On Kids and Respect: How Do Your Kids Address Adults???

Written by Lee

Recently, I was at a birthday party for a friend’s daughter who was turning six. I didn’t know many of the other moms at the party so I did what I usually do in that kind of situation. I wandered aimlessly trying to help out at the arts and crafts table, I watched the kids jump in the bouncy house, I consoled my girls when they were body-slammed in the bouncy house, and I did my best to start up a meaningful conversation with a few of the other moms.

As I sat alone in a chair outside watching the kids play, two moms stood near me and started chatting about education. They were talking about the schools their kids attended – one public and one private. One mom was saying how much she loved “progressive” education because that is how she was raised in Los Angeles and she believed in this type of teaching. Since I am always intrigued by different methods of education, I asked –

“I don’t know much about progressive education. What is it about that type of learning that you love? What do they do differently?”

And the first thing she said was, “What I love is that the kids call their teachers by their first names. When I was in school, I never even knew the last names of my teachers. I love that.”

And I was all, huh?

My kids are in Catholic school so calling teachers by their first names is out. Obviously. And actually when I think about it, I’m very cool with that rule.

So cool, in fact, that back when Claire was in kindergarten (she’s in 2nd grade now) a group of us moms that hang out had a chat about what our kids should call us adults. I was a huge advocate of using the last names even though some moms initially favored the first name approach. Although we all are mellow moms who work to have an open line of communication with our kids, in the end, we decided to go with the “Mr. and Mrs. insert last name” route.

I don’t know about you but to me it seems we live in a time where the boundaries are as blurry as ever between kid and adult. In our home, I see it manifested on a daily basis when my girls talk to me and my husband in a tone that I consider disrespectful. It’s the one thing that gets under my skin like no other. This seeming lack of respect.

Now I know that we have a hand in this. We encourage expression in my home and believe you me, my girls have no lack of it. They are loud and spirited and imaginative and all of that is good. But sometimes I feel like it backfires. In the middle of an argument over something that is usually related to my girls not listening or doing one thing I ask them to do, there will be inevitably a moment when their tone reaches what I consider to be the “backtalk” tone. And then I lose it. And it all spirals quickly from there. Yuck.

So when it comes to my kids addressing other adults, I believe in the last name approach. I guess I hang onto it as on outward sign of respect towards the “elders” in a time when these courtesies are simply harder to find. During visits to other families’ homes for playdates etc. I find that more and more parents allow all kind of adult/kid integration in the form of kids running through houses, jumping on furniture, and generally yelling and screaming in the middle of adults trying to converse. Now, I don’t need the old-fashioned “Kids need to be seen and not heard” approach obviously but I think we’ve gone too far in the other direction.

Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe calling other adults by their last names is doing nothing to instill respect. But to be honest, I think I need it. I need my kids to be reminded in this small way that they are not on equal par with adults.

So this answer from the progressive school mom reallly confused me. Calling teachers by their first names. I can’t imagine it with my kids. The thought actually makes me shudder. Blurring the lines even further. Am I so old-fashioned? What am I missing here?

Enlighten me.

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