Blogger and mother Danielle Larkins discusses how and why calling adults by just their first name has become a cultural norm in this post originally featured on The Washington Post.
I was 13 when I thought it would be fun to call my 8th grade teacher by her first name. More out of boredom than disrespect, my normally good judgment lapsed and I acted out by responding to her, "Yes, Nancy." I was promptly sent to the principal's office, and I didn't think it was so fun after that. I hung my head in shame and dreaded the reprimanding to come. My parents were informed of the incident and were certain to correct my misbehavior. "You will never address an adult by her first name, do you understand? Never."
Today, however, this so-called misbehavior is marginalized. Calling adults by their first name has become the cultural norm in households, neighborhoods, and even schools. In most circles I am introduced to children as Ms. Danielle. What ever happened to Mrs. Larkins? Did my last name escape my womb along with my child? Is this a regional phenomenon? Maybe it's his Midwestern sensibilities, but my husband has taken notice of this trend as well. And we find ourselves in the minority as we wonder how addressing an adult by his or her last name has become a thing of the past.
To this day (even at the age of 33) I address my friends' parents by their last names, as do most of my friends. Because they are not our peers but our elders — and we were taught to show respect to our elders. So what changed? Why are children today taught differently?
I'm not judging other parents for how they raise their children, despite my disagreement on this topic. I just don't understand why the tradition stopped. Has our culture lost its respect for its elders? Have we just become a more informal society? Or maybe our desire to elevate our kids' self worth has gone overboard, and we don't want our kids to feel they are "beneath" anyone else. When I've asked other parents why they don't teach their children to address adults by their surname they seem uncertain — as if it is the first time they've thought about it. My guess is that they succumb to the rationale that "everyone else is doing it so I will too."
Head over to The Washington Post to read the full article!