Yes Ma'am, No Sir, Yeah, Whatever - Are you raising polite children? - Mothering Forums

Yes Ma'am, No Sir, Yeah, Whatever - Are you raising polite children?

Mothering's Avatar Mothering (TS)
01:54 PM Liked: 22
#1 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 117
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Do you believe "sir" and ma'am" shows respect and should be used by children when they speak to adults? Do you require your children to say "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me"? Is "yeah" and "whatever" acceptable? What about calling adults by their first name? Oh - how about table manners?


One of the biggest complaints of older adults today is the decline of manners and respect for elders in children, young and older. Have we loosened up on teaching etiquette to our children? Or has etiquette changed with the times to a point that we have tossed aside much of what we grew up with and feel it is no longer necessary?


What do you expect from your children? What does "polite" and "well- mannered" mean to you?

peainthepod's Avatar peainthepod
03:19 PM Liked: 186
#2 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 2,242
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We insist on please, thank you, and you're welcome. We also have our little guy (2.5 years) say he "doesn't care" for something instead of "doesn't like" it.


I'm from a Southern background so we'll probably start having him call people Sir and M'am here soon. And we have him call adults by Mr. and Miss/Mrs. Lastname as applicable, although most of our adult friends insist that he call them by their first name.


Manners are very important in our family and I intend to raise polite children who are respectful of others. What we don't insist on is total deference to elders/authority. It's vital that they know that not every adult should be obeyed under every circumstance! cold.gif

konayossie's Avatar konayossie
05:51 PM Liked: 17
#3 of 145
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Of course we are teaching good manners "please, thank you, excuse me, etc." Really, does any conscientious parent NOT do this?


But I was not raised to say "ma'am" and "sir" and don't intend to raise my children to do so. My mom is from the south and my grandparents thought it was so rude that my siblings and I didn't use ma'm/sir and call all adults by Mr./Mrs/Ms. etc. In my state, though, it was perfectly normal/acceptable to call adults by first names unless they were "authority figures" like teachers. The child who used honorifics at all times was definitely the oddball around here. Some "manners" are entirely a matter of region.

MaerynPearl's Avatar MaerynPearl
06:00 PM Liked: 52
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You would be surprised at the parents who think it's inappropriate to teach your children manners because its "forcing them to say something they may not mean"

Originally Posted by konayossie View Post

Of course we are teaching good manners "please, thank you, excuse me, etc." Really, does any conscientious parent NOT do this?



konayossie's Avatar konayossie
06:21 PM Liked: 17
#5 of 145
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I actually didn't know that is the thinking in some circles. Interesting. I totally understand about not forcing hugs, kisses, etc, but not sure good manners quite falls into the same category to me...

Originally Posted by MaerynPearl View Post

You would be surprised at the parents who think it's inappropriate to teach your children manners because its "forcing them to say something they may not mean"


aHikaru's Avatar aHikaru
06:30 PM Liked: 23
#6 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 786
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i'm not really teaching AE manners, considering she is only 2yrs 3 months. But i believe i lead by example because she already says, "pweez", "tank you" and my favorite, "squeeze me", which comes after she burps or something is in her way, including a table or toy.

aHikaru's Avatar aHikaru
06:31 PM Liked: 23
#7 of 145
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Originally Posted by konayossie View Post

I actually didn't know that is the thinking in some circles. Interesting. I totally understand about not forcing hugs, kisses, etc, but not sure good manners quite falls into the same category to me...


no hugs or kisses? AE is a big love bug and always has to kiss/hug everyone goodbye.

MusicianDad's Avatar MusicianDad
06:32 PM Liked: 371
#8 of 145
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We teach manners. We also teach that words do not equal manners. You can say "please" or "thank you" all you want, but if you're being rude, you're being rude. I'd rather hear a polite "can you do x for me?" than a rude "do x now please". "Sir" and "ma'am" is just useless drivel IMO.

carlymom's Avatar carlymom
06:33 PM Liked: 0
#9 of 145
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My daughter is learning to say please, thank you, excuse me, etc.  I also encourage apologies.  However, I grew up calling my parents' friends by their first names and my daughter does the same.  I never used "sir" or "ma'am," either, so neither will she.  Doing otherwise would feel weird to me. 

surrogate's Avatar surrogate
06:34 PM Liked: 11
#10 of 145
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My kids say yes ma'am, no sir, please, thank you, etc.  I cannot stand when other children do not do this.  Even my daycare kids are taught manners and the parents know this up front.  If you child is around me, they will use manners.

konayossie's Avatar konayossie
06:38 PM Liked: 17
#11 of 145
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I was talking about not forcing your child to hug/kiss/show other affection to people if s/he doesn't want to. I fully support not doing so as I certainly would not enjoy being forced to hug/kiss people when I don't want to (that's not to say DS doesn't hug/kiss people he knows and likes). However, I do try to use good manners even if I don't feel like it, so I expect DS to do the same...

Originally Posted by cassandraz View Postno hugs or kisses? AE is a big love bug and always has to kiss/hug everyone goodbye.


umsami's Avatar umsami
06:54 PM Liked: 35
#12 of 145
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We insist on please and thank you.  Having lived in the South, "yes sir" and "yes ma'am" was considered polite for adults, but we never had our kids refer

to us that way (although I do know people who have their kids say, "yes, sir" to the father... pretty normal in the South).  As for Mr/Mrs, a lot of times people

will say Miss Susan or Mr. Robert in the South--and that's considered respectful.  Now that we're in the North, it's Mr. or Mrs. Lastname.

CarrieMF's Avatar CarrieMF
06:59 PM Liked: 30
#13 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 8,864
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We've taught them to say please, thank you, excuse me.  We do not use sir or ma'am, nobody here does & if they call me Ma'am I correct them.


They use first names of adults except teachers & dr's.  


I work in a middle school & the kids usually say Mrs. Hirtle, but I get variations of just plain Hirtle, Herds, Turtle & as long as they aren't being rude I will answer to it.  Many of the teachers go by just their last names from the students and staff.

emmaljunga's Avatar emmaljunga
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#14 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 2
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we don't force manors here.. we believe that children can learn by example and don't need to be forced.. it's surprising how many adults don't use manors though..yet expect children to do so..  this makes it harder for a chid to learn by example.. I too would prefer a polite can you do such and such for me  - than a rude do it now please..   we're from Europe so do not use sir or ma'am - we say yes please or no thank you not yes sir or no ma'am..  


Our daughter attends Waldorf and the teachers are on a first name basis.. children are not forced to use their manors either.. but speak in a polite gentle voice..  when we first started attending a playgroup at our local waldorf school we were handed out articles about not forcing children to say please and thank you.. It was a great read. 

psconlon's Avatar psconlon
07:06 PM Liked: 11
#15 of 145
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I've lived in a few states and it seems that the use of Ma'am and Sir is more a regional thing.  Here in the northeast no one says it so we're not teaching our son so say it.   One thing I am using with him that isn't common in our region, is the use of Mr. or Ms. So-and-So.  Even if it's used with a first name I feel it's a sign of respect.  It also helps us differentiate between adults and kids with the same first name.

Manners are definitely taught by example in our house.  At 2.5 the kid seems to be catching on and says his thank yous and even "I'm sorry" without encouragement.  (I even got a thank you for dinner tonight!)  We don't force the use of certain words.  I believe the use of kind speech is more important than saying please.  The use of manners really is a two way street.  If we're frustrated and not being polite to our kids, they mirror that behavior, so I feel it's important to lead by example.

ma_Donna's Avatar ma_Donna
07:20 PM Liked: 11
#16 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 1,677
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Absolutely for please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry, I don't care for (instead of I don't like), etc. It's mostly by modeling and if they make a rude demand for me to do something they need to rephrase it politley (and not just by sticking please on the end). We mostly do it with modeling, reminders, requests (When you ask for a cookie, please say please).


However, I think some parents go past polite to rude with their insistance on children. Although they're ostensibly trying to teach manners they can go too far in demanding a behavior of their child - and any truly polite child will tell you that demanding something from someone isn't polite!

Okapi's Avatar Okapi
07:21 PM Liked: 332
#17 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 364
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We do please/ thank you/ apologies, though I don't force it, I remind DD (3.5) of the polite thing & I'd say 95% of the time, she does it. Other times she feels like she can't say the words, so will offer a hug or high five instead, which at this age is fine w/ me (will likely change as she gets older).

However, I don't care for sir/ma'am. I HATE being called ma'am. You might as well call me an old bat and ask me if I need help getting to my walker. DH feels otherwise, though, and I've told him that I'd prefer not to hear my own kid call me that, but if he wants to include it in his relationship with her, that's up to him.
SpiderMum's Avatar SpiderMum
07:23 PM Liked: 160
#18 of 145
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We insist upon nothing. However, my daughter is ridiculously polite because WE are polite to her and around her. To her, saying please, thank you, no thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry, etc. are normal and natural things to say in context because she has always heard people speaking that way.
Gemini Mama's Avatar Gemini Mama
07:29 PM Liked: 0
#19 of 145
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My daughter is almost 2.5yrs, and we do teach "please", "thank you", "sorry", "you're welcome" and "No thank you". Sure, sometimes her "please" is more of a "give me_____" (whatever we have that she wants) but she knows the acceptable  way in which to ask for something and the terms in which she will be given something. We rarely have to remind her of it at this point, because she hears it from both her parents as well as her daycare teacher.


Most adults she currently comes into contact with now already have titles like "grandma" or "Uncle___" or "Aunt ___" but we do plan to have her address adults with respect by adding a Ms. or Mr. to the person's first name, with exception to her teacher or doctor. I too, have a southern upbringing and this is how I was taught to address my friends' parents and other adults.

Spring Lily's Avatar Spring Lily
07:50 PM Liked: 87
#20 of 145
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Originally Posted by surrogate View Post

My kids say yes ma'am, no sir, please, thank you, etc.  I cannot stand when other children do not do this.

Goodness! I hope you never come to my state, you'll be terribly judgmental of our culture. Children here are not expected to say sir or ma'am and it's normal to call adults by their first name.

A big part of being polite to others is having empathy towards them. I do teach please and thank you, but fostering a sense of empathy is more important in the long run.

St. Margaret
07:54 PM Liked: 191
#21 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 4,729
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We teach manners but do talk about how it's all about really showing sincere respect, or basic human politeness.

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LyndaPoo's Avatar LyndaPoo
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#22 of 145
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We've led by example, starting from when she was in the high chair. She's said please and thank you since she could form sentences - mainly because we say it and she mimics it. We do correct if she doesn't say it. (She's 4.5 now)  Also, when she does something that requires an apology we ask her to say "I'm sorry I (whatever she did)" That way she is actually taking responsibility for her actions. We do live in the South, so there are a lot of "Sirs and Ma'ams" around us, but since I was raised in California, that idea is just completely alien to me, although we do have her say "Miss/Mr./Mrs. (first name)" - So much of manners is a regional thing, I think the main thing that I find I need to correct is tone, as opposed to what she says - that is a little harder to teach what is right and what is wrong, but nonetheless so important.

Storm Bride's Avatar Storm Bride
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#23 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 25,597
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We don't use "sir" and "ma'am" (well, dh still does, sometimes - he grew up in Knoxville), and around here it tends to sound odd, not polite, when people say it. I also don't like it when children are expected to say those things to adults, if they don't get the same "courtesy" in return.


With respect to addressing adults as "Mr. Last Name" or "Ms./Miss/Mrs. Last Name", that's not what I teach, either. I teach them to address people as those people introduce themselves. So, their dance teachers are "Miss First Name", because that's how they ask to be addressed by their students). DD1's piano teacher is just "First Name", as that's what she requested.


"Please" and "thank you" are taught here, mostly by example, but they're not really pushed (again, more by dh than by me - he has a different concept of manners than I do). DD1, in particular, has had a long, hard struggle with manners, and she's still having trouble. She's getting some of the rote stuff down now, but she has a lot of trouble grasping that she's being rude when she does certain other things. We just keep plugging away at it.


I don't require or force apologies. I don't feel like getting into that one again, but I hate forced apologies, and I don't consider them to be good manners. I've learned to tolerate them, but they're not something I have any interest in teaching my kids.

capewell5's Avatar capewell5
08:28 PM Liked: 10
#24 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 26
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we use please, thank you & excuse me on a regular basis and they know they must mean it or just because they say please doesn't mean they get what they want.  While we do not require our children to use ma'am or sir towards us they are encouraged to use it towards other people but I do not fault them if they do not.

lifeguard's Avatar lifeguard
08:29 PM Liked: 94
#25 of 145
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We most definitely demonstrate & are teaching good manners. Please, thank-you, pardon me, excuse me & table manners. It will also extend to general polite behaviour in public places (not screaming inside, cleaning up after yourself, etc.) & one day to driving etiquette.


BUT in no way do I feel that this is a child must be polite to adults/authority thing. I firmly believe we should all be polite to one another regardless of relationship. My first job was a fast food restaurant where things were fast paced & often stressful but it was very much expected for each demand of each other to be accompanied by a please & thank you - honestly it made a big difference in how things went 'cause although we were harried & sometimes sounding a bit rude the please & thank you showed we were not trying to be rude (if that makes any sense) & reminded us to keep our manners up.

BubbleMa's Avatar BubbleMa
08:44 PM Liked: 47
#26 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 1,572
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Absolutely!  In addition to the basics, things like "what?" "huh?" "uh-huh" "yeah" etc. are not acceptable answers when addressing adults.  It's "Yes, ma'am" "no ma'am" "what did you say?" things like that.  The biggest thing though is that they ASK for something instead of demand it.  If they demand something and then stick please at the end, it's still rude IMO.  I would rather them say, "May I have a snack?" as opposed to "Give me a snack please".  kwim?


ETA:  They're expected to use basic manners (please, thank you, excuse me, etc) with everyone.  But we don't expect them to call their friends sir and ma'am.  We also allow them to say "yeah" "huh", etc. when speaking to friends.

mommy212's Avatar mommy212
08:58 PM Liked: 32
#27 of 145
05-24-2011 | Posts: 620
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I was raised to call others ma'am and sir or miss, but not my parents. I think it's important to say please, thank you, etc. No thank you instead of NO! is a big deal to me too. 

peaceful_mama's Avatar peaceful_mama
09:40 PM Liked: 151
#28 of 145
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First names are normal for adults here.  It would be weird to me to insist my child call someone anything else.  Except teachers, teachers are Mr./Mrs./Ms. Lastname.  Now if the person were to introduce themselves as "Miss Susie" or "Mr. Jones" or whatever, then yeah, I'd have my child call them that.  And yes, I teach please, thank you, you're welcome, I'm sorry, excuse me.  Also things like teaching my children that other than whispering to me that they want to know where the bathroom is or something, we don't sit and whisper secrets while sitting in a group of people.  (Kids started this as a goof-off dinner game earlier this week.)

And when you are at a family-style meal, you take a small portion, taste it, THEN take more if you like it.  You don't pile food on the plate and leave it.  you also don't reach across the table, we pass the food.

When you go to somebody's house, if they offer you something, you can say thank you and have some.  We don't ask/beg for stuff.  And if someone offers a candy bowl, for example, you take one or two, not handfuls!


Oh and, LOL, thanks to kindergarten I think, I have had to teach another wonderful bit of etiquette---appropriate dinner conversation does not include the words "butt", "fart" or references to anything that belongs in the bathroom. 

parsley's Avatar parsley
05:26 AM Liked: 70
#29 of 145
05-25-2011 | Posts: 773
Joined: May 2011

I take manners seriously and expect my daughter to say "please", "thank you", "excuse me" and even recently "no thank you" for a present she didn't want. 


I also take the time to write thank you cards with her when she receives a gift.  We make them ourselves and turn an art project into a way to talk about why it was nice for someone to think of her and that it's really nice to let them know that you like it when they think of her. 


We're also really serious about table manners.  DD has to help set the table (and often helps cook), we wait for everyone to sit down before eating, put napkins in our laps, use utensils :), wear underpants, etc... 


BUT, all of this has happened pretty organically.  I have good manners and table manners and my daughter picked it up.  I do sometimes have to remind her about her napkin or to say please but it's not drilled into her or made into a chore. 


I use "ma'am" and "sir" when encountering a stranger.  I don't use titles like "miss" "mr." "aunt" or "uncle".  My daughter doesn't either. 


I think one can be thoughtful of other people without being cowed to authority or convention. 

cuddlemama0507's Avatar cuddlemama0507
06:29 AM Liked: 0
#30 of 145
05-25-2011 | Posts: 155
Joined: Nov 2010

I think it is important to teach manners.  We use please, thank you, excuse me, etc. in our house and always have.  I'm from Savannah, GA; so, you better believe I grew up say ma'am and sir, and DS use's it to, and it was important for me to teach him that.  That is part of my culture, and there is nothing sweeter than a polite, Southern boy saying yes or no ma'am.  For me and my family, that is a sign of respect, and I do believe that we need to teach children to respect adults.


That being said, I would never force my kids to give a hug or make physical contact when they don't want to.  I think there is a line drawn between speaking in a polite way and being physical. 

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