Jul 31, 2015


Raising My Son to Be “Un Caballero” (A Gentleman)

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It’s a boy…!” the doctor announced enthusiastically, while looking at the sonogram screen.

I felt like crying.

I was immediately overwhelmed by a deep sense of responsibility I had not felt before with my first child — a girl.

How am I going to make sure I raise a good man?  I asked myself.

The Men in My Life

I grew up with so many interesting men around me.  For starters, my father, who despite being a loving, kind and intelligent man, was also an alcoholic.  It was hard separating the disease from the fact that he was a man.

I also witnessed too many men in my family who had more than one woman in their lives — and were proud of it.  It was their way of being bien macho.  From an early age, I was exposed to men who cheated, flirted, lied and disrespected women.

And then, there were the neighbors who verbally and physically abused their wives in their apartments.  Many times I heard them screaming and yelling…

Even my grand-father, who was a sweet and hard-working man, had 13 children among 9 different women.

A New Perspective While in College

It was only when I started reading books like A Room of One’s Own, in college, that I began to understand the impact of society, socialization and culture on gender roles and expectations.

Courses in Developmental Psychology, Culture and Gender Roles provided new perspectives on los hombres (men).  Over the years, I began to fully appreciate that the men I had grown up around were victims of the socialized roles they were expected to fulfill.

The truth is that men are born full of sensitivity, love and kindness.  As parents, we have the opportunity to foster all these qualities, while promoting a healthy sense of manliness.  

I knew that if I had a boy, I would want him to become a gentleman — exactly that:  a gentle man.  But the idea of figuring out how I would accomplish that felt very overwhelming at first.

What I’ve Done:

1.  The first thing I did was to shed all of my anger and resentment towards the men I had lost respect for in my life.  Being aware of these feelings is key if you want to love your son from a clean place.  So I read a lot about how boys are socialized to be strong, powerful and emotionally shut-down.  I began to gain compassion for the child inside every grown man that had disappointed me.

2.  I embrace all the qualities that my boy has, especially those that are different from his sisters.  I honor who and how he is, and I’m very mindful of what I might unconsciously expect of him because he is un varón (a boy).

3.  I encourage him to be respectful towards other girls and women, especially respectful towards me and his sisters.

4.  I role model for him how strong, smart and talented women are, and I have cultivated a strong sense of admiration for women in general.

5.  I hug, hold and kiss my boy all the time.  Every day.

6.  At home, he is in charge of the laundry and organizing the living room.  And he also helps with his younger siblings as much as his oldest sister.  We have no gender differences when it comes to cleaning, babysitting and nurturing others.

7.  I make sure he understands the challenges that we, women, have as mothers, caretakers and career/working women.  Sometimes he checks with me and asks:  “Mami, how was your day?  Are you tired?”

8.  I spend time with him alone.  We go on lunch dates and go bowling together.  In the summer, we sit outside on our porch — just him and I.  The other day, he came up to me and asked me:  “Mami, do you think you and I can have a mother-son date…can we go to that Japanese restaurant we go to?…”   And we did.

9.  Most importantly, I have taught him to feel very comfortable sharing with me how he feels.  I have always validated his feelings (fear, pain, excitement), and I have never judged or labeled his emotions.

10.  I tell him, again and again, what a gentleman he is.

Last week, during Parent-Teacher conference night, three of his teachers commented on how “respectful” he is with his teachers and peers.  One of them, in particular, said “his sense of respect is not out of expectations…it comes from an authentic place…”

I smiled, almost teared up.  I felt so happy for him, and so proud.




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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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  1. This is great Angelica. I think you’re absolutely doing the best thing for your son…and your daughters, who will also see equality in the home. I was raised also raised around distant and emotional men, but through my relationship with my husband, I have seen what you describe here…that men need to express themselves emotionally and to be nurtured…something we often deny boys. I think it’s great what you’re doing and I’m so glad that you shared with us how you are doing it. Great tips! <3

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Dear Chantilly, I, too, have learned a TON about boys and men from my husband. He is such an excellent person and father. I owe him much of what I know about raising good men ;)

  2. Thank you for this piece Angélica! My baby boy will be born in just a few days (ay mamá!), and I do feel the responsibility you were talking about. Reading how you have raised your lovely muchacho gives me so much joy and strength to know that I can do a good job too at raising a strong, caring and gentle latino man. Yay!

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Querida Sue,

      Primero que nada, felicidades en tu bebe que pronto llegara a tus brazos. Que bendición! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about my journey as a mami of 2 boys. I honestly love raising boys…they are so honest and loving.

      Cannot wait to see photos of your baby!



  3. I love, love, LOVE this article, Angelica. I hope I do as good a job with my own boy. xo

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Monica! Yay! I’m so glad you liked it. I wrote it from the heart, as I’m sure you can tell. I am in love with boys. They are amazing.

      Hoping to see you soon again!

  4. Thank you Angelica for sharing about your nurturing and wonderful relationship with your son. As a mother of a varoncito, I have so much to learn…Thank you for being a great mom and role-model for other moms. Your tips are very helpful!

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Hola Rossy, me alegra bastante que hayas disfrutado de mi historia con Carlos. Es much mas facil de lo que creemos el criar barones. Son muy cariñosos y tiernos.

      Te mando muchos abrazos,


  5. As a young man who was raised in a single parent household with three sisters and not a ton of great Hispanic male figures I want to applaud you for your efforts and for showing other moms how they can help raise their own “caballero.”

    The thing that struck me the most was how you make it a point to be on his side and make him feel comfortable. It makes it easier to talk to a parent and also to try and do your best for them.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  6. Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

    Luis, First of all, welcome to New Latina! And thank you for taking the time to leave such beautiful comment. I’m so glad you liked the article!

    I firmly believe we need to bring back “los caballeros y las damas” — we need to teach our boys and girls about kindness, respect, ethics and being a good person, in general.

    I hope I can continue to guide them all in the right direction….

  7. Que bello es. Tan lindo y respetuoso. El tiene muchos talentos y va a ser un cabellero de verdad. Eres una madre bueno y amorosa Angelica. Que hermoso regalos son tu ni~os. Casi me haces llorar….


  8. Beautiful! Love the photos!

  9. Angelica! You should be so proud! I would adore nothing more than to raise a gentleman and pray that I have the foresight to do so. And, can I just say, the picture of you and your son made my eyes swell with tears!

    • Dear Vanessa, what a very nice comment you wrote amiga! Thank you for dropping by and enjoying our stories here at New Latina. Stories are powerful, and this came from a special place in my heart ;)

  10. LisaRenata LisaRenata says:

    You should be proud. You are doing such a wonderful job with him, you can tell just by his look. He seems like a sweet boy, a gentleman. I pray that I do as good as a job and my little guy grows up to be a gentleman, so far he is and I also praise him for it, and respect him for the things he does an does not like/want.

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and personal story.

  11. Angelica thank you so much for this article. I actually wrote a poem a few months ago expressing more or less what you have described here. As a latina, I too grew up with roles models such as yours and without my father. When I had a son my mom told me this was my opportunity to raise a gentleman and I have taken heed to that advice.

  12. Me encantó tu artículo! I have 3 young boys and love to hear of how other moms do it. Most people say it’s harder to raise girls, but I also feel that responsability of raising boys who will be respectful, loving and strong. Gracias por los tips!

  13. Muchas gracias, yo soy la tercera de cinco mujeres y tengo un bebesito que es mi vida y espero poder ofrecerle una relacion sana donde pueda crecer como ser humano, me encanto la foto con tu hijo definitivamente una imagen vale mas que mil palabras felicitaciones

  14. Thank you for this. I have two boys and I am very conscientious of how of how I treat them and how they treat others, especially women. I am going to borrow some of your tips for when they are older.


  15. Hello Angelica!
    I loved this post because I related to that in so many levels. For one thing, knowing I was having a boy with so many bad male models I grow up around of scared me to death. Still it is something that concerns me, because I too want to raise un caballero.
    One I look into my sweet baby’s eyes I can’t help but feel the weight that comes with raising a man. I, too, did not experience this when my daughter was born. I think us, dominicans, tend to have great female role models around us but the opposite in the male department.
    Thanks for sharing, I feel relieve knowing I am not alone and that if I do the right thing by my son one day I’ll be listening with pride similar words about my dear boy.

  16. Como pueddo hacer que mi hijo de 14 sea un caballero. Cuando su padre es un mal ejemplopara el. Que no respeta ni valora a la mujer y es un Machista. Necesito su consejo .GRACIAS.!1

    • Beth Ortuno says:

      Martha yo le quiero aconsejar que no es solo el papa quien esta poniendo ejemplo. Mi esposo me golpeaba y le dije, ni tan solo por mi sino por sus hijos, tenia que pensarlo bien lo que andaba haciendo. Resulta que el fue con el doctor y ya esta tomando un medicamento que le ayuda controlarse y no enojarse tanto, tambien no tener tanta melancolia y estar de flojo aplastado en el sillon (viendo tele mientras yo hacia todo para limpiar y cocinar despues de trabajar todo el dia yo tambien). Yo no soy tan fuerte pero encontre esfuerzas para decirle fuerte, que algo tenia que cambiar, solo por que mas probable los ninos van a vivir asi toda la vida con todos si es que crezcan asi en la casa con nosotros los papas. El tampoco no quiere que su hija se case con uno que le maltrate ni que sus varones maltraten a las mujeres. El sabe mas que nadie que si las mujeres sufren fisicamente pero eso es un sufrimiento de una cierta manera aun mas grave para los hombres malos. Como el mismo dijo se sentia que si hay infierno, el iba directo ahi. Martha pienselo bien y sea fuerte. Ud misma esta poniendo ejemplo a su hijo de como son, o deben de ser, las mujeres.

      • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

        Beth, su consejo a Martha es excelente. Todos los puntos que usted indica son bien ciertos. Nosotras como madres tenemos mucha importancia y poder en nuestros hijos. Tenemos que hablarles constantemente y ser buenos modelos para ellos. Dejenos saber si necesita mas orientacion. Estamos aqui para ayudarnos.

  17. This gave me goosebumps! You are doing an amazing job. Thank you for sharing!

  18. Beth Ortuno says:

    I can see his self-confidence in your son’s eyes. I remember as a child my mother (a long-suffering woman) explaining to me once that men have the problem of showing power through their muscles and physically dominating when they feel small and helpless in every other way. Although your fear was about raising a boy who would not hurt women, what you are doing is empowering (true power) for your son most of all. He is growing up knowing he knows what to do. I really like your list. I come from a (white) heritage that boys are not supposed to hug or be hugged. Now that you bring it up I realize in the back of my mind I was wondering if it was ok to be always hugging my son and I need to trust my instinct on that & keep on doing it.

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