Friday, February 1, 2013

Whether To Have Your Kids Use "Mr." and "Mrs."

completely unrelated picture of Stella on a "laptop"

Before Sly actually started talking, I had decided that I'd like him to use formal titles for certain adults.  I hoped to have him to call his relatives Aunt Kelley or Uncle Alex and to refer to our adult friends as Mr. and Mrs. so-and-so, instead of just using everyone's first names.  Thus far, we've completely neglected to actually teach Sly to do this.  As I said to Tom the other night,  I like the idea of having our kids use these titles "in theory", but it's actually fairly difficult in practice.

As I've mused about before, I do believe that social conventions of this era are woefully informal.  Using titles as simple as "Mr". and "Mrs." for your elders connotes and breeds greater respect for them, instead of putting everyone on the same level.  I really do like the idea of it.

It's a difficult practice to start, though.  Neither Tom nor I grew up doing this.  Our relatives were all just called by first names.  And as for my parent's adult friends (or, similarly, the parents of my childhood friends)...well, I'm not sure about Tom, but I know that as a child I basically did everything possible to avoid having to address them directly for the very reason that I didn't know the appropriate way to do so!  My parents never taught me what to do.  It was often awkward, because a few kids might automatically call some friends' mom "Mrs. Jones", but some of us weren't comfortable saying it - not having been brought up that way - so we would avoid having to say her name at all.  I don't want my kids to have that same confusion.

But habits are just so hard to break.  It seems weird and forced to refer to our friends as Mr., Miss, or Mrs. instead of their first names, as we've done for years.  And now that Sly already knows them by all their first names, we'd have to fight a protracted battle to get him to change.  For a little while in the beginning, I was obstinately referring to my three brothers as "Uncle whoever" when Sly was around.  But they continuously scoffed at it, insisting that Sly just call them by their first names, and I finally gave in.

I know that if it was important enough to us that Sly use titles for adults, then we would just buckle down and teach him.  But Tom doesn't feel very strongly about it either way, and I'm not sure if I feel strongly enough to both make Tom get on board and fight against the tide and make it happen.

What do you think?  Did you use titles like "Mr. and Mrs." for adults as a kid?  Are you teaching your kids to do it?  Is it worth it?


  1. Where I grew up in Texas, all kids addressed adults by Miss or Mr and their first name. I still call my childhood friends' moms Ms. Robin and Ms. Monica, etc. When you get older, you start using last names instead of first. I called Adam's parents Mr. and Mrs. Burch until we were engaged. I definitely plan on raising Claire to do the same!

  2. Love this topic! We just had our first baby girl a week and a half ago, and long before she was born my hubby and I said that we wanted to teach our children to address people as "Mr." and "Mrs." Neither of us did that growing up, but my cousin once told us that that was one of her parenting regrets. She wished that she had made her children do that because it automatically implies respect in elders. She said that she thought it was silly at the time, but looking back on it she sees how valuable it would have been. So, I totally think it's worth it!

  3. I called my aunts and uncle Aunt X and Uncle Y, the parents of my friends Mr. and Mrs. Z, with few exceptions, mostly those where I knew the adult from some other context where we used first names (when I was a teen, I became friends with the choir director's daughter, whom I already knew as "Jane"... but come to think of it, I think I still called her "Mrs. Jones" much of the time too).

    So I'm coming at this totally the reverse of you, yet I'm also finding it difficult to impossible to keep remembering to refer to other adults as Mr. and Mrs. Z.

    I'm not having any difficulty with the aunt and uncle thing though. In fact, I literally have never heard of a family before now where people didn't call their aunts and uncles Aunt X or Uncle Y! That sounds totally strange to me. In fact we sometimes refer even to COUSINS as Cousin X or Cousin Y! But I know that's unusual. Pippa's most usual babysitter is a cousin--so we say "Cousin Mary is coming over to play with you today;" "Wave bye bye to Cousin Mary" etc.

    You know what really creeps me out, is when GRANDPARENTS want to go by their first names to their grandchildren because "they're too young to be grandma!", especially when frequently they're way, way older than people would have been when first becoming grandparents fifty years ago... I mean, you are almost 70 years old, you are not too young to be called Grandma.

  4. Growing up, it would not even occur to my siblings and I to address an adult by anything other than Mr., Mrs. or Miss. In fact, I didn't know many of my friends' parents first names until I was older. Old habits die hard, and I still call all the people I know from my childhood by their title. It's a little weird because my husband met these folks when he was an adult, so he calls them first names while I stick with Mr and Mrs. Although, come to think of it, the situation is reversed on the rare occasions when we interact with couples my husband grew up with and I didn't. Heck, I even call my in-laws Mr. and Mrs. They are too old for me to feel comfortable calling them by their first names and our relationship is such that I am not interested in calling them something parental.

    I ALWAYS address my aunts and uncles with that title. I also prefix some of my cousins' first name with Cousin.

    It was hard for me at first with my kids, because I was used to referring to my friends by their first names. I usually remember now to say Mrs So and so. I think it is an important way to help children remember to respect their elders. It makes me cringe when I hear a child yelling to an adult by their first name. I would not feel like I was raising polite children if we didn't have the Mr. and Mrs. thing down.

    Mary and Ryan are my younger son's godparents, and they have requested that he call them Uncle and Aunt, which I think is a great idea. My older kids had already learned to call them Mr. and Mrs., so I am not sure how it's all going to pan out when Vincent is old enough to talk.

  5. I grew up addressing relatives as Aunt X and Uncle Y while addressing other adults as Mr., Mrs., or Miss. It's actually really hard now that I'm an adult to call them by their first names even though I can!!!

    If Sly already knows their first names, I might just split the difference and call them Mr./Mrs./Miss First Name.

  6. I grew up using "Auntie" and "Uncle" and "Mr" and "Mrs." and I agree - it's much more respectful. Even certain close friends are "Auntie Jackie" or "Uncle Tim" to our kids. Since I grew up with it, it's easier to implement than it might be for someone not used to the idea. The only challenge is when an adult simply refuses to accept the title! At that point, I suppose you'd have to give in. Oh well - there are far worse things in life!

  7. I use Mr & Mrs for my son. However I couple them with first names instead of last name. so my friends are Miss (even if married and I am sure that is a no no lol)and Mr. So like Miss Jenn and Mr Tom. And of course family titles which are kind of easier

  8. Yeah, it's hard, too, because I don't think we are used to being called "Mrs." yet ourselves--pretty much no one calls me Mrs. P. I think that "Miss Katie" might be a nice middle ground for the adults Sly already knows by first name--it's still respectful, it would make more sense to him, and it would easily translate over to Mrs. Lastname for meeting new adults. But I'm no expert.

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  10. The kids only have one true uncle, so they call him Uncle Mike. The kids call their godparents (and godparents' spouses when appropriate) aunt and uncle. Matthew refers to Noah's godparents that way, too, and vice versa. It just saves confusion. Most adults, Matthew refers to as Miss and their first name or Mr. and their first name. We have one set of friends who requested to be Mr. and Mrs. and their last name and that's fine. I would be appalled if Matthew or Noah just said their first names. It seems disrespectful to me. I think it's super important to use some sort of respectful title when having my kids address adults. In school they will have to call their teachers Mr. and Mrs. so and so. I don't think they'll find it too hard to extend to other adults. Sometimes Matthew forgets the title first and we just gently correct him. :)