How should children address adults?

When I was growing up I would never have considered calling my friends parents anything but Mr and Mrs X it just wasn't done.  Even now when I meet my friend Kathy’s mum, I still call her Mrs W and wouldn’t dream of calling her by her first name.   I was brought up to call my teachers MR/MRS, likewise any friends of my parents.  However I think this is changing as I have noticed an increase in teenagers calling their teachers by their first name (I had some teachers who I didn’t even know their first name) and calling me by my first name rather than Mrs XYZ — are first names ok these days or does it demonstrate a decline in respect for elders — and the separation between children and adults?

When my sons attended pre-school they were asked to call their teachers Miss Mary and Mrs Elizabeth — I do wonder if this (in their minds) gave them permission to continue on through school. My son doesn’t call all his teachers by their first names, only his favourites — they don't seem to mind.    We live next door to an elderly lady and my children have always called her by her first name because that is how she introduced herself to them — and if this is what she wants, then it is fine with me.  

I must admit I find that when I am called Mrs XYZ I feel like they are talking to my mother and it makes me feel sort of old — so in some respect I don’t mind being called by my first name. So perhaps my generation has encouraged the next generation to be less formal and more casual.   

What are your views on this?  What do you encourage your children to do?



  1. Jo: Quakers don't believe in titles so address each other as Friend Name.

    When I was doing remedial teaching all the kids addressed me by my first name because that was how they knew me outside of school & I was ok with that because they were always polite & respectful. My children addressed my friends by their given names but not teachers. Teachers prefered to be addressed as Mr or Mrs or Miss. I think the format matters far less than the manners ~ & manners will always take into account the preference of the person being addressed. I've known kids be insufferably rude while using Mr, Mrs, Miss. As always the legalities matter far less than the heart. ☺

  2. When I was a child I called people by their first names, as this was what my parents did, and I followed suit. Most children that I knew did the same. Our friends with little ones, though, have taught their children to call us Mr. Dave and Mrs. Valerie, which is fine with me. Around where I live, though, it is still very very common for children to call their teachers Mr. and Mrs. Lastname.

  3. Val - when I was writing this I did some research and found (which I thought was very interesting) that it varied between the north and south of the USA, with the north more formal (MR and MRS lastname) whereas the south used Mrs Val. Is this really the case?

    Ganeida - that is very interesting. You are quite right - manners count much more and a poorly mannered child can say Mrs Lastname and be very rude about it. I don't mind being called by my first name and as long as my son is respectful and the teacher doesn't mind (and given permission) he can call them by their first name. Being in year 12 does make some differences to perhaps primary school.

  4. Hi Jo~ My children call all adults Mr. and Mrs. We rarely meet with anyone who wants them to call them by their first name. I call most men I know Mr. and find that I feel more free to have a conversation with them with that little formality included. I guess I'm just old fashioned.

  5. I always introduce my friends to my children by saying "This is Mrs X." And then Mrs X will usually say "Oh they can call me {first name}."

    So I think it's a relaxing of manners/etiquette that ranges right across the ages groups.

  6. Our boys called adults by Mr and Mrs. Our closest friends were given honourary "aunty and uncle" status. As adults, they now use the christian names for most but still revert to Mr and Mrs depending on how close the person is to them..
    We are old fashioned I guess!
    Most children today, have far less respect for adults than when we were growing up.
    I do think parents have encouraged this by allowing casual references to adults to become acceptable in the home. The school environment has also lost the art of teaching children to treat adults with dignity and respect.
    If I'd tried first names with any of the nuns who taught me - well let's not go there lol!!
    bless you Jo.
    God's grace..Trish

  7. I prefer to be called by my first name as Mrs so and so makes me feel old (like you, lol).
    I do have a home school friend who has taught her kids to call adults as Mr / Mrs lastname. They adress me so and I feel uncomfortabley about it but have not talked to her yet about it! I still get my dd to call her by her first name and that is something I need to check with her about as she maybe uncomfortabley like me:) oh dear! a lightbulb moment as I comment on your blog, sorry about that Jo:)

  8. I've even known children who called their parents by their first name from the time they were teens, and I don't think this helped the parent to uphold a parental role but rather to be more like a friend... While it is not a bad thing to be able to be a friend to your child, I think there should be a distinction in the role of a parent.

    In a world where honour, respect and dignity is horribly lacking, I think that the lack of title for those who have authority in our lives has at least partially led to that lack of dignity and respect. While it does have to do with manners and being courteous, I think having a title helps there to be a distinction (as I said above). Not only are the titles gone, but so is the respect and I think it largely all happened around the same time.

    My children call older people either Mr/Mrs, or they are given an honoury "uncle/aunt" title. When teaching a child to mind older people and to mind those who are in authority, I think it helps a lot to have this distinction in titles. When I'm called "Mrs", it does make me feel more respected, personally.

  9. HI it's my first visit here what a lovely blog love those roses so pretty they are.
    I like to call people by their first name and I prefer people to call me Kat, not Mrs White that does sound so old doesn't it?? LOL! I agree with you it's time for that formality to go. I am even very old fashioned but I like to have my own name and prefer the personal touch over the old fashioned say. Big hugs and Happy belated Valentine's day!

  10. Oh by the way please visit my
    Call me old fashioned site, the other is my jewelry blog. LOL! if you visit that is. LOL again. he he he

  11. Hi Joe,

    first, thank you for praying for me, that was a huge blessing in many ways.

    I love this post, because no matter how old I get, I still can't get used to being called Mrs. or Miss. My sons friends have called me Miss Michele since they were little, and now their 21. I never told them what to call me, they were just used to addressing their teachers as "Miss" My husband and my parents refer to me as Shell.

    Thanks for a fun post,
    God bless you,

  12. That is how we have taught all six of our children to address adults...we told them it reminds them that they are to respect those older than them. We have also seen that others have more patience with a child that speaks respectfully to them then they do with others.
    We have had a hard time with people not wanting to be called by Mrs or Mr......because they say it makes them feel old and they don't want to feel old. But with age should come some respect from those younger and maybe that is why we deal with such disrespect to the elderly.

  13. Hi Jo - I fear that proper respect to adults from children may becoming a lost art - but I truly believe that it should be taught to our children. I was certainly raised that way and I raised my son to be respectful as well. I hope that the children in my life will learn the proper way to address adults - it is a character quality that will take them into a better place when they become adults themselves.

    A very good question and thought provoking post~~



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