How Your Kids Address Adults - A Sign of the Times

How Your Kids Address Adults – A Sign of the Times

How should children address adults

One of many unexpected dilemmas I faced upon entering motherhood was how to teach my children to address other adults. It somehow felt too familiar and disrespectful to have my child address my friends and other adults by their first names. But at the same time it felt pretentiousness and old-fashioned to require them to use Mr. and Mrs. Lastname. I know that is very common in some areas of the country, but it is rare in the Southwest. I honestly do not remember how I addressed my friend’s parents as a child but I am fairly certain I never referred to them by their last name. I do remember addressing some of my parents’ friends by their first names and very close family friends as Aunt Firstname.

I have talked to a few other moms about this and most of us do not agree on what is appropriate. That difference of expectations can create a problem when an adult wants to be called something specific that other parents do not teach or enforce. It is a hard balance to teach respect and instill tradition in this modern and casual culture. For the most part, my children address my friends by their first names although we did start off using Miss Firstname. Adults they know from school are usually referred to by their last names, though.

I am curious what you teach your kiddos to call non-family adults like your friends and neighbors. Do your friends have the same opinion as you do on this issue? How do you handle any differences of opinion? What do you think is proper and do you think it depends on where you live (e.g. West Coast versus the South)? I am always fascinated by the variations in social norms, so please leave a comment. Share and let’s talk about it. How should children address adults?

About Janice

I am so glad you stopped by. Kick your shoes off and hang with me a while. I am an Arizona native, wife to a hard-working hubby, mom of two, and daughter of the King. I love sharing recipes, crafts, and family activities that any mom can do. Life is complicated enough, right? When I am not up to my ears in laundry, dishes, and creating for Celebrating Family, you will also find me at East Valley Mom Guide. Come follow me on Google +, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Right now, my 3 year old still doesn’t learn names at all, but my plan has always been to teach him that whatever the person wants is what he should call them. There are people he knows who prefer to be Miss/Mr FirstName and some who are fine with just their name. Very few want to go by their last name, though that’s largely because it’s a small town and there are a lot of people with the same last name. 😉

  2. Debra Wagner says

    I know when I was growing up I called my friends parents and teachers as Mr. Mrs. or Miss.. If it is a family friend I believe first names are appropriate and if it is a family member such as Aunt, Uncle etc: that should be used in front of the name as a sign of respect. that is the way I raised my children too.

  3. In the north we always called adults by the name. Then when I moved to Tennessee women went by Ms. (insert first name). Now that I’m back in the north it feels weird to teach my kids the ways of the south, but it feel rude allowing them to call an adult by the first name.

  4. We have taught to use Ms. FirstName….I agree with you that last names seem to formal, but just a first doesn’t seem right either. That’s why we settled on the Ms. FirstName. So far it’s working. 🙂

  5. I’m 22 and when I was a kid most of my friends didn’t call my mom by name they just said hi how are ou, etc without saying a name. When referring to her when not around they’d say “Emily’s mom” haha. I had one friend whose mom tried to force her kids into doing the mr/mrs thing but it was uncomfortable because my parents were divorced and she’d try to call my mom mrs. Mylastname which was incorrect as she had remarried. So I think the rate of divorce has probably played into the chance at least somewhat. Its hard for a six or seven year old kid to remember their friends’ parents last names when they are different than their friends’. I think that as long as the rest of what is being said is polite (please, thank you, and just a generally polite tone) its okay to not say mr or mrs. Most 20 or 30 somethings i know feel uncomfortable being called mr smith anyway as it seems too formal.

  6. IT varies in our house. Some are Mrs – first name. Others are by their last names. I think sometimes it depends on how difficult the last name is to pronounce.

  7. We live in the South now after having lived in Canada … in Canada it’s either formal Mr/Ms. Last or informal – just their first name… now that we live in Charleston it’s Ms/Mr First Name, and even Dr. Firstname for my husband’s colleagues at the university for most people and Dr/Ms./Mr Last in formal situations or first meetings.

  8. Such an interesting post. When we lived in New York, my kids always called my friends by their first names but when we moved to Southern California, more people expected them to be called Mrs. Whoever. I guess it depends on the relationship and whatever everyone feels comfortable with!