? Mothering, I tell you… is a hard hard task.


Linking to Write Tribe’s super initiative ‘7 days of rediscovering your blogging grove’ where we blog seven days in a row according to a format. The idea is inspired by Darren Rowse. Today we had to ‘ANSWER A QUESTION’. 

Go find some more answers at the Write Tribe blog.

35 Replies to “Girls and boys and a lesson in chivalry”

  1. I wish I had the mindfulness that you have to explain such things in an easy to understand manner to my kids. We have been dealing with a LOT of *physicality* related curiousness here and he is just 4. I try and explain a lot of things but never nearly get the point right across. How I wish.

    1. Patience Veens. We've had our trips to the counsellor. With boys 'being physical' is often an issue. I hate stereotypes but this I say from experience, they often need tempering.

  2. It's great that you put in so much effort to educate your kid about the importance of "caring for other people’s feelings"! It reminded me of my late grandfather, a religious man who always stressed to us the importance of respecting other religions as much as our own.

    1. The thing is children are born selfish. Over time they learn to value others' feelings. However, many times we need to spell it out for them. And it needs some practice too.

  3. What an inspirational post Tulika! And you seem to be such an inspirational Mom too! Such wise words of compassion you spoke to your son. A great lesson for him and for all of us. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 <3

  4. Priceless! ! This is a gem T. Like I always say, your blog is like a guideline on how to bring up twins 🙂 . This particular handling of the situation was wonderful. Am taking notes for when my time comes.

  5. that;s a wonderful lesson you taught your son. My bua had a similar Big talk with my cousin when he threw water over a girl's shirt and she didn;t like it. My bua had to explain to him why he shouldn't do that even though it's a game

    1. It will be some time before they read the post but I intend to remind them over and over and over again till they remember these lessons. They are just too important to forget.

  6. A very valuable lesson.. I'm sure she would've understood perfectly.
    Its so important to listen.. and respect boundaries.

    awesome Tulika!

  7. Tulika, I am speechless. I doubt I would have dealt with it with such emotional maturity as you have done. All said, I think H and N are very lucky to have you as a mom. Going forward, I do not think you need to worry, because from what I have read about H in the past, he is a very sensitive soul, who internalises concepts. He will mull over them and understand them in his own way. He kind of resembles Gy that way. He may take time to apply what you have said, but he will do it. The trick, I think, lies in gentle repetition of the values you have mentioned above and waiting for him to be in a receptive mood. That has always worked with Gy. Hugs to you for this wonderful post!

    1. For sure repetition is the key. The kids are old enough now and each time I say 'I have to talk to you they know what's coming'… Yeah waiting for that 'receptive mood' is the key.

  8. Well done, Tulika! I really liked all the stuff you said to your son. Bravo! If only more parents could take the time to explain such things, the world would be a better place.

  9. Wow, you really handled the situation very well and gave some wonderful lesson in a kind and clear way. Way to go, Tulika! I believe in the long run kids always appreciate such clear explanations and guidance.

  10. I jus wish all the parents take the effort like u do to explain right n wrong to their kids n not dismiss off everything as they being kids !!!

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