Growing up, "Yes ma'am" and "No sir" were staple phrases in my house. Sticklers for manners, my parents wouldn't indulge us until we used the magic words. Along with the "ma'am" and "sir," adults were always introduced as "Mr." and "Mrs." While some moms and pops claim the politeness makes them cringe as it connotes age, I like the etiquette. Occasionally someone would say, "Please, just call me Martha" in which case I strayed from the rule and followed her instruction.
As parents, my husband and I have defined our rules of addressing adults. The Southern gal in me is sticking with the "ma'am" and "sir," and we're still trying to figure out the rules on titles. For the most part, our daughter calls most adults by Mr. and Mrs., while close friends have garnered nicknames or "Auntie" status, skipping the rules altogether. Perhaps it is a West Coast trend or a sign of our generation, but many tots simply call older acquaintances by their given names and think the hierarchy is for the birds.
What practice do you preach?