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Making Kids Use 'Mr.' & 'Mrs.' Isn't Teaching Them Respect

Posted by on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:18 PM
  • 29 Replies
2 moms liked this

Making Kids Use 'Mr.' & 'Mrs.' Isn't Teaching Them Respect

by Judy Dutton

Recently I met a 3-year-old who said, "It's nice to meet you, Ms. Dutton." I was floored -- my 4-year-old typically greets strangers with a stony silence and a suspicious stare. Still, what jarred me most about this kid's behavior was not just the level of courtesy, but how she addressed me as "Ms." followed by my last name

"We wanted to teach her to treat adults with respect," explained the 3-year-old's parents, who were all but bursting with pride at their daughter's overt display of manners.

At first, I'll admit, I was jealous. It also got me wondering: Should I coach my daughter to use "Mr./Mrs." too?

When I was growing up, I addressed ALL adults as "Mr. Jones" or "Ms. Smith." But apparently in one generation, the rules have changed. Taking my daughter to preschool, for instance, I was surprised to hear the teachers introduce themselves as "Angel" and "Odalys." Only one teacher of the bunch was called "Mr. Lu" -- an odd anomaly rather than the norm. 

I, too, was also guilty of introducing myself to kids as just "Judy," no "Ms." required. Should I introduce myself as "Ms. Dutton" to every kid I met? Nah -- kids might humor my odd request, but it would be a drop in a tidal wave of adults they knew on a first-name basis. Rather than start a revolution, I'd just be pegged as the weird mom on some kind of power trip, and that would be a major play date killer.

Still, I could drill the "Mr./Ms." lesson into my own daughter. For a day or so, I fantasized about how nice it would be to hear parents remark, "My, what a polite child!" to me, too. Still, the next time I encountered a real-life situation where I could have put this polite mannerism into practice, I caved. It just seemed too forced.

"This is my friend ... Carin," I told my daughter. And that was that -- once you're on a first name basis, you can't go back.

I'm all for teaching my daughter to respect adults. But it won't come from making her use "Mr./Ms." with every person she meets. For one, I don't think my daughter respects Mr. Lu any more than her other teachers, as was made perfectly clear one day when she called him "Mr. Poo" with a giggle. I'm also down on honorifics because I believe that social etiquette can, and should, shift with the times. Not too long ago, even good friends addressed each other by their last names; Jane Austen's heroine Elizabeth Bennet called her friend and neighbor "Mr. Darcy" right on up until they were engaged -- and who knows, maybe even after that (what was that man's first name, anyway?).

So congratulations, parents of that 3-year-old, you've got a kid with an impressive parlor trick. Good manners in children are so rare these days, a little goes a long way. But while I admire your efforts, I won't be emulating them. It's quaint, and cute, but true respect runs deeper than a name -- first, last, with or without Mr. or Ms.

Do you think kids should address adults by their first name?

by on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:18 PM
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Replies (1-10):
chrlstoncharmed
by Melissa on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:24 PM

This author obviously doesn't live in the south. 

Cafe MichelleP
by Head Admin on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:26 PM
3 moms liked this

I agree.

People can debate the respect issue, but for our family it has always been about good manners. To this day, my kids, even the adults kids would never call another adult their elder by their first name unless expressly instructed to by that person.

Quoting chrlstoncharmed:

This author obviously doesn't live in the south. 


.oOMellyOo.
by Silver Member on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:39 PM
2 moms liked this

Children should address adults how their parents teach them. End of story. If my children don't know you, you are Ma'am or Sir. If people "feel old" by being addressed respectfully I simply smile and ask if they prefer being addressed as "Hey Lady" and Hey You". Usually they prefer Sir, Ma'am Mr, or Mrs. (Ms. Miss). Whether or not they feel its respectful isn't really the point, the point is that my children use their good manors even when adults act like children....

mnkymommy08
by Bronze Member on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:40 PM
I agree. I'm not from the south (DH is from NC) but all my kids say "yes sir/ma'am", "no sir/ma'am" and addresses adults as "mr/miss" or "mr/mrs". We have good family friends and they are Mr. Michael and Ms. Doris. It doesn't matter that they've known them their entire lives. That's what they're called. They know that is how they address adults and that's that.

Quoting chrlstoncharmed:

This author obviously doesn't live in the south. 

Molimomma
by Bronze Member on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:40 PM

I was taught to speak respectfully but it had nothing to do with using Mr./Mrs. It was about saying yes m'am/no sir, please/than you and using yes instead of yeah. Most of my mother's friends I called Miss_____ with their first name or just their first name depending how informal they were. My sister-in-law who has been my best friend since the 8th grade STILL calls my mom Miss _____ even though my mom has told her repeatedly she can call her by her first name and has known her for 20+ years now. To me, depending on the relationship it can be excessively formal.

4girlsmum
by on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:45 PM
1 mom liked this

I dont agree, I think the fact that they taught their child to address adults a certain way is just indicative of many other ways they taught their kids to have manners.....when a child addresses an adult with their first name it puts them on a more even playing field, and children and adults are not equal.  My children always refer to adults differently than their peers, with a Miss, or a Mr.......

PAmomoffour
by Member on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:46 PM

 No it does show respect. My children call Mr/Mrs last name unless told other wise and I don't give a rats rear how other peope raise their children, (oh well no one else does it and I don't want to be odd man out)  I always introduce myself as hi I'm <instert child's name> mom, Mrs.Last name. Children are not an adult's peer and that's reinforced w/ the Mr/Miss/Mrs. My older 2 have gotten many compliments on how they carry themselves in a job interview b/c they show common respect to the person in the interview.
    It's not a parlor trick to raise your children with good manners.

Anonymous
by Anonymous 1 on Aug. 22, 2014 at 1:34 PM

This-

Quoting 4girlsmum:

I dont agree, I think the fact that they taught their child to address adults a certain way is just indicative of many other ways they taught their kids to have manners.....when a child addresses an adult with their first name it puts them on a more even playing field, and children and adults are not equal.  My children always refer to adults differently than their peers, with a Miss, or a Mr.......

 

darbyakeep45
by Darby on Aug. 22, 2014 at 1:38 PM

 I was raised in the deep south...south Georgia.  I was raised to address other adults with manners...Mrs, Mr. Ms., Miss, Ma'am, Sir, etc. 

My neighbors are amazing people...they are in their 70s and I still call them Mr. Don and Mrs. Helen.  Just something I do.

adoptivemomof1
by Mel on Aug. 22, 2014 at 3:00 PM
I was brought up to call people Mr. or Ms. but Sir and Ma'am have a very different meaning as a Canuck so I do not use it nor does my daughter. However, it really is a cultural thing and I honestly do not think using sir or ma'am is necessary to show respect to adults. Good manners and treating people with respect does not mean certain labels must be used when addressing someone.
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