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How Children Should Address Adults

Do You Use Mr. and Mrs. to Introduce Adults to Your Children?

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?

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SKitch SKitch 3 years
I don't care so much if children are addressing adults by their first name, I care more that the kids are being respectful and not intruding on adult banter unless they've been include in the conversation. I DO introduce my daughter to anyone she hasn't met before and knowing how painfully shy she is, I try to gear conversations away from drawing attention to her. She's 8 and is terrified of being the "center of attention" at the moment. Grant you, she's her very own special quirky kind of wonderful. She can address an audience from a stage and she's more than happy to read a story she's written or from a book out-loud to an audience, but she doesn't want so much to do with small talk. She's expressed that she's really scared that she'll say something to embarrass herself. Don't worry, I've encouraged her to be just who she is and not worry so much about being embarrassed and have given her a few examples of when I've embarrassed myself when I was little and still now as an adult. I gave her the outcome, response from others and overall how I felt afterwards and in every instance it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was in the moment. Heck, she's polite, clever and teachers, including substitutes go out of their way to tell me they wish they had classrooms full of kids like mine. This Friday she won an award at school for being the "Youngest Author". Do I beam with pride? You betcha. I've always been the lone wolf, the odd one out, the odd noodle, the awkward girl when growing up and it really impacted me. So how I've managed to raise this great piece of work as a single Mom is beyond me. Maybe it's because I didn't have her until I was 38... who knows.
Moms Moms 8 years
This is a great post! I'm huge on "please" and "thank you" and those types of manners, but funnily enough since my daughter was born when I was 26 — all my friends have always had her refer to them by their first name or Auntie So-and-So. My friend's kids all call me by my name too or "So-and-So's mommy." My son just followed suit. I think it's because we are incredibly close with our circle of friends so it would be awkward to be so formal with them all of the sudden. If it's a stranger, my children usually say, "Thank you Mr." or whatnot.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
I'm from Texas, so we've always had the "sir"/ "ma'am" thing - even when you get older, that's just how you address people. I've seen the "Mr./Ms. (First Name)" more among the friends and significant others [not spouses] of parents. It's also for elders, especially people you're not directly related to. Even though I'm in my 20s, I still have to address all of my dad's friends as "Mr./Ms. (First Name)". I think it's good to raise kids with "sir" and "ma'am" - and learn to address all adults [at first greeting, if the adult wants to be known as something else, then that can be introduced later] as "Mr./Ms. (Last Name)" formally, or "Mr./Ms. (First Name)" if the parent has a casual relationship with the person. When the children get older/to adulthood, I wouldn't continue to enforce the formality of "Mr./Ms." with casual relationship people, like my friends.
Chouette4u Chouette4u 8 years
To the people who think it's weird to call people by their last names, what do your children (or except your future children) call their teachers?
Evalicious Evalicious 8 years
I'm from Texas, and it was always and still is polite to address people by ma'am, sir, Mr., Miss, and Mrs. It's synonymous with '"please" and "thank you," and knocking on a door before entering a room or saying, "Excuse Me," when you interrupt a conversation between people. Those are pleasantries that I still use today as an adult.
Akpril Akpril 8 years
I really don't understand the whole Mr. Mrs. thing. How is it rude to call someone by their first name? And why does it imply respect to call someone by their surname? It's probably because I grew up calling my parent's friends by their first name, and even relatives when I was a teenager. I tell kids my first name. For some reason hearing a child say ma'am and sir makes me uncomfortable.
bsobos1123 bsobos1123 8 years
I think it is a generation issue. My kids refer to my friends by their first names and their friends parents by their first names as well. The Mr. and Mrs. I reserve for people my parents age. When kids ask me my name I simply reply with my first name.
Chouette4u Chouette4u 8 years
I think you should always introduce an adult as Mr., Mrs. or Ms. and if they prefer to be called by their first name or something else, they can say so. I am not sure what I will ask other kids to call me yet (my daughter is 2.5 so I don't really get called anything by her friends) because our last name is sort of tricky to pronounce and remember.
pinkprincess1101 pinkprincess1101 8 years
It is always Mr. Ms. or Mrs. _________ growing up and for my children. It really annoys me that some children and even adults don't have that common courtesy. If they want to be called something other than Mr. Ms. Mrs. __________ than they can correct us when introducing but never to assume. People freak out because with me it is always yes or no sir ma'am no matter the age.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
its incredibly rude for a child to call an adult by thier first name.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
all adults are either MR. Ms. or Mrs. and thier first name.
CoralAmber CoralAmber 8 years
I called everyone by their first names growing up and that's how my friend's children address me. It seems silly unless it's someone the adult also calls by mr. or ms. like a teacher or a boss.
mhg mhg 8 years
we're trying to figure this one out too. when i was growing up, i never called any of my parents' friends or parents of my friends by their first name. it was always mr. or mrs. in fact, recently i took food to parents of a lifelong friend. when i was recalling the conversation with my mom, i had to ask her, what is mr. fisher's name? i've known the man for my entire life and he was always mr. fisher, which seemed strange to call him now. anyway, our kids call most of our close friends, auntie or uncle. and our older neighbors are called by their first name, at their request.
Pallas-Athena Pallas-Athena 8 years
My parents used Mr. and Mrs. when introducing my siblings and me to adults. Over the years I dropped the Mr. and Mrs. for very close people (who have known me since birth/my mom's coworkers) or I call them Uncle (my dad says so). I use Mr. and Mrs. when referring to someone and I feel awkward if I'm not introduced that way to people right away. It seems like a lot of the adults I meet don't really care, but I don't feel right just using their first name.
lickety-split lickety-split 8 years
all adults other than family (grandpa, aunt, etc) and my 2 very bff's are referred to as "Mrs. (insert last name here)". my 2 bff's are around so often and know every detail about my girls lives so formality would be silly. and their kids call me by my first name, but call my husband 'Mr. Lickety Split".
Gruberr1 Gruberr1 8 years
Its funny, I was just thinking about this earlier this week as I went to introduce my son to someone. We always used Mr. and Mrs. as kids and I started to do so this week and it felt so awkward. I did it anyway and I think the woman appreciated it, but it did make me feel old to be doing so!
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 8 years
If I ever have children, I would DEFINITELY teach them to address adults as Mr. and Mrs. - it's a sign of deference and respect to elders, which I believe is "good" ettiquette. I still address many older people I've known as a child as Mr. or Mrs. so and so. Of course, there are adults who prefer to be called by their first names as they like the familiarity and some believe it makes them "feel old." However I do cringe when I hear my mom's piano students call her by her first name when she's never requested it - I think it's so rude.
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