Mr., Mrs., Miss (and other titles)

Mr., Mrs., Miss (and other titles) 1I'm curious.

What do you have your children call others adults?

Mr. Williams. Miss Miller. Mr. Dave. Miss Amanda. Or just plain Dave and Amanda.

Also: Does it make a difference if the adult is a neighbor, teacher, police officer, or your best friend?

There are a lot of factors that play into this. Region of the country/world. Age of the parents and children. Cultural and religious influences. Etc.

Here's what we do: we simply ask the adult in question what they would like to be called ("How would you prefer that our children address you?") and then we advise our children accordingly ("This is Mr. Jones").

Mr., Mrs., Miss (and other titles) 2If someone were to ask ME what their children should call me, I would probably say, "Stephanie." Plain and simple. But I'm kind of casual like that. And I tend to be somewhat unimpressed by titles.

*I am so interested to hear your thoughts on this. It would be especially intriguing if you told us your age and state/country of residence, but you don't have to. I'll start. I'm in my late twenties. I'm from Arizona. You (and your kids) can call me "Stephanie."*

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60 comments on “Mr., Mrs., Miss (and other titles)”

  1. It's called manners and respect to use Miss, Mr.' or Mrs when addressing people who are your parents age or older, unless they request otherwise. People can make excuses and come up with other ideas on the topic but, bottom line is either you do have manners or you don't.

  2. I'm 30 y/o female originally from Massachusetts. I was brought up calling adults (including family) by their first name, and my parents were called their first names by my friends and friends' parents.

    I now work at a medical office in San Francisco, and all of the MDs in the practice are fine with me (I'm not an MD) just calling them by their first names, and even when they introduce themselves to a patient they just say their first names. It's a small close-knit office and our PTs are like family. HIPAA regulations make it so we have to call the patients by their first name due to privacy and MANY of the older (70 y/o+) patients are completely offended by this. I have gotten yelled at by older patients on several occasions, and I used to try to explain to them HIPAA rules, but I don't anymore. I just roll my eyes and let the MD take care of them, since that's what they're there for.

    Honestly, times are changing, and especially with the generation younger than me - EVERYONE will be called on a first-name basis and Ms, Miss, Mr and Mrs will be only used in VERY formal occasions.

  3. Although it may feel good to the adult being addressed, first names indicate a more personal connection, so in light of that I think we have to be careful about the kinds of innocent assumptions that a child will make and "grow into," especially at the time they are young.

    As a mother who raised a family of 7 in suburbs outside of big major cities (several years), I've personally witnessed heartbreaking events that managed to slip under the radar even in the best of neighborhoods, families, and other settings. In light of that, I believe the practice of "respectful address" (Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms) is a natural way to help children maintain their awareness and boundaries -- bit of space and distance for their own safety, although respect for others is a good thing too.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, MzMom. I really appreciate hearing about your experience. You make some great points about protecting children and establishing appropriate boundaries.

      On the flip side, it could be argued that more formal titles ("Mr." and "Ms.") give the adult more power as an authority figure - and could lead to children feeling that they can't/shouldn't speak out against abuse or injustices.

      Regardless of what each family decides about using formal or informal titles, the most important thing is for parents and children to talk openly and often - with gentleness, honesty, and love.

  4. As far as my kids as concerened they call teachers or anyone in Authority by Mr, Mrs etc and their surname, or by Sir or Miss. They usually call their friends parents by first name. With the parents of kids they don't know well it would be usually title and surname.

  5. I've been dying to get back to comment on this post but wanted to do it justice:) What a great topic! I thought about it a lot actually after our conversation. As you know, so far I have usually taught my daughter "Miss first name" with most of my friends. One of my close friends refers to almost everyone this way as a sort of term of endearment and it just kind of stuck. I like the combination of respectful but fond/casual. I think that Jill- comment #13 raises an excellent point. Fair or not some of that southern civility makes life a little more gracious. My husband and his family are from OK and I like to(try)to adopt some of their sincere, strong values. I am originally from MD where I find that it is perhaps more formal but not necessarily more civil. True manners are considering the feelings of others- which leads me to the conclusion...
    I had never considered that the "Miss" thing could be offensive to some- one of the posters makes that point. I still prefer that my child use some sort of title with an adult (although I have to admit that I don't mind one bit if I am called just Dayna by my friend kids- is that a double std?)So from now on I think I will usually say something like "Do mind if my child calls you Miss first name- or is there something else you would prefer?" That way the suggestion is on the table but if they have strong feelings we will of course honor them!
    One more thing- Michelle comment 21- makes an awesome point- I have had that experience where people (usually my parents' friends) referred to themselves as Aunt so and so and it made me very uncomfortable. They are not my childs aunt (and not even people we would have frequent contact with) and I thought that that would be confusing for her. She has Aunties!
    One comical exception- my good friend Misty who we call the ever popular southwestern "Tia" Misty- but just because Miss Misty was sorta silly :)
    Sorry so long- we could have coffee over this one;)

  6. I think I remember calling my parents friends Mr. or Mrs. "last name". But my parents were in their 30's when I was born so the adults were much older. I usually have my son call people Miss or Mr. "first name" or if they are my good friends then he usually just picks up that I call them by their first name. No one has expressed a preference...
    I'm 30 and live in Washington state.

  7. I find this interesting too, especially since Lily will soon-ish be at an age where she addresses adults.

    I too am pretty casual and prefer to be called Christy. I live in Montana and I just turned 34.

  8. I am usually just Erin to most kids. I believe we are the same age.

    We have pretty much just had our kids address other adults the way we would address them ourselves. Since most of the adults they are around are our age they tend to just go by their first names.

    However, there are certain older/more aged people in our church, for example, that I always address as MR. and MRS. blank title. I expect my kids to do the same and would introduce them like that.

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  11. Oops forgot to tell you - I'm 35.

    I was born in California and have lived all over the US - moving over 25 times before I was 15 years old. I lived in Kansas for 10 years then married and moved over here to Missouri where we've been in the same house for 10 years - but we're looking for something a smidge bigger so I'll be logging another move soon.

  12. I'm just Jenn and I live in the Kansas City Metro Area.

    We're pretty casual, but we are big on respect and so all the Aunts and Uncles are "Aunt Jane, Uncle John, etc..." Our friends are Ms or Mr First Name - but if the little ones just call them by their first name we don't get worked up about it. Kids learn by example, if I always say "how are you today Ms Lucy" to a friend in front of my kids - they always call her "Ms Lucy". Of course I don't always call my friends "Ms" so... when Sugar drops it from a name I don't correct her.

    In short - my kids will probably just grow up all confused about the whole "Mr. and Ms." thing :) Exceptions are teachers, doctors, people old enough to be my parents or grandparents. I always refer to them properly.

    We are big on "yes sir," "no sir," "yes please," "thank you," "may I be excused," etc... those types of things are important to me - so I use them and my kids naturally pick it up - but when they forget, I do correct them on that.

  13. I'm in my early twenties and I live in Chicago, IL. I prefer to be called Sheena. I'm casual too. Titles make me feel old. I will teach my boy to address adults with titles as a courtesy, unless of course they desire to be called something else.

  14. I'm in my 50s and have lived all over the world. I was raised with a mix of calling adults by first name or Mr./Mrs. While I was in the military my children referred to most adults with their rank or a title. I was pretty much called everything from Sharon, Mom, Mrs., to Sergeant. Ma'am and Sir were common forms of respect regardless of title.
    Now that I'm a grandmother it seems that I am Miss Sharon or Gramma (with and without Sharon) by a wide circle of my childrens' children.

  15. I am in my mid twenties and I grew up in Michigan calling my elders by, Mr. or Mrs. (insert last name) and I still do. I could not imagine calling them by their first names even now.

    I have lived in AZ for about 9 years now and I have two little ones. Some people they call by their last names and some people they call Miss, Mr., Mrs. (first name) I prefer our kids to use titles. I think that it is a respect and polite way for them to address their elders.

  16. My name is Sky and I prefer to be called that. I'm from central Nebraska. Our friends are first name people too. If we are around a crowd where I'm not sure, I'll introduce my children to Miss ____ or Mr._____. My children *usually* follow up statements with Ma'am or Sir. For instance if I ask Paige if she'd like a banana, she'd answer Yes, Ma'am. I hope that they will always do that, but their friends don't...so I don't know.

  17. I grew up in the south - New Orleans, LA - and down there we call adults Miss, Mrs. or Mr. (first name). Honestly, I still do that when talking to significantly older friends. I mean it completely as a sign of respect and as a term of endearment.

    Now I live in South Africa and here close adult family friends are usually called Auntie (first name) and Uncle (first name). But I like to ask what adults would like to be called by my child.

    I'm in my 30s and you can call me Auntie Kristin.

  18. I can't stand titles unless I am interacting with a professional (Dr., teacher, policeman). I never have used Miss, Mr., or Ms. unless I didn't know a first name. I will teach my children the same thing. Titles seem artificial and a facsimile of respect. Respect, in my opinion, is shown through our actions, not by what we call someone. If you require my child to call you by a title you will probably never see us again.
    I've lived in Kansas, California, Arizona and now Texas. I'm 31 and you can call me Sarah.

  19. I'm now 45, and Canadian.
    We usually ask ppl what their preference is to be called. I personally am uncomfortable being referred to as Mrs. Johnson. That just doesn't suit me. I think they must be talking to somebody much much older than me!

    Growing up we referred to all adults as Mr, Mrs or Miss. About the time we graduated from highschool we were allowed to transition to using first names, but in most cases that was unsuccessful with those we had already been calling Mr & Mrs for years. At that point it seemed disrespectful. It was an awkward transition.

  20. I think this really depends on your up-bringing and where you grew up. I grew up in the midwest and my parents friends were always just called by their first names. Whenever I met my friends parents for the first time I would call them Mr. and Mrs. until they corrected me. My husband grew up on the east coast and he was a little suprised when I started calling his parents, Linda and Big Joe right off the bat but they didn't care. What I do think is odd is that my husbands brother's wife (does that make sense - I call her my sister in law but I have been corrected that technically she is not my sister in law) calls our in-laws Mr. and Mrs. O. Which to me is super weird especially since they lived with them for a few years and are much closer to them and I am.

  21. I am from a town about 30 minutes outside of Cleveland Ohio and growing up we always called adults Mr/Mrs, followed by last name. In our neighborhood now, most parents have their kids call adults Mr./Mrs. followed by first name... so I'm Mrs. Cameron. I like that and think we will have our sone do this as well... unless it is an adult that states they would prefer being called otherwise.

  22. It's always a crapshoot what I'll be called by Roo's friends since I didn't change my last name when I was married. Sometimes I'm Ms. Shapiro, sometimes Mrs. Burdette. I usually prefer to be called by my first name but I'll answer to any of them.

  23. I'm 31 and have lived everywhere in the country/world but my husband is from the south and there is a proper decorum when addressing adults there that requires a Mr or Miss associated with the first name. So my kids would probably have to call you Miss Stephanie if that's ok :) They also address their aunts and uncles as such: Aunt Natalie, etc... I personally wouldn't care if a child called me Soni instead of Miss Soni, but in our house it helps kids to differentiate names, too (Chris their friend is different than Mr Chris). So interesting, this post!

  24. We have our children refer to other non-related adults as Mr./Mrs. Last Name as a show of respect. I have to admit my husband cares about and enforces this more than I do. He's an old-fashioned gentleman like that.

    However, neither him nor I would feel a single drop of disrespect if another child called us by our first names. And if asked, I'd say the child could call me by my first name.

    I think you already know but I'm late 20s and from MN. :)

    Interested to hear what other say. There are so many varying opinions!

  25. I was raised to always call anyone older than me "miss" and "mr." and if we are on a first name basis, it is usually miss-so and so... I have taught my children the same. I think it shows respect!

  26. As our babes get older I find this topic especially relevant.
    I do not wish to be called Miss anything and since I added my husbands name to mine, I don't go by Mrs very often either. I think it's funny(weird) when 'elders' feel they must command some sort of artificial respect through titles. At the heart of that I'm just unimpressed- but I understand how cultural differences mandate the nicety.
    My son is almost 4 and his best friends mom recently came out with wanting to be called Miss first name. Her husband is still just first name. Although it sounds strange when my son says Miss so- and so-, he does;in accordance with her wishes.
    I hadn't thought about asking the person how they wish to be addressed- so far my son has addressed them as we do but I like the idea far more than an obligatory Ms, Miss, Mrs or Mr...

  27. I always called my parents' closest friends by their first name. Adults that I didn't know well I would call Mr. or Mrs. "Last name" (I would probably still call your parents Mr. and Mrs. if I ran into them).
    I am in my late 20's and most of my friends' kids call me "Kristen." I like that. I really do. But I will respect parents who want their kids to call me something more formal. I know people who do "Aunt" and "Uncle" -- I guess it depends on who it is.
    I think kids can be taught respect without needing the formal titles. Where we used to live in Philadelphia, there are Quaker schools where the students call the teachers by their first names, and I think it has had a really interesting effect on the education. Kids are learning at a different level and are enjoying it in a different way because there is this approachable-ness (??) to the teachers. They become friends and confidants, not just stodgy teachers at the front. I appreciate that. And I don't think that they have in any way lost the respect and honor that teachers should receive.
    Interesting things to think about...

  28. Here in our part of Georgia it seems everyone uses Ms. and Mr. (first names). Our girls typically refer to adults by those as defaults, and with older people they use Mr./Ms. (last name) unless we are very close to them. Of course, if someone prefers being called by something else they are happy oblige.

  29. I usually have my kids call adults what I call them... mostly first names but sometimes Mr./Mrs. (my parents friends) or Dr.... etc.
    Such an interesting question!

  30. I grew up calling adults by their first names. With our kids though, we are like you, we generally ask the person what they would like to be called. If we don't ask, then we add the Mr/Mrs. We call our nanny Ms. first name. I am in my early 30s and live in Southern California.

  31. I grew up all over and called people Mr and Mrs (last name)....then I moved to TX, where it seems everyone calls me Miss Debra! Very regional

  32. I am 28 and live in Georgia. We usually ask my son to call others Ms. Melissa or Mr. Jason. But our really close friends are usually just referred to by 1st name. And I am perfectly fine just being known as Melissa.

  33. I grew up in Texas, and called everyone Ms. (last name) until they asked me to call them something different.

    My friends moms were always "Mom".

    To most of my kids friends I am "Kara's Mom" or "Mom"

    Suzanne would be okay with me, but I'd prefer Mom. I have 7 kids.... I answer to that.

    (On a side note, Dave calls me Lily (Suzanne Means Lily) so I answer to Lily just as fast)

  34. I'm in Massachusetts, been here all my life. I grew up calling certain neighbors by their first names. I will have my children ask what folks would like to be called. In my work at the public library, I refer to some of the much older patrons as Mr/Mrs but for the most part will use first names. I don't want to be called Mrs. as I did not take my husband's name so I am a Ms. but even so, I'd prefer to be called Michelle.

  35. I am in my late twenties as well, born and raised in Upstate, NY. I currently live in Upstate, NY with my 3 children as well. I always have called my friend's parents and my neighbors Mr. & Mrs. unless they have told me otherwise. I am teaching my children to refer to friends and neighbors as Mr. & Mrs. as well. My almost 5 year old has a student teacher in his Preschool and they call her Miss Sarah. I have seen that becoming more of a trend around here. Referring to people as Mr. & Miss *First Name*. Although I hate to say it (my husband took my last name instead of me taking his) and I hate when my kid's friends call me Mrs. *Last Name* because that's my Mother. I prefer to be called Miss Jennifer or just Jennifer (whichever is easiest for them).

  36. I concur on Dara's post, I don't know what to call my friends' parents! I'm mid-30's from MN and I introduce myself as Amy so that's what you and your children can call me.

    Usually my kids refer to other adults by their first names, unless we're somewhere their title should be acknowledged (like Mrs. Smith in school or Dr. Jackson at the clinic). Although we know these people casually, when we are at their professional location we use their title. When we're at the park or in a casual setting, we go by first names.

  37. I'm in my late 20's from Massachusetts. I am not a mom, but growing up i always called adults by Mr. and Mrs. Now, I am an adult however i still refer to all my friends' parents as Mr/Mrs....i feel strange calling them by their first names! My sister has a 6 year old daughter and all of her friends call her by her first name, not by Mrs.

  38. I used to be in your camp of just asking the adult but 2 things changed that. The first was a friend who said "Aunt Jane". I found that weird - we weren't that close. The second was moving south. Everyone in the are where I live uses "Miss Jane" and seem to feel it is respectful/good manners for children to do that. So I caved and just do that unless an adult specifically says they would rather be just plain Jane.

  39. I'm Kris, also late 20's and living in AR. You and your kids can call me Kris.

    Unless your my niece, then she says Auntie Miss Kris. LOL

    As for my kids, I do the ask what you want to be called thing in most cases. Teachers are always Mrs. or Mr. Last Name. Policemen, we know a few, are Officer Last Name. But beyond that its usually a variety of First Names, or Mr/Mrs/Miss Last name, based on that adult's preference.

  40. I'm in my mid-30s, from Pennsylvania, and my friends' kids call me Miss Kathleen. I have my son do the same. I think it shows a level of respect but it's not so formal, like in a school setting. Plus I like how charmingly Southern it sounds.

  41. I'm from Arizona and in my early twenties. I 100% agree with you stephanie. I prefer to be called meghan I am also casual like that but I do have friends who want there kids to call me miss meghan which is totally fine too. calling me Mrs. Fravel makes me feel old =) For my kids I will ask the adult what they would prefer and do so accordingly.

  42. It really bothers me when parents have their children call me "Miss Kris". First off because I would like an acknowledgement that I am married, so Mrs. (fill in last name here) would do OR simply by my first name. I know it is supposed to to some sort of southern respect thing but I am not from the south nor do I particularly like the practice of Miss this Miss that. but that's just me.

    K.

  43. I love that you even blogged about this topic. So many people don't or haven't taken the time to even consider that its a common courtesy to teach to their children.

    We've always had our kids call adults "Ms." or "Mr." and then their first names, unless they are significantly older than us (which is becoming less common every year!). Its just habit now and I love hearing them refer to adults that way in casual conversation at home. A little common courtesy goes a long way!

  44. In our church we call each other brother and sister, so my children call our church friends "brother so and so and sister so and so". Other adults it really depends. Teachers, of course are Mr, Mrs or Miss. Drs are Dr. Other family friends are usually first names, mostly because that is what they prefer. If they preferred a different title, my children would be asked to use it. As for me, I am also quite casual and prefer "Christine" for most settings!

  45. This is a topic that my hubby and I talk about often. We feel that it's a sign of respect for kids to properly address adults. My hubby is a high school Phys Ed teacher, and while we aren't into "title" either, it's really rude when kids refer to him as "Yo" or "Dude". So, we try our best in this area.

    Most of our close friends are addressed as "Aunt" and "Uncle" because they are like family to us. But, people who are are aquaintances tend to be "Miss Firstname" unless that person asks for just their first name.

    However, ALL THIS SAID, I am totally ok if someone close to me suggests their kids call me "Aunt" but I really don't care for my sons friends at school calling me "Mrs. MacCooCoo". I feel like I am always looking over my sholder to find my mother in law!!

  46. I live in Georgia, and in the southern culture, it is considered good manners for children to call adults by "Mr. or Ms. First name." I used to balk at that and reject it. Then, when I had kids, I realized that adults "forgive" polite kids easier than ones who are indifferent or impolite. For example, a preschool teacher is likely to treat my "active" boy differently if he is showing her good manners all the time otherwise. It may not be right, but it's true. And I find myself drawn to those children that make eye contact, acknowledge that they have been spoken to, and react with a polite word. (i.e. "Yes, Ms. Jill." instead of an under the breath "yeah" or worse, no acknowledgment at all that they have been spoken to).

  47. I'm 30 and live in Minneapolis. I teach high schoolers and they have to call me Ms. My Last Name. Other children in my life (neighbors, friends, etc.) call me by my first name, except for my nieces and nephews who call me Aunt My First Name. Oh, and my bestest friend's son who calls me Aunt My First Name because he's special.

    I am a mix, I guess. But if a child asks, I always give them leave to call me by my first name!!

  48. I am 30 and live in Arizona. I grew up in Michigan calling friends' parents by Mr. or Mrs. "last name", and that has become slightly awkward now that I'm 30 and have no idea if I should still be calling them the same thing or switch to first names. So, I am all about letting kids call me by my first name, unless their parents prefer they do otherwise.

  49. I'm in my late 20's, in the Northeast, and I prefer my first name, and I laugh when people say "Miss Corinne" because that's starting to be a big thing around here ;)

  50. I'm 30, and grew up in Houston and Louisiana. We always called people "Miss/Mr. (First Name)". That seems to be the trend among my friends and their kids now too, so that's what we're doing with our son. I don't mind being called "Cara" or "Miss Cara."

  51. Growing up, I always called people by their title and their last name. That was considered respectful. Then I became a teacher, and of course, I was called Miss C.; and then Mrs. L. That was natural for me.

    Then my family moved to Austria, and children here always call adults by their first names. Even in schools, teachers are called by their first names. I have to be honest, that it has taken quite some time for me to get used to this. I don't think I'll ever be used to it for the schools, but that's another issue.

    My son calls Austrians by their first names. Other American friends I refer to as Miss (name). We will have to teach him, though, what it means to call someone Mrs/Mr (last name), for when we visit the States next time. At least that's not for a couple of years!

    I'm originally from Michigan, but currently live in Vienna, Austria with my family. I'm 34, and although I prefer to be called Mrs. L, although I'm getting used to just 'Melissa.'

  52. I'm in my mid-twenties - living in the Midwest (Nebraska to be exact) and I am fine with kids calling me by my first name - Autumn. My son usually calls men & women by their first name unless they specify something different - his teachers at pre-school go by names like Miss Jill, Miss Julie (regardless of whether or not their married) so sometimes he'll call an adult female that. I think it might depend on what kind of career you have too, my MIL is a kindergarten teacher and she prefers kids to call her either Miss Stephannie or Miss Brunt-Howard (depending on their age & which is easier for them to say). If I was working formally with young children - I'd probably have them call me Miss Autumn - even though I am married.

  53. I love that picture up top!! Her curious face :)

    I'm Becca. I'm in my 30's, originally from New York, but have been in Arizona for 10 years. I would really like you and your kids to call me Becca.

    I usually have my kids call adults by their first name (except for teachers, Dr.'s, Grandparents, etc) unless the adult introduces themselves as something different.

    :)

  54. I'm in my late twenties, from Mississippi, and just go by Madeline. :)

    I don't force the name issue. If it's an older person or someone who we are not close to I just refer to them as Mr. or Ms. when Levi's around. If it's a good friend I call them by their name. Levi often drops the Mr. or Ms. He also drops things like Aunt and Uncle. I don't worry about it. I figure if someone is that stuck on him calling them Mr. or Ms. then they can go find someone else to chat with.

  55. I'm Vanessa, in my mid twenties, and live in the north midwest! Most around here have their children call adults by their first name. However most at our church use Mr./Mrs. and we tend to try and follow suit. However, I am just like you, I prefer to be called Vanessa even though I am a teacher. We have taught our daughters to always ask the adult what they prefer to be called.

  56. (I'm from California but now live in Arizona, and I'll be 29 in a few weeks.)

    I grew up calling people by their last names (Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So), but our kids mostly use Miss and Mr. and a person's first name. Today many people prefer a little more of a casual reference, but we still want to instill the idea that the kids are to respect their elders. Thus the respectful title and the casual first name. There are exceptions, however. If someone prefers to be called by his/her last name, or if people are of a generation that would definitely appreciate the last name, we introduce the kids to them that way. Once they hit school they will definitely call their teachers by their last names, and family members have titles (I think my mother would have a heart attack if the kids started calling her Sandy!).

  57. I, like you, try to ask people how they would like to be addressed by our children. My daughter loves talking to people and asking them what she can call them :). Some of our friends have their kids call me Mrs. Lettner even though I tell them they don't have to address me that way. I do like the idea of addressing teachers, our doctors, family (tante, uncle, oma, etc.)

    Oh...I am in my early thirties, I live in Santa Cruz, CA and you can call me Nini.

  58. I'm from AZ too and grew up calling most adults by their first names. Teachers and a few of my grade school classmates parents (Catholic school) went by Mr/Mrs Lastname. I now live in CO and will probably have my son use first names except where otherwise requested.

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