Originally Posted by turnipmama
It is common practice in the south. My whole DH's family was raised this way and they are all very respectful but still playful loving people.
I have to agree with turnipmama. I was raised in TN, husband was raised in KY. We both call strangers, people who phone us, waitstaff at restaurants, etc, "sir and "ma'am". It was just what we always did. We even answer questions to eachother with a sir or ma'am on the end occasionally. Just because it is habit. I would asssume that our future kids will probably do this as well just because they'll hear it so often.
For us, it is not about forcing kids to respect their elders...it is an issue of showing respect for everyone. I won't expect my kids to answer me with a ma'am, but I would hope they might answer a nice lady who does helps them with a "thank you, ma'am."
We do get weird looks when my husband holds doors open for anyone he sees coming and answers their thank you with a "you're welcome, ma'am". We live in NY now and I guess that is just not as common here.
Women here often tell dh that calling them ma'am makes them feel old.