I’ve been thinking about this topic lately as Sam gets older and starts having little playmates at school etc… I grew up calling my parents’ friends by their first names, but I always called my friends’ parents Mr./Mrs. _____. I don’t recall ever being “taught” that necessarily, it just made sense. (Funny little side note: Jeff’s mom is still listed in my cell phone as “Mrs. Chapman” because I added her to my contacts when Jeff and I were in high school and newly boyfriend/girlfriend. This cracks me up every time now since – especially being a teacher – I am very much “Mrs. Chapman” these days, but I don’t change it because it’s just so sweet and nostalgic to me.)
Anyway… I think I like the following “rules” for kids addressing adults:
My friends’ kids call me Elizabeth. (Or E)
My kids’ friends call me Mrs. Chapman. (These are their hypothetical school friends etc. that I don’t really know… I guess? I’m kind-of undecided on this one. Do I want them to call me Elizabeth too? Is that too “let’s be BFFs”? Clearly I’m over-thinking this.)
My kids call my friends by their first name. (If they are OK with it.)
My kids call their friends’ parents Mr./Mrs. (unless otherwise instructed by the aforementioned BFF parents ;))
I’ve been thinking that I’m not a big fan of the whole “Miss Elizabeth” thing, but then I remembered that we totally call our babysitter Miss Jennifer, so… Who even knows what I think?!?
What do you teach your kids when it comes to addressing adults? More importantly, how do you teach it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!!
P.S. Thanks for the feedback on my Stitch Fix post yesterday. Pretty sure they won’t be contacting me to be their ambassador for a while. 😉 (If you missed my review/critique, check it out here.)
I have zero preference.. well, thats a a lie.. I don’t like being called “Mrs. Yopp.” I think it’s weird.. maybe because its a “new” last name.. but I still don’t like it. I school i literally go by 3 names.
Miss Mulvaney- from the kids I had last year
Mrs. Yopp- from the kids that did not know me last year, and have never called me by my maiden name
Kathryn- from the kids that I have worked with in-home, that have never called me by my last name..
I prefer Kathryn..
For people we are close to or are in community with, I teach my kids to call them Miss/Mr + first name. Many of these people have asked to be called by their first names anyway but I like the idea of adding an honorific to teach my children respect and deference.
When it comes to people we don’t know well or people who are positions of authority over my children (not in a casual capacity), it will always be Mr/Mrs/Ms + last name.
I really wouldn’t care if my kid’s friends called me by my first name, but the fact that I am a teacher is likely going to prevent that from happening. Therefore, I will be Mrs. H or whatever.
Really, though, I think teaching my children to talk to someone respectfully and kindly is far more important than what they call that person. You can say any name with deference and respect as much as you can say it with sarcasm and rudeness.
i usually have my kids call my friends Ms./Mr. ______. Doesn’t always stick though. I have no real preference for how other kids address me, I’m just trying to instill a sense of respect for adults in my kids!
Erika B. says
I tend to call most adults Mr. Stephen or Miss Jennifer or whatever when talking about them to Millie…that’s what they call the teachers at her school, and that’s what we tended to call adults growing up. I’ve never been a fan of the ultra-formal Mrs. Last Name. And if it’s a close family friend or something and they are fine with just a first name, that’s cool…but we always introduce new adults as Mr/Miss First Name. Not that Millie talks at all right now, haha, but I guess this is in theory. I’m torn about her aunts/uncles, though. We always called ours Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom growing up, but I remember being super jealous of my best friend, whose family called their aunts/uncles just by their first names. I thought that was amazing. And for some reason, it’s harder for me to remember to call my SIL “Aunt Amy” around Millie…so I don’t know. Maybe we’ll use aunt/uncle titles, maybe we’ll just go with first names. So interesting to think about, though!!
Funny you should mention Aunt and Uncle.. we have a big extended family on our dad’s side.. there are some aunts/uncles that I would never DREAM of calling JUST their first name.. and there are some that I don’t think I have EVER used “aunt/uncle” in front of.. wonder why that changes. lol!! Sam calls me KK… I dont EVER want him to call me “Aunt Kathryn..” it sounds weird.. and he calls DeWayne, “DeWayne..” probably because he knew him before he can an “actual uncle” but.. I think we’ve escaped the “aunt/uncle” with E’s kids! Phew!!
Yolo Momma says
It was started by my Kindergarten teach way back in 1987, who went with the Miss/Mrs + persons first name. When I started working with children in an afterschool setting and day camp, I kinda followed along with it. It gives a sense of respect for adults, but still making it less strict or formal that all feel comfortable.
I have even gotten the neighbor kids to address me this way 🙂
Dani R. says
My mom always just kinda addressed the person as Miss _____or Mr. _____whenever she introduced me to them. All of my friends call her Ms. Pat and I call all of her friends and my friends’ parents Miss such and such. BUT I will say that now it is a little awkward because I am an adult now but many of these folks knew me as a baby so I am still addressing them as Mr/Miss____although I am now an adult with the same responsibilities as many of them lol. So I guess I’d say it’s important to stress the whole being respectful thing but also trying to figure out what happens once adult hood comes into play 🙂
Kendra Tierney says
I have a strong preference for Mr./Mrs. Last Name. I think it allows the kids to have a closeness with their own peer group that I’m not trying to horn in on. I also think it’s easier on my kids to just remember one family name for our friends than to have to do individual names for all grown ups. But mostly the first one.
My daughter’s only a month old, so I have plenty of time to figure this out, but even in just the short time she has been alive I’ve noticed myself introducing adults (my friends) to her as “Miss (first name)” and family members as “Uncle (first name)” and “Aunt (first name),” in keeping mostly with what I used as a child. That feels right to me, though we’ll see what my husband thinks and see if that needs to be tweaked,
Growing up, at church and at school we used adults’ last names (Mr. Smith or Mrs. Smith) except in a few circumstances – for example, my mom’s closest friends – who got Mr. or Miss before their first names. (Even the Mrs.(es) on that list got called Miss, I imagine simply because it’s shorter and easier to pronounce.) I never called an adult by their first name only until I was an adult… and for many of those adults, I still refer to them with a title.
As a born and raised Southerner, some of my childhood friends were drilled to say “yes m’am” and “no sir” in response to any queries from adults. This was not how I was raised, and sounds overly formal to my ears. In fact, my dad even told me as a kid that he would prefer I not use those because he felt they could be used disrespectfully. I really like what CrysHouse said, that ” … teaching my children to talk to someone respectfully and kindly is far more important than what they call that person. You can say any name with deference and respect as much as you can say it with sarcasm and rudeness.”
Amanda K. says
I think this is really hard.
My kids call most adults “Miss/Mr” first name, but then there are relaly close friends that they’ve just adopted the first name (no Miss/Mr) bc that’s what they hear me say.
And it’s awkward bc it also really depends on the adult and their preferences, right?
Once my friend’s kid was calling someone Miss First Name and the very-proper addressee replied, “Please call me Mrs. Last Name. I’m not the help.”
Yikes. I’m pretty sure I would limit my own interactions with that person (not to mention my child’s exposure). Anyone who can imply they deserve more respect or a more “proper” honorific than someone who works in the capacity of a maid/housekeeper/gardener/etc. isn’t someone I want teaching my children much of anything.
I usually defer to the parent’s opinion on what kids call me. For some close friends I’m Aunt Shannon. Others refer to me as Miss Shannon. It would be weird for me to go by my last name, but I work in science which is super informal so I’m not used to it.
I referred to adults growing up both by formal title and by first name. I still refer to older adults as First name with Mr/Mrs.
I am from the South, so my children are taught from day one to call any adult Mr./Mrs. _______. The exceptions are aunts/uncles, they can call them nicknames or just their first name. They are also taught to say yes sir/ma’am. There really is no debate/discussion ’round here, that’s just what we all do!
I’m still figuring this out, too! I tend to be super casual, I grew up calling my mom’s friends and my friends’ parents by their first name. But, my husband teaches at a classical, conservative school and they even refer to each other as Mr./Mrs. Last Name in social situations – that seems real crazy to me. So we just go with whatever seems to fit, which tends to start with a Mr/Ms and then varies between first or last name.
The best though was when I thought I was being appropriate by having Canon call an older couple who invited us over for lunch Mr/Ms First Name and later received an e-mail requesting they be called by their last name, as it was so inappropriate to do otherwise!! Haha. I guess people will tell you what they want!