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#61 of 122 Old 05-26-2008, 03:41 PM
 
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When my DH has a call transfered to him work he says " Officer (insert last name) how may I help you sir or ma'am". He says it equally to men and women that he is working/dealing with. He feels that it is the professional way to address other people.

My kids and I are likely to address someone by sir or ma'am if we do not know their name. It just sounds better then "Hey you, Hey mister, Hey Lady or something of the like" Saying "excuse me ma'am or Sir you forgot something" seems to sound better to my ears. My kids occasionally address me this way but it is more for fun. I don't think that they have ever called my husband sir.

My Neighbors are from Alabama and they say sir and ma'am very often, but it just seems to be part of their speech.

I say to each their own.
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#62 of 122 Old 05-26-2008, 11:24 PM
 
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It's definitely a cultural thing. I never heard it growing up in Michigan, but when I moved to TN and FL... I heard it all the time. After a few years, I started saying "Yes Ma'am" to clerks and such. It was just natural.

I don't teach it to my kids. DH wants them to answer "Yes Mommy" or "Yes Baba (Arabic for Daddy)" when we call them... rather than "Whaaat???"... but that's about it. I'm OK, with a Yes or a What or whatever. It's not an issue for me because our kids are pretty polite as it is.

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#63 of 122 Old 05-26-2008, 11:33 PM
 
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I grew up in the NE not hearing it, and we're moving to Colorado where I'm pretty sure they don't say it. But I don't have a problem hearing it, and I don't think it's outlandish or anything. I think it's adorable when DH says it (he's ex-military and it's a habit I guess). I would love for my kids to say it when they're older, but I don't think I would force the issue... They're pretty young though so who knows at this point.
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#64 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 12:09 AM
 
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Good grief, the things people decide to get all het up about.

We say it here. I grew up saying it, and my parents said it to people older than them or anyone they didn't know (like at the bank, or post office or to the person who cleans your hotel room or that random voice on the speaker at a fast food place - you'd say yes ma'am, yes sir. It's just like, ok, I don't know your name, so this will do). The men in my life always said yes ma'am to women they didn't know or older ladies. My kid says it sometimes, most kids I know are saying it pretty consistantly by kindergarten. I don't demand it, but I do remind her and I say it a lot so that's where she's picking it up. She'll certainly be expected to say it to other kid's parents and in school and such. Nothing wrong with being polite.
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#65 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 12:14 AM
 
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It's definately regional. I was never taught to say it, but my cousins all do. Even as adults, they still say it.

My cousin is a police officer in a small town, and I rode with him one day, and even as he was arresting people he said "maam" and "sir" and they said it to him too.

I thought it sounded odd, but it's how they all do it there, so if I lived there, I'm sure my family would say maam and sir too.
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#66 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 12:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by bellymama View Post
it's regional. it's not disgusting. it's not abusive. some people say it, some people don't. i am cracking up over this whole "it's a huge plot to make people subordinate"....where's the tinfoil hat when you need it.
LMAO! I also can't understand all the hoopla over something that is completely normal in much of our country.
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#67 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 12:58 AM
 
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Why?????

Why make them inferior? Why make them submit like that all the time.

That's disgusting.
I think that is unnecessarily RUDE! Yes Ma'am I sure do!

There is nothing disgusting about teaching children to respond politely when asked a question (and yes I am Southern). And YES I do answer ANYONE who calls my name with Yes Ma'am or Yes Sir. I was not explicitly taught that, it is just part of speech here and I think it is VERY important. We hear it from EVERYONE growing up and learn it that way. My parents didn't INSIST on it, they didn't have to. There is NOTHING demeaning about giving respect to another person. I can't stand to get "yeah" or "whatever" from a child, THAT is rude.

I do not see how teaching politeness makes them inferior. If the toddlers I keep call my name I respond with Yes Ma'am or Yes sir. When I tell them "no" it's "no ma'am" or "no sir"

Showing respect and expecting it in return teaches politeness and self esteem. Children are worthy of respect and there is no reason that they cannot also SHOW respect.
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#68 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 01:14 AM
 
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we occaisionally remind the kids to say ma'am and sir but we model more often than we elicit repetition

i say it at work all the time but only to customers never to my bosses. i don't say it to my parents or grandparents either. for anyone who i am not on a first name basis with i use it though.

i have cousins who are intercontinental though (yankee mother, southern fathern) and i remember it was a big deal that their kids didn't say yes ma'am at school. i don't think it took them too long to pick it up once they got in school and heard the other kids doing it but i do remmeber the grown folks talikning about it at the time.........
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#69 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 01:21 AM
 
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i'm southern, and wasn't raised to say it, much to the chagrin of my relatives. i am also not teaching my kids to say it. it bothers me for the same reasons it bothers everyone else that doesnt use it. my dh uses it and i HATE it. i pick on him for doing it. to me it definitely it implies a subservience.

off topic a little, does anyone here that doesn't teach "sir" and "ma'am" tack on "miss" or "mr" to other adults names? just curious what the feelings are on that.

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#70 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 02:55 AM
 
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off topic a little, does anyone here that doesn't teach "sir" and "ma'am" tack on "miss" or "mr" to other adults names? just curious what the feelings are on that.
I do that as well and will call my friend Phyllis "Miss Phyllis" to the girls fro example. I use that more for people that we know, and the ma'am and sir for the general population.

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#71 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 03:47 AM
 
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I live in the north east I never "yes ma'am" or "no sir." I do occassionally use "ma'am" or "sir" though with total strangers who's names I don't know to say things like "Excuse me Ma'am/Sir, but is that your umbrella that you left behind?"

"Ma'am" is a contraction of the french word "Madam." It implies that the person being adressed is married, I therefore find it a very silly thing to use with strangers who look under 25 or aren't wearing wedding rings. I use "Miss" with any lady who looks under 40 or 50, around here women tend to prefer that since "ma'am" feel like you are implying that they are old enough to assume they are married.

I frequently use titles when I speak and add extra ones here and there for DS to use. I always use ones like Father Richard; Dr Sh*****; Mr R***; Mayor Bloomberg; etc. We have taken to calling my friend and old business partner Uncle Eric for DS. DS adresses many of his stuffed animals as "Mr." None of these have ever been taught or required of DS, he just uses them as I just use them.

I never teach or require anything that falls under the heading of manners from DS. However, at 2 yo he says "thankyou," "excuse me," and "sorry." He simply picked these things up from myself and others saying them to him or eachother.

I would much rather my DS feel grateful than say an obligatory "thankyou." I would prefer he feel remorse than use "sorry" as a get out of jail free card. I want him to think of other peoples feeling and not say "excuse me" as he steps on their toes. I want him to understand and respect my requests and comply with them b/c he knows that they are given out of love, and not to politely and obidiently just say "yes ma'am" b/c I told him to.

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#72 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 08:41 AM
 
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I don't think we'll replace sir and ma'am with anything around here. I rarely need to use people's names in general life anyway. "Excuse me? Could I have a popsicle?" works. I think it's impolite to teach kids to use terms that offend some people once I know they do so. I'll teach them to tread lightly with power, but of course some people think it's no big deal if they don't *intend* to offend. In our family, our morality is that the outcome is important as well as our intentions and hurting people is something we should learn from, no matter how innocent we believe we are or how crazy/sensitive we deem those who disagree.

Shrug.

Just different value systems abut what's right/wrong/important/frivolous I suppose.

I think Ms. and Mr. are also potentially problematic given the queer crowd in which we run. First or last names when they need to yell, "Hey! Mr. Jones! Watch out!", maybe, and a good old, "excuse me" otherwise. Usually the person will let you know by language or look if they prefer to be addressed in another way. But interpreting that sort of thing socially is definitely a lesson for older kids.

I'm guessing this will be easier for us because we don't have grown-up friends who would wish to be called anything different than the rest of the kids friends.

Good luck to those with family or neighborhood adults who do. It would be hard for me to explain to my kids why we call Bob "Mr. Jones" and his son is just "Chuck."
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#73 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 08:59 AM
 
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To the general population:

If you don't wish to teach your children to say those things, fine. Don't do it. However, don't disparage those of us who strongly believe that it is a sign of respect and good manners and we won't disparage you for not sharing those beliefs. Thank you. That is all.
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#74 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 09:22 AM
 
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Originally Posted by eepster View Post
"Ma'am" is a contraction of the french word "Madam." It implies that the person being adressed is married, I therefore find it a very silly thing to use with strangers who look under 25 or aren't wearing wedding rings. I use "Miss" with any lady who looks under 40 or 50, around here women tend to prefer that since "ma'am" feel like you are implying that they are old enough to assume they are married.
That's funny - I get offended (a little) if I'm called Miss. I look young, and I think the addresser is treating me like a kid. I'm a little touchy I guess.
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#75 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 09:24 AM
 
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Originally Posted by eepster View Post
"Ma'am" is a contraction of the french word "Madam." It implies that the person being adressed is married, I therefore find it a very silly thing to use with strangers who look under 25 or aren't wearing wedding rings. I use "Miss" with any lady who looks under 40 or 50, around here women tend to prefer that since "ma'am" feel like you are implying that they are old enough to assume they are married.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is one of my biggest pet peeves.

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#76 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 10:21 AM
 
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I feel weird being called either Ma'am or Miss. Regional thing, I suppose. But Miss sounds weirder now since I'm going gray. Still, there are plenty of unmarried older women so it's still an assumption. But then, so is Miss. There is no neutral way to do this with women, is there?
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#77 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 11:07 AM
 
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Is this something I should be reinforcing more? I'm sure this current attitude is just a phase (right?), but I want to instill natural respect. Am I not doing something right now that I should?

Please share your thoughts, suggestions.
I call my sons "sir" sometimes, in response to their attempt to get my attention - I want them to know I take them seriously. I don't expect them to call me ma'am, but that's me. I'd think it was too formal and a little weird, but I didn't have a very disciplined up bringing and I certainly never heard anyone say "Ma'am" in my daily life.

I say "Excuse me, Sir/Ma'am" when I walk past someone or have to cut in front of someone in a grocery aisle, or when I'm paying for something. I think it's demonstrative of respect and I like that my kids see that I'm not so big for my britches that I can't say it. I hope it rubs off on them- so far they're very respectful but don't use those words. I'm cool with that.

As for your specific question about *should*, I would say, take action with INTENTION. Decide if this is something valuable to your family and then do it (or not) because that's a choice you've made for your family. No one else can tell you if that's right or wrong, IMO. If it's important to you, and you feel there is a lesson there, then you can discuss it with your kids as you continue to move them toward this behavior. You might consider it and find that you really don't know why you're doing it and it's adding more tension to tense moments than it's worth and abandon it. It's completely up to you. I support you in whatever you decide!

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#78 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 11:13 AM
 
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to me it definitely it implies a subservience.
When I was younger (I'm 31 now), this is something I definitely would have said. Now that I'm a little older than I was then, I feel comfortable with it. It's okay if I'm 'in service' to others. It's not a bad thing. I spend a considerable amount of time volunteering in projects in my community to help families in Africa, families here, starting a food coop, etc., and I AM in service to others.

There's a scene in Walk the Line that really gets to the heart of it for me- when June is in the store and the woman says to her something like her parents must be ashamed of her, that divorce is an abomination. June's response isn't to flip her off or get snotty or rude, she says, "I'm sorry I let you down, Ma'am."

Maybe I don't agree that she needs to explain her personal life to others, but I do really like the scene because she recognizes that her actions affect others, and she takes responsibility for it.

What's wrong with a little humility....?

I think of Sir/Ma'am as a little gift of myself I'm giving to someone else, because there IS subservience in it, but it's something I choose to give freely, not something that is taken from me. I feel good, the person feels good because they were treated respectfully in a language they know, and I demonstrate respect and kindness and service to others to my kids. Who loses?

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#79 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 11:58 AM
 
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I grew up in the NE and never heard it.

I taught in the south (North Carolina), right off of a military base, and *all* my students and their parents used "sir" and "ma'am" and "miss".

I also used "sir" and "ma'am" and "miss" when talking to my students and their parents. I use it when speaking to others, especially on the phone (my mom worked in customer service, so I try to be a really polite customer). To me, it's just manners.

My daughter will probably just pick it up (we're a military family), but, I don't really care whether she uses "please" instead of "sir" or whatever.
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#80 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 12:28 PM
 
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Growing up we were taught never to say plain 'yes' or 'no' fullstop. It was always yes or no Mum, Dad, Brother, Teacher.

Even now hearing a plain yes in response to a question sounds rude to me.
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#81 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 01:07 PM
 
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I was going to say what the poster just above me said...I like adding a name to the comment, for instance "Sorry." becomes " I am sorry I hit you Emma" I ask my students to say what they are thankful for and use a name,."Thank you for the juice Mary". Yes please and No thank you are expected in most cases. l Like the acknowledgement of the person on the end of the endless glasses of juice, a simple thanks mom is great, but an occasional thank you mom for helping me clean my room seems like it causes my children to be more aware of what they are thanking me for and not just the rote reiteration of words. I wouldn't say I DEMAND this but I remind them sometimes...
When my 11 yr old was copping an attitude we had an argument and I was frustrated and said "maybe if you could try saying yes ma'm!! maybe you could show a little respect!!" She was horrified because it was so foriegn to her and as the conversation progressed we realized a simple "yeah sure mom, I would be happy to do ______." was what would work for the both of us.
It is hard for me to use or hear the ma'm and sir because it feels so hierarchachel(can't spell that!!) I wouldn't bash another parent or child for having that sort of mannerism but it does establish where you are in the food chain so to speak. I wonder what other words or phrases like this trigger this same sensation...I like this conversation because I think it is a shift in our cultural modes of power. I think we can be polite, kind and respectful and still recognize each other (adults and children) as essentially equal to each other.
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#82 of 122 Old 05-27-2008, 01:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by AnoriensMom View Post
but I want to instill natural respect.
It just seems like something you "instill" is "second nature" at best. If it was natural, inaction would bring that result, rather than direct and deliberate action.

As far as getting your kids to say it, I would start by offering everyone that exact level of respect. Of course typically Yes Ma'am/yes sir are reserved as symbols of passivity so affording everyone that respect would soon cause it to lose its meaning.

The truth is you cannot force someone to respect you, you can force people to fear you, but that is not the same thing as respect. The best you can do is teach your children that when you respect someone you use traditional Sir and Ma'am modifyers. By instructing, directing, or requiring that they use this kind on language, you are removing the meaning for them, which you have personally assigned to it. They will not equate it with respect, but rather with "showing" respect, no matter if they actually respect the individual or not. This is evident in her action of using a sarcastic tone when providing your required lipservice to "respect". You can force people to say things, but doing so causes them to lose their meaning.

I don't find extra words particularly useful, but if you do than the respecful way to teach your children is by modeling, because otherwise you are setting up the "yes sir yes ma'am" up for failure and sarcastic backlash, and they will have even less meaning for your kids than they already do.
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#83 of 122 Old 05-28-2008, 12:57 AM
 
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off topic a little, does anyone here that doesn't teach "sir" and "ma'am" tack on "miss" or "mr" to other adults names? just curious what the feelings are on that.
we do this. for instance, the receptionist at the therapy place my kids go to is "miss jan". we know her, but i don't feel that we know her well enough for my kids to use her first name, and they cannot pronounce her last name, so we settled on this. daycare providers/pre-school teachers/therapists are generally "miss firstname" for us.

our closest friends are my kids' "aunts" and "uncles". this was how i grew up and it just seems right to me. of course, if someone were to tell me "hey, i'd rather your kids just call me by my first name", like auntie jen's dh requested, then that's what we'd do, but on the whole, this is how it goes.

btw, i don't exactly teach them to say these things, i think that it's more that i model them and the kids have heard them since their earliest memories.

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#84 of 122 Old 05-28-2008, 01:46 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MichelleAnnette View Post
I was not taught to say "yes, ma'am," and will not teach it to my children. Do you say "yes, ma'am" to your daughter?" Respect doesn't develop from being forced to say certain words. Respect your child and she will respect you.
I love this response so much that all I can do is agree.

A lot of people think "yes ma'am" "no sir" is a Southern habit. I grew up in South Central Virginia (less than 20 minutes from the NC border) and my parents never made us use those phrases. I've always felt sorry for kids who do have to say them, though. To me it sounds standoffish and strict. For example, if I heard a small child saying sir and ma'am to her own parents I'd wonder about the closeness of their relationship. It just doesn't seem to be the type of thing you'd say to someone you care about. After all, do you say "Yes, Sir" to your SO?

Just some thoughts .

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#85 of 122 Old 05-28-2008, 01:59 AM
 
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I wouldn't teach my kids to call adults they knew "sir" or "ma'am". I only use it to address adults who I don't know. As in, "excuse me sir, you dropped your hat". And even then, only if I feel the need to address them as something.

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#86 of 122 Old 05-28-2008, 08:32 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ShaggyDaddy View Post
The truth is you cannot force someone to respect you, you can force people to fear you, but that is not the same thing as respect. The best you can do is teach your children that when you respect someone you use traditional Sir and Ma'am modifyers. By instructing, directing, or requiring that they use this kind on language, you are removing the meaning for them, which you have personally assigned to it. They will not equate it with respect, but rather with "showing" respect, no matter if they actually respect the individual or not. This is evident in her action of using a sarcastic tone when providing your required lipservice to "respect". You can force people to say things, but doing so causes them to lose their meaning.
Absolutely! I couldn't have said it any better than that.

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#87 of 122 Old 05-28-2008, 12:51 PM
 
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I'm very curious what those who think it's disgusting think about other cultures where those kind of forms are indicated in every word, right down to the verb forms? In Korean, for instance, a child says different words to their parents to say "good night", the parents say something else entirely. Almost everyone is referred to by title. (Older brother, younger sister, teacher). Japanese is the same. (I'm sure there are others, but I know these two specifically)

It's done very respectfully to everyone. I really think these things are cultural, and that while they can be used to make a child feel "subserivient", they are usually just a way to be polite. That said, we don't used "Ma'am" or "sir" where I am, and to me, they sound funny.
I agree it must be very regional. The words sound very funny to me too. One time a child said Ma'am to me and I didn't like it because I thought it meant I was old
I am from Europe and in my language there are two words for 'you' one more respectful than the other. For God you would use the more respectful one with a capital (in writing).
The previous generation was thought to always use the more respectful 'you' for parents and other adults. Using the less respectful one or using the first name was considered very unrespectful.
Current generation is growing up differently. However in a country next to my country they speak the same language and they still are used to using the more respectful word in many cases.

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#88 of 122 Old 05-28-2008, 01:56 PM
 
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I'm from Michigan and we weren't raised saying ma'am or sir, so I don't think that is necessarily the only way to be respectful. I live in Virginia now and many people here do say it. One friend uses "sir" to refer to her son, she also calls him "son" sometimes, which is fine for her, but wouldn't come naturally to me. Even though she says this I've never heard her son say it, he calls me "Heather" not ma'am. I am just trying to teach DS to say or sign "please", "thank you", and "excuse me" and maybe "sorry" in the near future.

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#89 of 122 Old 05-28-2008, 02:59 PM
 
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We do not say ma'am and sir in my house. We do say please and thank you all the time.

I never went about "teaching" please and thank you, DD just starting saying it because it was part of the everyday language she was exposed to. She gets complements all the time on her good manners.

Manners are definitely regional. I think that part of having good manners is respecting the norms of the place where you are. So if you live in a small southern town where everyone says "yes ma'am", "no sir", and uses Miss and Mister it might be a good idea to follow suit.

But I also feel very uncomfortable being addressed as ma'am or Miss Abbie by a child that is being prodded to do so. I'm perfectly OK with just Abbie or even Olivia's Mom .

And now to comment from a more philosophical/scholarly point of view (sometimes living with a PhD is a bad thing ):

I think that any culture that imposes strict guidelines for manners is a culture trying to maintain a power structure.

I think that I have read waaaaay to much African American literature and seen waaaaaay to much racist behavior in my life to not be a little squigged out by the southern ma'am/sir thing. *Just my personal experience and feeling. I am not calling anyone here, or anyone that says ma'am/sir a racist. Please don't flame me.*

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#90 of 122 Old 05-28-2008, 03:51 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dynamicdoula View Post
What's wrong with a little humility....?

I think of Sir/Ma'am as a little gift of myself I'm giving to someone else, because there IS subservience in it, but it's something I choose to give freely, not something that is taken from me.

I agree. If someone expects you to address them in a certain way as a sign of their superiority or authority over you, then that is a reflection on their manners, not yours.

Occasionally it might bother someone to be addressed formally - at which point you would immediately stop, of course - but I have seen it have a positive effect more often than a negative one. Particularly with people who work in low-paying service professions: janitorial, fast food, shelf-stocking, etc. It's amazing how seldom these people (and I speak from experience) are even looked at, let alone addressed. A small "gift" of courtesy/respect, sincerely given, can really improve a person's day.

That said, modeling the behavior probably will be more meaningful than dictating it. Your daughter is most likely too young to appreciate the subtle pleasure of strangers, but as she grows and sees your great example and becomes more aware of the effect it has, she'll most likely adopt the behavior on her own.

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