A Cherished Heart: How I’m Teaching My Sons to Be Respectful, Caring Boyfriends

Because selfless, honest love doesn't come naturally to teenagers

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: A Cherished Heart: How I’m Teaching My Sons to Be Respectful Caring Boyfriends

 Written By: Jessica Manning

When my middle son was three years old, he often talked about inviting me to his castle and marrying me someday.

He was going to buy me a puwple dress, puwple earrings, and a puwple scooter. Pronouncing his “R’s” was a challenge back then, which made his pretend gestures of love all the more heart-melting.

A Cherished Heart: How I’m Teaching My Sons to Be Respectful, Caring Boyfriends


Eleven years later, my son has now found someone else to invite to his castle, and as heartwarming (and perhaps slightly heartbreaking) as it is, I’ve realized I’m no longer the only woman in his life. 

In fact, two of my sons have girlfriends. Actually, one officially has a girlfriend, and the other one is “talking” to someone. Labels aside, they’re both smitten. 

They’re in almost constant communication via their phones, trying desperately to find any opportunity to spend time together, and thinking about them far more than their school work, sports, friends, and everything else I wish they’d focus on more.

As sweet as it’s been to see them so “in love,” my protective mama-bear heart has a lingering (and very real) fear that they’re going to get hurt. I also have a genuine concern that it might actually be my sons who unintentionally cause hurt in the relationship.

The truth is, young love is a powerful force.

Broken hearts, embarrassment, insecurity, and hurt feelings are all potential risks with young love. But most kids this age simply aren’t aware of how much responsibility comes with holding someone else’s heart in their hands.

Fortunately, my career as a high school counselor has prepared me for dating conversations with my own boys. I’ve learned that it’s all too common for kids to avoid telling their parents too much about their relationships because they fear it will open the door to scrutiny or interrogation. So, instead of reaching out for advice, they end up navigating their early dating years on their own – often fumbling along the way.

As parents, just as we’ve taught our kids how to tie their shoes, share, speak respectfully, and advocate for themselves, we also have to teach them how to be good boyfriends and girlfriends, how to avoid the pitfalls that can damage a relationship and mostly, how to cherish someone else’s heart… because if we don’t teach them who will?

5 Dating Lessons I’m Teaching My Boys (Things To Do AND Not Do)

teenagers dating

There are so many things that can make or break a relationship when our kids start dating. If you have a teen who’s dating, talk to them about these things to do AND not do.

Don’t Play Mind Games

Instead of saying, “You hurt my feelings,” or “I’m mad at you,” teens are notorious for sending messages through subliminal actions including things like taking longer than normal to text back, sending a Snapchat of the ceiling instead of their face (bizarre, I know, but ask your kids; it’s a real thing), or my least favorite – the silent treatment.

Most teens don’t have the maturity to talk about their feelings openly, so they find obscure ways to get their message across often causing confusion, hurt feelings, and frustration in the relationship.

Let’s teach our kids not to play games or mess with someone’s mind. Let’s help them learn to respectfully express their feelings in a relationship and nurture the relationship, not sabotage it. 

Put Jealousy In Its Place

Teenagedom is wrought with insecurities that can trigger havoc in relationships. Of course, it’s common for jealousy to rear its ugly head when a teen guy or girl feels their boyfriend/girlfriend is being wooed away by someone else. What’s less talked about is how some kids get jealous when their boyfriend or girlfriend spends time with their family, and friends (who existed long before they came along), or when they take part in other activities or obligations in their lives. 

We have to teach our teens to be open and accepting of their girlfriends or boyfriend’s busy lives. We have to teach them that it’s unfair to get angry or possessive when they balance out their lives with other people and activities. If they truly care about someone, they need to understand that their boyfriend or girlfriend has a life outside of “them.”

Never Kiss n’ Tell

Sadly, when young love goes sour, oftentimes, betrayal kicks in. Secrets shared, intimate moments together, or things that were said often become weapons to “even the score.” That’s why we need to pound it into our kids’ heads not to “kiss and tell.”

Parents of girls, especially, hear me out on this one. I’ve talked with many teen boys who have gone ‘crazy’ over a girl and are thus completely devastated by a break-up. We might think the crazy is often the result of hormones, but it’s more about their hearts. For some boys, their girlfriend (or partner) is the only person with whom they feel safe sharing their stories, including heartaches, ambitions, and fears. 

We have to remind our teens to value being the other person’s confidant. Whether you have a son or a daughter, teach them that guarding someone’s heart includes maintaining their privacy and never ever sharing secrets.

It’s Not “All About You”

When you put two people together who are naturally hyper-focused on themselves, (at least at this stage of their lives), there are bound to be problems.

We have to teach our kids to avoid always thinking of themselves and instead think about and consider their girlfriend or boyfriend’s feelings and wants.

Case in point, I recently bought a craft box of Christmas ornaments for my boys to paint with their girlfriends. Both thought it was a ridiculous idea. I had to convince them that maybe the girls would actually enjoy doing a craft. It hadn’t crossed their minds that perhaps they could suffer through something to make their girlfriends happy. 

Always Remember the Rules of Consent

When you’re “in love” and your hormones are raging, it’s all too easy for things to move along too quickly in a relationship. But I’m stopping my boys in their tracks and reminding them that nothing is a given… not even a kiss! They hold no claim to a girl’s body and a girl doesn’t hold claim to theirs. 

No one, whether they’ve been on one date or they’ve been dating for two years, should pressure someone else into doing something they’re not willing or ready to do. 

Read: Teens and Sexual Consent: 8 Steadfast Rules They Need to Know

Final Thoughts

There’s SO much more I want to teach my boys – these are just a few things! For now, though, instead of dismissing their relationships as predictably short-lived or immature, I’m teaching them to be respectful, caring boyfriends, and to learn to cherish the heart of the person they’re with, whether she’s their one true love or not. 

And, of course, I pray that whoever gets the final invite to my son’s castle feels cherished in her purple dress and purple earrings while she rides her purple scooter off into the sunset with him. She will be one lucky lady… 

READ: Things I Want My Teen Son to Know Before He Starts Dating


About Jessica Manning

Jessica is a high school counselor with over 20 years of experience working with teenagers. She earned an M.A. in school counseling and a B.A. in English and secondary education. Jessica is married to a high school principal and has three teenage boys; her current life revolves around all things teen. When not working or following her sons’ sporting events, Jessica appreciates any opportunity she gets to veg at home with her family and her dog, Phyllis. 


If you enjoyed reading, “A Cherished Heart: How I’m Teaching My Sons to Be Respectful, Caring Boyfriends,” you might also enjoy reading these posts!

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