Is It Outdated that I Teach My Daughter to Address Her Friends’ Parents with a Mr. or Ms. Salutation?
I Want My Daughter to Be Able to Talk to Adults
My daughter is an upper elementary schooler and is starting to really navigate the waters of social interactions with adults. I have written before about how I make her call and set up her own playdates. I think it's important that she learns how to not only talk to adult humans on the phone but also face a small amount of rejection now when they can't come over so it won't be such a blow in the future. Calling to invite friends over has also inadvertently brought up another point of discussion that I was kind of blindsided by recently.
I'm From the South and Raised in the 80s
One of the things we constantly stress in our home is being respectful towards adults. She knows that when she speaks to a friend's parents she needs to address them as Mr. or Ms. Last Name unless they tell her they can call her by their first name or if we are close family friends. Sometimes we even address familiar adults with Ms. First Name. Her first babysitter is still Ms. Angie to both of us.
Last week, she asked if she could call one of her new friends and invite her over. We were on our way to a sporting event in the car so she used the Bluetooth and car speakers. I always stay quiet when she talks to her friends like this but they know I'm on the line listening. The two were playfully bantering back and forth and all of a sudden the kiddo said, "Ashley, can you believe your daughter sometimes," like we were old cronies, pals, compadres!
So, I'll admit I was a little shocked. I've never met her and had no idea she knew or remembered my name. And as a kid who grew up in the South, in the Eighties, I couldn't imagine saying a friend's parent's first name that I didn't KNOW KNOW. You know?!
What Do Other People Expect/Teach Their Kids?
I wasn't mad or irritated - just kind of... shocked. Then I thought, well maybe addressing adults with a Mr. / Mrs. salutation just isn't a thing anymore outside of school. So, I asked what most people go by to their kids' friends on Facebook and the first name greeting was the overwhelming consensus unless you work in the school and kids just know you by your last name.
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What Does "The Internet" Have to Say?
I even looked it up online to see what "the internet" had to say.
One thread on quora asked, "Why do American teens in movies refer to their friends’ parents as Mr and Mrs (last name)? Does this happen in real-life too?" The responses were mostly in favor of using Mr. or Ms.
Even in America, default form of politeness is to use familial names for adults.
The relationship is formal until the older person invites others to address them by their first name. Addressing friends’ parents by their first names without permission is a quick way to get uninvited to their house on a permanent basis.
In some other countries, the first name is customary.
In Brisbane, Australia my friends and I all call our friends parents by their first names and normally the parents will introduce themselves this way. If the parent doesn’t give me their name when I introduce myself then I’ll normally just avoid ever getting in a situation where I have to say a name!
When I was younger, friends’ moms were all called:
Mrs. [insert last name here]
Oh. And “Aunty” for Asian moms.
Some people think the entire practice of Mr. and Mrs. is out-of-date.
Todayparent.com author Tara-Michelle Ziniuk wrote, "While I know it’s traditional, being referred to as “Ms.” seems old-fashioned and out of date."
So, What's Next for My Kid?
I do want my daughter's friends to be comfortable around our family so I definitely don't "correct" them. It's just funny how cultural things can change within a generation. And, for now, I'll just keep teaching her the old-fashioned way of addressing unfamiliar people and just not get all hot and bothered if I hear a little kid calling me by my first name, or "Hey you," or "A's mom" or even "Home-Skillet."
Lord, I need an update!