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How Should Children Address Adults?

What is the etiquette rule regarding how children should address adults?  Children should address adults by their LAST name with an appropriate title like, Mr., Mrs., Ms, Dr., etc.  For some reason, our society is encouraging children to address adults by their first names with an occasional “Ms” in front, like “Ms. Angie.”  Why??????????  Why are we doing this?  Why are we taking away more opportunities for children to show respect towards adults?  Why are we blurring the lines between adults and children?  Why do we think that having a child call us by our first name, like “Ms Monica” somehow makes our relationship “closer” instead of the child calling us by our last name, like Mrs. Irvine?  

Adults, I seem to notice a whole lot of complaining that is directed to the fact that children don’t show respect towards authority any more or towards parents, teachers and other adults.  Do you know who I blame?  Yes.  Us.  I absolutely disagree with the thought process that we can have a more intimate relationship with a child if they call us by our first name.  Does it change the relationship?  You bet it does.  But it does not change the relationship in a way that is beneficial to the child or the relationship.  Children are in need of guidance, wisdom, direction, support, love and acceptance.  They need role models, not more “buddies.”  Children and adults can have an amazing relationship as the children understand the role of the adults in their lives.  Out of respect and honor, children address adults by their last names.  When children learn to stand for adults, answer “Yes Ma’am” or “Yes Sir” to adults and when children learn to allow adults to go in front of them, they are being given a gift.  This gift is the gift of respect for self.  It comes when we know we are being kind and participating in a small act of kindness to help those around us to know how we feel about them.  If more adults remembered their roles as adults to children and stopped trying to get on equal ground with children, we would see healthier relationships between those children and adults.

If you are insistent about a child calling you by your first name, although I hope you aren’t, the proper way to approach this is to approach the parent of the child and ask their permission for their child to call you by your first name.  Only with a parent’s permission should an adult notify a child of this desire.  If a parent does not wish their child to call you by your first name, please honor that.  No one should ever interfere with how a parent is teaching and raising their child unless the child is in some type of danger.  Please let’s do our part to help children have healthy, respectful and appropriate relationships with all adults by starting with the proper way to address one another.

Have a great month.
Monica Irvine


Anonymous said...

As a Christian mother I teach my children to respect authority. Pastor's should be called Pastor, teachers should be called Mr or Mrs. However, I feel like I have met some very disrespectful children who can say yes sir or ma'am. Outward conformity but not inward. This is a heart issue not just a social one. My son came home from school with a detention for rubbing a dandelion on his friend's shirt. Did I think it was a silly reason to get a detention? Yes! But did I call the teacher and complain? No! Because I respect his authority as my son's teacher. If we show our children that we respect authority placed over us then they too will respect their elders. As a side note, I do let my children call my close friends Miss Joy or Mr. Matt. By placing the Ms. Or Mr in front of their name I feel it shows the children that those adults are my peers and close friends. An older woman in our church would still be called Mrs. Smith. That being said. All the formality in the world is lost if the child can say "Yes Ma'am" then run the other way and be allowed to act like a crazy person.

Adriana Zoder said...

Very good points in this post. I had a friend who was shocked when I asked her to ask her children to call me Ms. Adriana (not even Mrs. Zoder). She was adamant that the whole thing is weird and respect does not come from names and titles etc. I just felt uncomfortable being called by my first name by a 4-year-old. So I asked for a middle-of-the-road title. And yet, it was not well received.
There are some adults who have had certain negative experiences with boundaries and, as such, they want to throw the baby out with the bath water. But that does not make it right.

Anonymous said...

I agree with that. I think first name is fine as name does not equal respect