July 25, 2012 Sarah 5Comment

So, we are at a turning point with our two year old. He is starting to talk, which means he is starting to address his friends by name. He has adorable nicknames for his other toddler friends, but isn’t quite sure what to call their parents. I call the parents by their first names. But I haven’t yet decided how he should address them, so I’ve sort of been ignoring the situation. He knows who these people are, but he doesn’t have a name for them. Really close friends have become “Auntie or Uncle” but we can’t use that for everyone.

Growing up, I called all of my parents friends “Mr. or Mrs.” My husband did the same. In fact, even now, as a grown adult, I can’t bring myself to refer to these women or men by their first names. I was just taught that respecting other grown ups began by calling them by their last name.

My husband is adamant about it. He wants to be called by his last name by all of our son’s friends. And he wants our son to call all of his friends parents by their last names. Maybe it’s because he’s in the military. I am quite comfortable going by my last name; after all, I taught for 8 years. But many of my friends are teaching their kids to call their friends’ parents by their first names, or adding a Miss or Mr. in front of the first name.

I kind of get it. These are kids I see all the time; do I really want to be on a formal, last name basis with them?

But then I think about teaching. I saw those kids every day and they called me by my last name. I had an awesome relationship with most of them, but we still had that adult/child boundary. The boundary provided just a little more respect than a first name basis. They knew I wasn’t their friend, but rather a mentor, a teacher, and an advisor.

I have talked to a few other parents about this. Many were extremely opinionated: “They need to use last names. They need to learn manners and respect.” Or, “It doesn’t matter. Calling someone by their first name doesn’t mean they don’t learn respect.”

But where does respect start? How does it start?

Most likely, our son will learn to call all his friends moms and dads by their last name. I don’t think there’s any harm in it. But I am worried that if he calls everyone by their first names, he may grow to have a sense of entitlement, a sense that everyone is his equal, when in fact, that is not the reality.

How do your kids address other adults? Why did you make this decision?

5 thoughts on “How Do Your Kids Address Your Friends?

  1. Interesting. I hadn’t even thought about that yet. I know I like everyone to call me by my first name, because I’m a very informal kind of person. My parents are the same, and when I was little, all my friends called my parents by their first names. It just seems more natural to me, because of my experience, so I guess my daughter will call adults by their first names, unless the individual prefers to be addressed by their last name.

  2. Growing up, my parents insisted on going by the Mr. and Mrs., there were a handful of their friend that we called anything else. This went so far that they wanted my husband to call them Mr and Mrs. M. as well… which I thought took things too far :)

    We have decided that we are going to go on the first name path. Most of this comes from the fact that every day when I walk in to pick up at school, the teachers would say, hi Dana. The kids got used to it, and I could not fault them – I like it and think it is pretty darn cute when I pull into the school parking lot and I hear them all yelling from the playground, hi DANAAAAAAA!!!!! =)

  3. My mom had several close friends when I was little, and they were called “aunt Dana or aunt Laura” (using the names of the commenters above as an example). Then when we moved to our current house, the prevailing culture on the block was that kids called adult neighbors by Mr. Tony or Ms. Dana. Both of these are cute and appropriate terms of endearment. That has kind of stuck for me, at least for close family friends. I like that it is formal and informal at the same time. I have also heard that this (title + first name) is a Southern thing, although I can’t verify that. Our son isn’t calling people by their names yet, but I let my friends pick what they wanted to be called- he has two Dodas and two Tantes, which I love. My husband has a huge family, so great-aunts and cousins-once-removed get the title “aunt” or “uncle” while saving “tio and tia” for my husband’s and my siblings.

  4. Great topic. I grew up in the north and universally called everyone Mr/Mrs/Ms and last name. Save my uncles and aunts. I strangely just called them by first name. But I now live in the south and my boys were born here. Around where we are everyone is Ms/Mr first name. That, or ma’am and sir ( sarahlynne, I have an upcoming post on this and will go back and edit to link here!). I never quite liked it, but once I had kids it just became part of our lexicon. I usually go by how people introduce themselves or will flat out ask their preference.

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