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?