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Kids Calling Adults By Their First Names: Pro or Con?

Bloggers are denouncing the practice, look at what is fueling the casual approach

The topic of how children should address adults caught my interest last week while reading a blog on a social website for parenting issues.

Blogger Deanna Wong wrote that she was shocked to learn while reading a book to her 4-year-old daughter that the child did not know the meaning of the word "Mister."

Wong decried the increasingly casual approach to how children address adults. She has noticed a decline in the traditional method of children using Mr., Mrs. and Miss with the appropriate last name when speaking to adults. More youngsters are now calling adults by their first names, Wong wrote.

Bloggers on other parenting sites also are criticizing the trend, although some wrote that the practice remains culturally appropriate in southern states.

Wong asked family members and friends for their thoughts on the issue, and "unscientific research lead me to conclude that those who are between the ages of 42 and 50 can be blamed for the 'chummification' of the relationship between adults and kids and the disappearance of these formal terms."

I too have noticed a change in the way children address adults. My sons and their teammates almost always address their coaches by first name only. Our daycare supervisor asks to be called "Miss Jen." Even my priest is known to the congregation as "Rev. Gayle."

Some of my friends tell their children to call me "Miss Mary," which I don't mind because I realize Canonico is tough for a child to pronounce. Hearing "Mrs. Canonico" is somewhat jarring, so I admit "Miss Mary" makes me feel younger.

But then again, I am contributing to Wong's perceived chummification.

Thinking back to my childhood, I don't remember being allowed to address any adult non-relative by first name. I wonder what is fueling this trend toward causal social interaction between adults and children.

Are there social ramifications for this? I'm not sure. I wonder whether other parents have stricter policies on how they expect their children to address adults. I try to instruct my kids to use traditional methods of salutation, but they often do as other children are doing.

Dana Petry May 25, 2011 at 05:23 PM
I agree with Wong and don't think that it's appropriate to call an adult by their first name . For example, at daycare, the teachers are all called by their first name; however, they are taught to put a Miss or Mrs. first. I've been personally called Ms. Dana by my friend's children and Mrs. Petry or Petry's mom by my son's classmates and friends. To me, all can be acceptable even though I do prefer Mrs. Petry. I have noticed the difference in demeanor from those who do call me Ms. Dana. The children who call me Mrs. Petry seem to be more respectful and show boundaries as to what they say to me. Growing up, there was only one couple in which I did not call by their last name. Even then, they were known as Aunt and Uncle. To this day, I still call my friend's parents by Mr. and Mrs. Orient even though I've been asked time and time again to use their first names. To me, it's disrepectful.
Gustavo Plumlee May 27, 2011 at 12:19 PM
I am old school on this one. My children address an adult using Mr., Mrs., Miss, and Ms. As to which name they use, the first or last name of the adult, that is up to that individual. However, Mr./Mrs., etc. are always to be used. I prefer Mr. Plumlee or Mr. Gustavo from my students but to kids on my block of friends of my children, Mr. Plumlee is used. I do not see a difference of behavior towards me whether a child uses Mr. Gustavo or Mr. Plumlee. I do see a huge difference when a child calls me Gustavo and I so not like it at all.

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