Friday, January 30, 2009

Fancy Fridays: Titles

Here is an email from a reader:

"About 6 or 7 years ago, my friend called to tell me that she was going to expect her daughter (and her other kids) to address me as Mrs. Smith, rather than Kate. She wanted to let me know so that if her daughter called me Kate, I could gently correct/remind her to call me Mrs. Smith. I thought that was such a great idea that I began to implement that with my children as well.

Today when my daughter came home from playing with a friend, she told me that her friend said she can call adults the same thing that her mother calls them - not using a proper title. I said, "Well, that is there choice, but you know the rule in our family." When I talk to my friends and neighbors, I call them by their first names, but when I speak to my children about other adults, I use Mr. or Mrs. My kids are in that habit and I think it is important etiquette to show respect to adults. I even correct other children when they call me Kate - it actually kind of shocks me when they do!"

Titles are important and we should be teaching our children at home. I think that it's important that the teaching come from us, the parents, because that's what our children will remember. My son's friend may be afraid of me if I remind him to call me Mrs. Smith, but if I'm reminding my son to call his friends' moms by their proper titles, it doesn't matter how often they ask him to call them by their first name, he goes on calling them by their proper title as a sign of respect. My kids and I have not had formal discussions about this at all, but I notice that we have a neighbor who announces herself by her first name when talking to the children and they still call her Mrs.'s just habit, that's all it is.

There are exceptions to this rule. I have very close friends whose children are more like my kids or my nieces and nephews who call me a special nick name and not only do I not mind it, I welcome it..but that's special and not for everyone. In intimate circumstances I think you can change the "rules" but in general, our children need to remember to respect our elders and that's a good start. If they can't remember Mr. or Mrs. whatever...start with a generic Ma'am or Sir.


Jessica said...

I think this is such an important thing to do. I greatly appreciate polite children and I LOVE it when someone comments on how polite mine are.
Thanks for all of your great wisdom & advice!

Ashley and Brett said...

I agree. But this is a hard topic for me! I even had a hard time being Mrs. when I was teaching... it just makes me sound old! Or I think my mother in law is around and I forget to answer. I tend to have kids in my church calling call me by my first name, I should really remember why I should teach them to use Mrs. Thanks for a great reminder!

Janine said...


It's such a personal thing, you've got to decide who calls you by your formal title and who doesn't and that is completely up to you. As far as what other kids call me, I'm more flexible with that, I've never been rigid where that is concerned, but I have made it clear what my children are to call other people, that's all. Good luck sorting it all out...I still have a hard time with the Mrs. part too!

Woman Interrupted said...

So right...any child of mine must use terms of respect when addressing adults. Here in the south, we (and by that, I mean everyone I know) teaches their kids to address adults by Mr. or Miss [insert adult's first name.]

Old habits die hard b/c I called my neighbor Mr. Ken for years because he was my dad's age and it didn't feel right to call him by his first name alone.

Anonymous said...

Its plain weird to me. This is not what 'respect' is in my book. Respect is speaking in appropriate tones, saying 'please/thank yous' etc. Its not addressing me with by the term Mrs xxx. We aim to treat kids with the same respect we ask for; and we believe in treating them as fellow people, no mtter how small they may be. It makes no sense to me to have them call me "mrs xx" so that I can feel 'respected', LOL!

Janine said...

Dear Anonymous-
I thank you for your opinion. Let me explain why I believe that titles/ proper names/being called what we've been asked to be called is important.

Names are a personal thing. Some people feel strongly about this, some don't. As I said in an earlier comment, this is a personal thing as well, everyone is going to feel differently about this and etiquette is just there to help others feel more comfortable around us.

For example. If my mother in law had asked me to call her by her first name but I had started calling her "mom", that in my opinion, shows a lack of respect for her, because I haven't listened to her and her wishes, and I'm calling her something much more personal than what she's requested.

I welcome and appreciate all this feedback and these opinions, it enriches what I write about and I respect your difference of opinion, thank you-


Dreama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Üdo Ümami said...

I also correct my college students when they refer to a female instructor as Mrs. Smith and a male instructor as Dr. or Professor Jones... they need to be reminded that it's Dr. or Professor Smith as (providing that both instructor's hold a doctorate of course)<3 Üdo

lorrwill said...

oh heck I am more comfortable calling some adults by their proper titles so I am all for being addressed properly by children.

It never happens but it would be welcome if it did.

Jessica said...

I've started teaching my boys to say Miss or Mr First Name. I think it's not only a way to teach respect but also authority. I want my boys to respect their elders.

At a group playdate, I asked my son to say thank you to Miss Beth. Another little girl said, "That's not her name." I was shocked that she would say it in such a sassy tone. I just told her that we are teaching our boys to call adults Mr. or Miss to show them respect. I don't think she liked my response.

How do you approach telling a child or parent that you want to be called Miss Jessica? It's not a common thing to do in Iowa so it's hard to implement that. I do introduce myself to small children as Miss Jessica, but would feel strange correcting them (especially in front of parents).

After getting to know a great couple who moved here from the south, we decided to start having our boys say yes m'am and yes sir. I think it sounds so respectful.

Thanks for letting me "lurk" on your blog. I really enjoy all the etiquette tips!!