Addressing elders by name? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 02:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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At this point it is early to even be concerned about properly addressing elders but it is a thought. When I was a child I addressed adults as Mr. or Mrs. Smith. I rarely knew their first name. This was how my husband was raised also. Likely we'll follow this practice instead of by first name or Miss Debbie, Mr. Brad, etc.

What are your thoughts?

Edited to add:
OMG, I meant adult not elder. Wow, now I understand how strange this seems!
I called my friend's parents Mr. and Mrs. not aunts and uncles!
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#2 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 02:27 PM
 
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Honestly? I don't really know anyone who's children do this anymore. It might be considered... unusual.

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#3 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 02:30 PM
 
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What part of the country are you in?

In some areas this is more important than other areas.
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#4 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 02:34 PM
 
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My children call adults by Mr and Mrs so and so. When they have playdates they know they are going over to Mr and Mrs Johnson's house and that is what they call them, they call their teacher Mrs. Pollack, etc. Call me old fashioned but I also expect kids to use the proper Mrs. W when they address me.
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#5 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 02:36 PM
 
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I prefer just being called by my first name, and most places I've lived that's been the usual way of doing things, but live farther South than I've ever lived before, and the southern custom of Miss Firstname seems to be the norm here. At first I hated it and it grated on my nerves, but I seem to be getting used to it, though I'd still really prefer being called just by my first name. Still, I like that better than Mrs. Lastname. And the other option is Sophia's Mom, which is just awkward.

My dd seems to pick up on what people like. So she does call most by Miss Firstname, and the few that prefer just the first name, she has figured that out on her own and calls them that. I'd prefer she address people how they personally like to be addressed, as I think that's the most polite thing.
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#6 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 10:55 PM
 
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We had to call everyone Auntie or Uncle so-an-so--which I guess was using a first name in a polite way. I don't know what DD will call non-related elders in the future, but I think I'd prefer if she called them Mr./Ms. so-and-so unless they ask her to call them otherwise.

At school, we called teachers Miss or Sir, as a form of politeness and respect. However, the French schools here had kids call teachers by their first names, which always struck me as odd. Children are certainly not inferior, and adults aren't always deserving of respect, but it just seems like too much familiarity to me.

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#7 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 10:55 PM
 
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I grew up using adult's first names. We were a pretty casual family with casual friends, lol. My mom had a boss who corrected us to Mr. Lastname and that was fine.

Honestly, it never even occurred to me to have my kids call friends Mr. and Mrs. Lastname until one of those friends was talking about a neighbor and how they (my friend and her friend) had their kids call each other Mrs. Lastname-at which point I apologized and asked if she wanted my kids to do that too, because I had always referred to her by her first name and so did dd! We all use first names in our group, but I would certainly use Mrs. Lastname if that was what someone preferred-although I definitely prefer to just go by my first name. I think most people don't even know my last name honestly b/c it is different than my kids'

On a side note to this, I have the hardest time calling dsd's teachers by their first names, even in e-mail. It is still ingrained into me to call them Mr or Mrs. Lastname, lol! I guess I still don't feel like a "real grown up" yet

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#8 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 11:04 PM
 
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I was never raised with this and have never had my kids do it. The only time I have ever heard it is in some daycares or when we lived in North Carolina some families enforced it. It makes me uncomfortable and feels phony to me.

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#9 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 11:05 PM
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in my community respect of adults is at least supposed to be a big deal (we don't sit in mommy or tatty's chair at the table....ever...etc...) so there will be no first names. i even have to be careful with other peoples' kids to use some sort of proper address. it is weird to refer to a close friend especially younger people as mr or mrs so i do use auntie or uncle with them.
of course kids will be kids and judging from what i've seen theory and reality are two totally different things.

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#10 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 11:29 PM
 
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I was raised to always call adults Mr. and Mrs. lastname (other than family members). I remember that my parents got a lot of compliments on how well mannered we were because we addressed adults in that manner. We were only "allowed" to call adults anything other than the proper Mr. or Mrs. lastname if they requested we call them something else.
I think it's pretty neat to hear kids say "mr. or Mrs."
I only hear very few kids use it now and I always think, "wow! that is awesome!"

We will also have our little girl address adults properly.

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#11 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 11:37 PM
 
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My dd seems to pick up on what people like. So she does call most by Miss Firstname, and the few that prefer just the first name, she has figured that out on her own and calls them that. I'd prefer she address people how they personally like to be addressed, as I think that's the most polite thing.
I try to teach my children to call people what they would like to be called. That said, I'd much rather have my children say "Mr" or "Mrs" so and so and be told that they can use first names rather than the reverse (be corrected after using someone's first name). In one case it's "we're familiar enough to use first names" and the other it's "I'm uncomfortable with you acting so familiar" so I just think it's better to err on the side of caution. With that said, no one I know says Mr and Mrs and so I've been teaching my children the Ms. Firstname pattern (we live in the South). Sounds kinda silly to me, but not nearly as weird as children addressing me by first name. I guess I'm old fashioned...we grow up always calling parents and teachers Mr or Mrs.
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#12 of 25 Old 09-07-2010, 07:41 AM
 
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I think this can be a tough one, actually. I live in a kind of borderline state and find that it really varies from family to family. We started out intending to use Mr and Mrs Lastname, but then literally no one else we know when DD was a baby did that--everyone just used first names with no signifier, so we slipped into that more or less without realizing it. But then as she gets older, we do meet other people who either do Mr and Mrs Firstname (which I really dislike) or even the formal Mr and Mrs Lastname, and then it feels uncomfortable since our kid is not used to that. We've yet to get this worked out in a way that doesn't feel odd.

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#13 of 25 Old 09-07-2010, 09:01 AM
 
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It's all first names around here. All my friends (in our late 30s) are first-names with our kids, and vice-versa. I do ask people I don't know well what they would prefer, and not one person has asked for Mr. and Mrs. Even people like SIL's mom are called by their first name. Mr. and Mrs are dying out around here, except for in school.

Actually, I like it. I believe that respect lies in actions, not in names. If someone wanted to be called Mr. or Mrs., we would definitely support that (respect in action!) but I like that everyone prefers the first name route.

DD calls us by our first names sometimes too and I'm completely fine with that - again as long as she talks to us respectfully, as in she's careful of our feelings and talks in a cooperative manner, which we model and expect, she can call us whatever she wants.

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#14 of 25 Old 09-07-2010, 11:19 AM
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Casual California and we all use first names, although sometimes we say "Mama Jenny" or something like that, just to help distinguish for the little kids trying to keep track of who's who I have heard "Mrs. Jenny" and a lot of "Miss Jenny" but I'm not sure if that's mostly for day care providers and preschool teachers... I think some have referred to me that way. I like the idea of respect for others but addressing just isn't what signifies it around here. More like actions, although I did love it when I had a student who said sir and ma'am, it was novel and so sincere it was sweet. I have definitely thought of teaching my kids to say that for when they are addressing strangers, which is something I never hear kids saying around here, but I think is very useful and respectful. Although I do love the way some cultures have of calling others auntie or grandmother, but then you have to rely on kids not offending by calling the 40yo granny
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#15 of 25 Old 09-07-2010, 11:38 AM
 
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I called people Mr. and Mrs. so and so growing up... but I'm not really doing that with DS. I can't stand when someone calls me Mrs. E... I don't mind Miss Catie so much.. I am not old enough to be Mrs. E yet!!!!!! We do use Miss and Mr Firstname sometimes.. if the adult seems to prefer being called that.

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#16 of 25 Old 09-07-2010, 11:45 AM
 
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More like actions, although I did love it when I had a student who said sir and ma'am, it was novel and so sincere it was sweet. I have definitely thought of teaching my kids to say that for when they are addressing strangers, which is something I never hear kids saying around here, but I think is very useful and respectful.
My DH grew up doing this (he grew up in TX) and still uses sir/ma'am to address older strangers. I really like it, and I think we'll teach our kids to do the same. He also had to call his parents sir and ma'am as a kid, though - don't think we'll take it that far.

I guess I'd be happy to teach my kids that there's no harm in being overly polite/respectful.
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#17 of 25 Old 09-09-2010, 03:45 AM
 
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I was always taught to refer to someone as Mr./Mrs./Miss Lastname unless they told you it was okay to use their first name. And the majority of people would say "Oh honey, you can call me Firstname." It was always nice when someone said it was okay to just use the first name but embarrassing to be corrected the other way around ("You should call me Mr. Lastname.") so I definitely prefer to err on the side of a more formal address.

I'll teach my children the same, with the knowledge that a lot of people will probably say it's okay to use their first name, and that's great. But especially at places like our church where there are a lot of older people who will think it's rude for a child to refer to them as their first name (Heck, I still call some of them Mrs./Mr. Lastname and I'm 30) I think defaulting to an adult's first name without permission is bad manners. And I'm from the Pacific Northwest, which is not generally very formal, especially compared to the South.

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#18 of 25 Old 09-09-2010, 11:40 AM
 
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I believe that respect lies in actions, not in names. If someone wanted to be called Mr. or Mrs., we would definitely support that (respect in action!) but I like that everyone prefers the first name route.

DD calls us by our first names sometimes too and I'm completely fine with that - again as long as she talks to us respectfully, as in she's careful of our feelings and talks in a cooperative manner, which we model and expect, she can call us whatever she wants.

I agree with that!
Here's a questyion--why do you think that adults are more deserving of respect than children are? And if using the last name = respect then we should be calling children Miss Lastname, too!

I've been called Mrs. Lastname in a disespectful way, and I've been called Marja with a great deal of respect.

If an adult wants to be called Mrs. Lastname then that's what my children will call her--that's showing respect. I've asked a friend's children to call me Marja but the friend insisted that they use Mrs. Lastname. That didn't feel respectful at all.

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#19 of 25 Old 09-09-2010, 01:33 PM
 
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I'd have to learn peoples last names before we could use them and it would be kind of weird/awkward to go around to lots of people saying, "By the way... I've known you for six years and I don't know your last name..." so we'll stick with first names.

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#20 of 25 Old 09-09-2010, 01:43 PM
 
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We use Miss/Mr first name until we know it's okay for them to just call them by the first name (super close friends). We discussed using Mr/Mrs. last name for most non-related people, but we realized that our kids will call our friends what we call our friends and since I don't go around calling my friend Mr./Mrs...it seemed kinda weird to expect my kids to. If we don't know their first name they are Mr./Mrs. last name or Maam/Sir.

I actually believe its disrespectful to call anyone by a name they don't like. Our friends have asked the kids to just call them by first name without miss/mr so we told the kids they could. I have asked friends not to refer to me as Mrs. Lastname and they refuse to let their kids call me anything other than Mrs. Lastname. I don't know why I dislike being called Mrs. Lastname so much, but it frustrates me everytime the kids or parents refer to me as it.
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#21 of 25 Old 09-09-2010, 02:20 PM
 
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just first names here- unless i notice that they are using Miss/mr... then i *might* have the kids approach them that way.. depending on my mood.

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#22 of 25 Old 09-09-2010, 03:06 PM
 
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I'm actually quite uncomfortable with the idea that children should use Mr/Ms Lastname for adults. In my experience (and I am in no way saying that this experience is universal) it tends to go along with a pretty unpleasant disrespect for children.

As an adult, I do not use Mr/Ms/Dr Lastname with anyone who feels entitled to use my first name without invitation. I see no reason why it should be any different for my son, simply by virtue of his age.

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#23 of 25 Old 09-09-2010, 03:23 PM
 
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Maybe it's a cultural thing, but I don't know anyone around here who goes by Mr/Ms/Mrs LastName. I can't think of anyone (including bosses, professors, etc.) that I address by last name, and the only time anyone ever addresses me that way is when a get a phone call from a complete stranger (in which case they get it wrong half the time anyway because my husband and I have different last names).

So, first names for our kids. Or Auntie/Uncle FirstName if you're a very close friend of the family.
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#24 of 25 Old 09-09-2010, 03:36 PM
 
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We use terms of respect for elders. By which I mean, people older than us! Our whole family addresses strangers as "sir" or "ma'am". (We are from the Northwest, but perhaps this is a carryover from our Boston roots three generations ago?) Children address elders as Mr or Ms. Firstname, unless the adult has a specific preference. We have a group of friends at the park from all over the country--the northwest, midwest, northeast, and south--and everybody does the same.

Quote:
It was always nice when someone said it was okay to just use the first name but embarrassing to be corrected the other way around ("You should call me Mr. Lastname.") so I definitely prefer to err on the side of a more formal address.


With family it's different. Your cousins from an older generation, or aunts and uncles, are Aunt Firstname, Uncle Firstname. Grandma, Grandpa, etc.

In my husband's culture, older children are addressed as "Big Sister" or "Big Brother" and adults, as Aunt Firstname and Uncle Firstname.

In DH's culture, this stems from the explicit belief that children should respect elders as authority figures because adults are more experienced. I think in my western culture, this is more of an implicit belief that might be questioned if stated outright. But I suppose I do think there's a grain of truth. It's not a question of virtue or deserving something. I certainly respect older people more and treat them with the respect I think their age and experience calls for, even though I'm an adult.

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#25 of 25 Old 09-09-2010, 11:25 PM
 
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I try to teach my children to call people what they would like to be called. That said, I'd much rather have my children say "Mr" or "Mrs" so and so and be told that they can use first names rather than the reverse (be corrected after using someone's first name).
I totally agree with the above, except for with close friends that I know prefer to be called by their first name. However, I am totally uncomfortable with the southern custom of calling ALL adults Mr. or Miss Firstname, if they aren't being called by their last name. It's SO weird to me, not being from the south. I do think that people should be called what they want to be called, though, so if someone wants to be called Miss Firstname, that's what my kids call her. But if someone introduces herself to my kid as Leah, that's what my kid will call her. I don't worry about it much. We just call people whatever they tell us their name is.
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