It used to be that raising a “gentleman” meant raising a child who was born into a specific status or class. Nowadays, however, it has come to mean so much more than that. Being considered a gentleman has nothing to do with wealth, breeding or expensive possessions. Instead, a modern gentleman is someone who is caring, thoughtful, kind and, most importantly, a person of strong character. Being a gentleman has less to do with how a man treats “ladies”, and everything to do with how he treats other people in his life. Being – and raising – a gentleman has transcended chivalry. It’s about helping a boy grown into a good man and a compassionate and respectful human being. Here are 12 ways to raise your son to be a perfect gentleman in today’s imperfect world.

12. Be a Leader

It is very easy for children to be followers, and do what everyone else is doing,. Teach your son how to be a leader from the earliest days. This will help him do what he thinks is right, rather than what other people suggest just to blend in with the crowd. When your son is young, put him in charge of an activity for the rest of the family. Have him suggest what to have for a meal or what to watch on TV. Remind him to consider everyone in the family, and coax him into making smart choices.

11. Be a Good Sport

No one gets through life without experiencing disappointment or loss – in life or in sport. The first time this happens to your son, remember to teach him how to lose with dignity, and, just as importantly, how to win with grace. No one likes a sore loser or a bad winner. Remind him to shake hands with his opponent, regardless of who won. Boasting, bragging and trash-talking are all rude and not welcome on any court, field or rink.

10. Be a Good Listener

A gentleman knows how to speak eloquently and politely but, more importantly, he knows how to listen. Teach your son to look someone in the eye and carefully listen to what they have to say. Try to limit interruptions and help him understand how to wait his turn. Thinking before speaking is key. Giving your son the courtesy of listening to him when he is trying to express himself will show him how it’s done.

9. Be Friendly

Even the shyest of children can still be taught to be friendly. A welcoming smile, a kind word and a simple “hello” can work wonders at putting someone at ease. Smiling and greeting someone will immediately make someone feel comfortable. Adding in eye contact will solidify the connection. They do not need to be best friends with everyone they meet, but a friendly face is always welcome at anytime and in any place.

8. Be Polite

Always encourage your son to use good manners, as politeness is a sign of respect. Be attentive and courteous and teach your son to be the same. Listening to others, saying please and thank you, and generally behaving in a proper manner will help ingratiate your child with his peers as well as the adults in his life. From the playroom to the boardroom, good manners will help your boy go far.

7. Be Honest

Honesty really is the best policy. Educate your son on the importance of being a man of his word, or keeping promises and telling the truth. Inevitably, children will lie. When you catch your son, ask him why he felt the need to lie and explain that lies can be hurtful. Discipline when necessary, but encourage truth telling and be understanding. Also remind them that some truths may be better left unsaid.

6. Be Generous

Generosity is about so much more than money. Being generous means being giving of one’s self. Encourage your son’s sense of empathy. Remind him how others might feel. Show him that helping someone else feels good. Lend a hand, offer a seat, and donate to charity. Older children can volunteer to help those less fortunate than themselves. Even when it may seem like an inconvenience, helping others and being generous of spirit makes the giver feel great too.

5. Be a Hard Worker

It is much easier to give up than to persevere. Teach your son to follow through and try his best, even when it feels impossible. When the going gets tough, teach your son to persist and try his best. Once he makes a commitment, whether it’s to a team, a sport or a plan, make sure he sticks with it. Find ways to make things work as best as you can at school and socially. And if your son has come to the end of his tether and can’t continue working, or playing, teach him how to bow out with grace and respect.

4. Be Realistic

Don’t expect your 2-year old to be considerate. This is learned behavior. But a toddler can be expected to learn basic manners and execute them. Also know with whom you are dealing. Not every personality can be everything. If your son isn’t athletic, don’t force him into sports. If your son is naturally quiet or shy, don’t pressure him to be outgoing. Adding pressure to have your son conform to something he is not may backfire. Play to his strengths, not your own.

3. Be Positive

When your son is doing something right, be sure to praise him. Don’t wait for your child to misbehave to acknowledge the behavior. Positive reinforcement goes a lot further than negative. Show your pride, let your son know how pleased you are with him. Supportive words go just as far as material rewards. Let him know his good choices and smart decisions are noticed and are impressive.

2. Be a Role Model

Children learn what they see. If you act like a gentleman, chances are your son will too. Teach him what you value. Live a virtuous life and he will follow suite. Fathers and mothers can both be positive people that your son can – and will – look up to. Work as a team with parents, caregiver and teachers to positively influence your son’s life. Promote positive friendships, and show your son examples of stand up gents in books, movies and on TV.

1. Be a Force for Good

Compassion and empathy are essential for building confidence and respect. Teach your child to use his own superpowers as a force for good. If your son is a natural math whiz, encourage him to help others. If he is an excellent athlete, convince him to elevate his teammates. Most leaders are made, not born. Teach your son to make the most of what he’s got in a kind and honorable way.