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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Teaching Children to Respect Adults. . .Common Courtesy or Outdated Convention?

We have a personal family conviction around here about how children should address adults.  It's kind of a combination of my grandparent's southern roots, our own personal beliefs, and the modeling of a similar notion by some dear friends of ours who started parenting a few years before we did.

The basic idea that we are trying to instill in our children is to honor and respect those who are elder, more learned, or who are in a position of authority.

It's a simple system, really:
  • When our kids first meet an adult, they refer to the grown up as "Mr./Mrs./Miss Smith"
  • If we become friends with these adults, it changes to "Mr. John/Miss Ann, etc."
  • If we grow so close that we're sort of like family, with the permission of the other folks, of course, they become "Uncle John and Aunt Ann, etc."
  • Professionals, however, always have their title, even if we're on a first name basis. . ."Dr. Jones, Pastor Eric, Officer Smith, etc"

That's it.  The entirety of our 'system.'

Some people think our kid's politeness (on this issue, at least!!) is utterly charming.  Many enjoy the throwback to a simpler time and find basic courteousness refreshing.  But you'd be surprised at how many people are not pleased we employ this little system.  Very surprised.

Some people just feel uncomfortable with kids showing them some deference.  They want to be on a first name/buddy-buddy basis, even with young children.  I've asked a number of people why (very politely, of course) and they usually say the same thing: they want to be 'on the same level' with kids.

But they're not, and I don't want them to be. (and, an aside. . .I think this is a huge problem with modern parenting. . .we are not our kids 'friends,' we are their parents.  BIG difference. But I digress.)

Other friends cringe from our expecting our children to automatically show respect to people they don't know and who might not, actually, deserve it.  I can see their point, but I happen to disagree with it.  I, personally, believe that showing another human being respect says a whole lot more about the one who gives it than the one who receives it.

Plus, I think it is dodgy ground to put our children (or myself, for that matter) into a position of having to determine who is or is not 'worthy' of respect.  I'd rather not play judge of another person's character and I don't think my kids should have to, either.

Of course, for some, their only complaint with our philosophy is that being called "Mr." makes them feel old.  :)

But whether you stand with us in practice or in theory, or join those who think that our views are Victorian and antiquated, we're comfortable with our position.

I hope you'll respect that.

(photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net and can be found here)


  1. I remember visiting my home town church and reconnecting with a high school friend who is now the pastor's wife of said church. She introduced me to her children as "Mrs. Mores." It sounded odd to me because all my friends' children know me as "Aunt Heather." However, it made perfect sense. These children didn't know me and I'm an adult friend of their parents. Unless, and until, I get to know them well enough to become "Aunt Heather" I will cherish being called "Mrs. Mores."

    1. If anyone could ever pronounce our last name correctly, I might cherish it, too. ;)

      I actually remembered, after writing this post, another reason that some people don't like being referred to with deference. . . I was told that it made grown ups feel like they 'had to be worthy of respect.' In short, they wanted to be viewed as peers rather than to have anyone expect a higher level of behavior from them. Sad. :/


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