‘Kind’ is not a word often used to describe boys-or what parents desire their sons to grow up to be, for that matter. Boys may be described as athletic, strong, smart, humorous, or brave, but kindness is less of a priority. Compassion, empathy, and awareness are all worthy traits that somehow get pushed aside in favor of teaching our kids how to get good grades or make the football team. But in order to raise sons who grow into gentlemen-sons who treat women with respect and dignity, as they would any other human being-kindness is key. It’s never too early or too late to start teaching your son to be kind to others. Here’s how.

Kindness from Day One

Even a toddler can learn how to treat others with kindness. Encourage your sons to cultivate an awareness of how the people around them are feeling. When they ask you what you are feeling, tell them the truth and explain why you feel that way. Teach them to go to others who are in need, such as friends who are hurt or upset. Teach them to honor and validate others’ feelings. Gender shouldn’t never be a factor in who they choose to help, though it can be easy for younger children to develop a boys versus girls mentality. When your son is in tune with both the emotions of everyone around him and his own, he is less more likely to seek to help instead of hurting.

The True Meaning of Bravery

Many parents want their sons to be brave, but what does bravery actually mean? It means teaching your sons how to stand up for what they believe in even when it makes them afraid-essentially, showing kindness to even the most vulnerable. So many cases of sexual assault include bystanders who may have known that what was going on was wrong, but didn’t have the courage to act on that feeling and stand up for the victim. In the Steubenville rape case, numerous people were involved, either in watching the act or participating in sexual assault. How many of those boys knew that what was happening was wrong and were afraid to stand up to it? Raising boys who are courageous and brave means encouraging your sons to stand up to their peers when they witness wrongdoing. They need to know that this may be terrifying. It may be compromising to their reputation. Treating women with kindness shouldn’t be a matter of convenience, either. Standing up for someone who is vulnerable is rarely convenient.

Kindness is a trait that many parents unintentionally neglect when it comes to instilling it in their boys. Boys are expected to be good at sports or strong or funny, but being a helper and showing compassion for others is forgotten. Men may be less likely to choose helping professions-such as nurses, social workers, or teachers-but that doesn’t mean they can’t be kind. The bravest men are capable of showing kindness to the most vulnerable members of society by standing up for them.