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

Posted by on Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:19 PM
  • 13 Replies

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 12:19 PM
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by Jinx on Aug. 22, 2014 at 1:52 PM
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We use a title with adults. It may be Mr./Mrs. 1st name, or last name but YES adults need the respect of a title.

When my boys started Cub Scouts, I felt that I needed to go by Mrs.Last Name but it seemed so schoolish and formal that I used Mrs.1st name. Now the boys are growing up and in high school and switching to Mrs.B seems more appropriate but alas, it is I answer to either.

Close family friends usually go by tital and first name. Church adults, Scout leaders, etc i use title and last name.

by Gold Member on Aug. 22, 2014 at 2:35 PM
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We always use a title....unless we are uber close like family.  My best friend is just plain old first well as her husband.  The rest of the world is addressed by Mr./Ms./Mrs. and then first or last name.  We use first name's with the younger generation...and last name's with the older generation.  It just depends.  I believe it helps teach my children that we should respect people who are older than us and not necessarily our peers. children even address the managers at the skating rink by Mr....and then their nickname (like Mr. Rhino, instead of just Rhino).  My girls have great manners...except at the dinner table and we are working on that.

by Group Admin on Aug. 22, 2014 at 2:52 PM
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My kids use Mr/Mrs/Ms First Name and yes, I think it is more respectful.  I called my neighbor Mr. Last Name until the day he died.  I do not agree with the no title at all thing.  The extremely close adults (like my best friend's mom) became momma last name when I was a child.  There can be respect and endearment.

by on Aug. 22, 2014 at 3:23 PM

It is etiquette, imo, not an issue of "respect". I want well mannered kids. It will serve them well in life to be well mannered and well versed in etiquette.

by Silver Member on Aug. 22, 2014 at 6:59 PM

I ask what they want my kid to call them and we go with that.  For some it is Mrs/Mr First Name or Last Name and some it is just first or last name.  It depends on them.  Some are Aunt/Uncle whatever because they are really close friends.  I think it should be whatever the person being addressed is comfortable with. 

by on Aug. 22, 2014 at 8:03 PM
When I grew up it was Ms. first name/Mr. first name. There were times the title was almost like an endearment. My kids do the same. It's always been natural to teach them that way. If someone doesn't like the title they tell the kids what to call them.
by Group Admin on Aug. 22, 2014 at 8:52 PM

However the person introduces themselves, that is how I have them call them.  I personally, have never felt comfortable introducing myself as Mrs. Langley (except when I was teaching, and then I insisted on it).  

by Group Admin on Aug. 22, 2014 at 11:06 PM
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 My kids will add Mr. and Mrs in front of all adult names.  I teach at a Co-op for and I introduce myself as Mrs. Debra.  I usually end up being Teacher with no name (I teach mostly prek and kinders though there are some that go up to 3rd.)  I will not answer to Debra from a kid.  It is how I was raised.  To kids of friends I am either Ms. Debra or Auntie Debra. 

by on Aug. 23, 2014 at 3:12 PM

While I don't think respect is based solely on what children call adults, I do think it is respectful to use a title.  We don't have a lot of adult contact I guess besides with people close enough to call 'first name.'  Even at work, as an ABA Therapist, the kids just call me Debbie.  I don't need my teacher name with them (I worked in a school and was Mrs. LastName for long enough!).  I don't think they respect me less because they call me Debbie.  Same with my friends' close friend asked me what I wanted her kids to call me, I am good with Debbie, she is good with Kristin, so we all just call everyone by their first names.

Another friend that homeschools, my kids call her Mrs. LastName but I think only because I was first a teacher to her daughter (in PS) before we were friends and I am Mrs. LastName and so is she to each other's kids. 

I don't know.  I think Ms. FirstName is kind of weird in any setting other than preschool.  I remember my mom being called Mrs. Jeffrey (my brother's his friend) it was hilarous, and adorable.  He was trying to hard to be polite, and it was perfect IMO.  I think kids can be polite and use first names.

by Bronze Member on Aug. 23, 2014 at 5:36 PM
I think it varies on both the generation of the adult and the part of the country you are in. I do teach my children to use Ms./Mr. for some adults and "Auntie" or "Uncle" with a first name for certain family friends. But I'm okay with my first name being used by my children's friends, and I know some of my friends are actually bothered if children use titles with them. With my parents and my husband's family it would also be Mrs./Mr. Heck, even I only just started using first names with my best friend's mom and dad (I've known them since I was in high school), and I'm over fifty! The point is, it's RESPECTFUL to call people what they wish to be called. The hard part is teaching your child to figure out what that is....
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