In my observation, when people talk to a young girl, they kneel down to her level, make eye contact, and ask gentle questions.
And in my experience, when they want to talk to a young boy, they start with ruffling his hair, tackling, tickling, punching him in the arm, or wrestling.
Here’s the thing. As much as I can (and God knows I try – God knows I try), I get that this physial rough housing thing is what boys do, what they need. Need. And I allow room for this in my heart and in my life. But I’m trying with my whole self to teach my guys to be gentlemen. Or to be self controlled. Or to be civilized. Or maybe not to act like primates.
So when some well-meaning person comes up and tackles my boy in the lobby after church, wrestles him to the ground, and tickles him ’til he’s giggling for air, it’s not my favorite.
While I get the sentiment and appreciate the effort to engage my son, in a moment you’re going to walk away and get on with your day, and I will have a laughing-coughing-Tazmanian-wrestling-wound-up-Energizer-Bunny-Please-God-Help-Me who now feels justified that he was right all along: this kind of behavior actually is acceptable, despite what his ridiculous not-knowing mother tells him.
So, how’s about we give this a try.
Shake his hand. He’s been working on the firm grip of a young man, and you can give him another chance to practice.
Make eye contact. Show him that a man looks people in the eye with dignity.
Ask him a question. Expect him to answer; I certainly expect him to.
And show him that a great way to earn the attention and respect of other people is to engage them in appropriate conversation. Not so much with the tackling and wrestling. Save that for the football field and the playground.
Or the kitchen table. (Just kidding. We’re working on that too.)