As a self-proclaimed tomboy, Heather Haupt was sure she would rock what she calls “the boy mom thing.” Then she had three sons — boys who never tired of engaging in mud battles, playing football in the house and pretending to be superheroes. (They might have even told a joke or two involving flatulence.)
Rather than throw up their hands, Haupt and her husband, Rich, threw down the gauntlet, creating what they called the Chivalry Challenge. That project became the basis of Haupt’s book, Knights in Training: Ten Principles for Raising Honorable, Courageous, and Compassionate Boys (TarcherPerigee, 2017).
Swordplay and Chivalry
Haupt didn’t set out to write a book. Instead, she wanted to teach her sons about chivalry, which — she quickly discovered — was about much more than treating women with respect.
“It was an entire code of conduct that really directed who a knight was,” she says. “I thought, ‘This is what I want for my boys.’ I looked at them raging battles around me, and I thought, ‘I think this is what they want for themselves.’ ”
After some research into knighthood and the progression from page to squire to knight, Haupt extracted 10 rules of chivalry (see below) from the French epic poem The Song of Roland.
“I posted them in our house, and I called my boys together and said, ‘We’re going to do knight training.’ It really captured their imagination. They were filled with a sense of excitement and wonder that they had opportunities to be the hero, even now as boys,” she says.
The family checked out library books about knights, pored over the details of arms and armament, and held mock battles with foam swords. Then Haupt and her husband started looking for opportunities to connect real-world experiences with the knight’s code.
“I put up a chart, and when I would spot them exhibiting feats of chivalry, we would put a little star on their chart and pull them aside and say thank you,” she says.
At the end of this initial chivalry challenge, King Rich knighted them one afternoon after work.
“They didn’t even let him get out of his work clothes before we started the knighting ceremony,” she recalls.
Haupt says the Chivalry Challenge worked because it gave the family a roadmap to follow and a constant reminder of the principles to which they’d agreed. What’s more: It translated abstract, adult concepts like obedience into a language her boys could understand.
“We were honoring their battle mindset and their desire to fight the good fight, their desire in their heart that they wanted to be the hero,” she says. “It adds an element of adventure to doing the right thing.
The Knight’s Code of Conduct
1. Love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, mind and strength.
2. Obey those in authority over you.
3. Stand against injustice and evil.
4. Defend and protect the weak.
5. Respect and honor women.
6. Refrain from wanton offense.
7. Speak the truth at all times.
8. Be generous and willing to share.
9. Persevere and finish the task at hand.
10. Pursue excellence in all you do.