The Kansas Woman and I approached the post office yards behind a woman carrying a package. A boy in his early teens trailed her.

At the door the mother opened and held it for her son, balancing the package on her hip. The son continued to do whatever he was doing with his cellphone. He didn’t acknowledge his mother but leaned against the wall focused on the cellphone.

I have long since stopped offering my well-meaning observations and helpful advice to strangers but wanted to shake both of them.

There is a long-standing debate among people who deal with youths and their behavior. The first says that if you change the little deviant’s attitude the behavior will change. The other says that if you modify the behavior, attitude will follow. I like that one.

There is, I think, a relationship between how males treat women and the training they got by observation at home.

If boys who see their father treat their mother and other women with patience and respect that behavior will be imprinted.

Boys who grow up seeing the father mistreat his mother, or exhibit impatience and disrespect, will learn by his father’s example and later be disrespectful towards his wife and women in general.

While sons watch their father’s churlish behavior, the girls also learn something. They will be drawn to men whose behavior mimics that of their father because that was the “normal” in which they grew up.

As women they will find good guys, nice guys, to be boring.

In my generation boys were expected to assume some of the father’s roles at about age 12.

A 12-year-old boy can open his mother’s doors, hold her chair and carry everything but her purse. Small things.

So, why not?

I think it has something to do with faux equality. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely believe people who do the same job should receive equal pay and that nearly all jobs should be open without consideration to gender.

That “nearly” caveat lives in the world of military combat. I don’t think on-the-ground military occupations should be open to females.

The gender equality stuff bled over into how males treat females and many males have a “let ’em open their own doors” mentality.

It could be a regional cultural difference but I see men of my generation in the South who do the small things. I have never seen a husband open his wife’s door in the Midwest.

I believe that if boys and young men are required to behave like gentlemen towards their mothers and sisters, the respect will follow.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He can be reached at

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