What are young kids in the US calling adults these days?
June 9, 2021 7:09 AM   Subscribe

When I was a kid I always called adults Mrs Lastname / Mr Lastname. That seemed pretty standard. A few of my peers would say Mrs Firstname / Mr Firstname but that always felt too familiar. Now we've got two young kids and it seems like most people go with Mrs/Mr Firstname. I just want to teach my kids to do whatever most people do, so is that the new standard? We're in Missouri if it's regional.

Obviously the ideal is to ask someone what they want to be called but that's not always possible so I'm looking for a default.

(I personally would prefer kids call me Mr Lastname but if no one does that these days I'd rather be consistent with everyone else than force my idiosyncratic preference, and this question isn't really about what people will call me anyway, it's about what I should tell my kids to use for other people to maximize the chance that we get it right when asking is not convenient.)
posted by Tehhund to Grab Bag (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've always had the experience that, with anyone other than a teacher, I can call them whatever my parents call them. (27 years old, so this is coming from Ontario and Alberta from the mid-90s to mid-2000s.) So my nextdoor neighbour was Deb, my other neighbours were Frank and Sheila, etc.
posted by sagc at 7:16 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]

This is probably regional and to some extent based on the adult's age, but it's always easier to dial back from formality. If your kids say Ms. Lastname, adults can then say, "Please call me Firstname." But if your kids start with Firstname without being explicitly told it's OK, there's more potential for awkwardness.

I'm old and would never have dreamed of not using titles with surnames for adults, but my kids called my friends by their first names. One of my son's friends persisted in calling me Ms. Lastname even though I told him many times he could use my first name. I don't think there's going to be an all-purpose right answer.
posted by FencingGal at 7:22 AM on June 9 [14 favorites]

Our kids call adults they don’t know well by Mr or Ms/Mrs/Miss Lastname. Their teachers use last names. Family friends are usually Mr or Ms. Firstname and then eventually that degrades. The cardinal rule is to always call someone what they introduce themselves with, though — so if you’re Admiral Lastname or Dr. Firstname or “Call me Rooster” that’s what we do. This is in Cleveland and I’m guessing STL is relatively similar. If you introduced yourself to my kids as Mr. Hund, that’s what you’d get until you explicitly changed it (and, uh, probably afterwards.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:24 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

The trouble with defaulting to Mr./Mrs/Miss is that it teaches kids to make assumptions about people’s gender and marital status based on their names and appearances. That’s outdated.
posted by Secretariat at 7:27 AM on June 9 [36 favorites]

Following because this is a constant problem for me. Growing up in India, we did FirstName Aunty or FirstName Uncle, which could easily be shortened to Aunty or Uncle if you were having trouble remembering their names. Now in the US with a 3.5 year old, I find that the kids don't default to calling the grown-ups anything? Which feels rude, and leads to them not greeting grownups at all I think.
posted by peacheater at 7:30 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]

When my husband and I were together but not married, his young nieces called me "Miss Amy". This was in Georgia in the late 90s. I'm not sure if I'd have been "Mr Fred" if I'd been a guy though. And it might have been different had I not been an almost-but-not-quite-related adult.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:33 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

This is extremely regional, so you’re best off asking local parent friends. I was raised with Mr./Mrs. Lastname so I felt odd having my daughter use first names for adults. When she was little I compromised with Mr./Ms. Firstname, but I gave up by elementary school. We were swimming against the tide of first names. I would encourage you to reflect on why your preference is your preference and how strongly you feel about it. I grew up in a culture where unthinking “respect” for adults sometimes meant treating children badly. I didn’t see that until years later.
posted by chocotaco at 7:34 AM on June 9 [10 favorites]

With my toddler, I'm explicitly asking people how they want to be addressed. Generally if they are my generation (millenial) I feel ok with using first names. Older generations (seniors at church, etc) that we don't know well I default to Mr or Ms. Surname. I tell all the kids I know well to call me by my first name, unless they see me at school. If I'm in a school (spouse is a teacher) then I default to Ms. Surname or Ms. B. I have a hyphenated last name so am fine with kids shortening it to B, but introduce myself as Ms. surname (despite being married) and will correct anyone that calls me Mrs. Surname or Mrs. B. I dislike Mrs. personally and don't use it.
posted by snowysoul at 7:38 AM on June 9

I'm in Vermont. My kids are teenagers now. The norm in our social circles (largely hippie/liberal/homeschooling) has always been to use first names for almost all adults - other people's parents, librarians, coaches or activity leaders, etc. Pretty much the only exception is school (something my kids have had limited experience with), where most adults are Mr. or Ms. Even there, some adults get called by their first names or by just their last names or some shortened/nickname version of their last name. My kids also mostly call their aunts and uncles by their first names - not Aunt Firstname, just Firstname.
posted by Redstart at 7:44 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

I’m in New York and it is mostly first names here. A lot of parents in our circle are involved in youth sports, so they get called “Coach [First Name]” even in non-athletic settings. Honestly, a lot of my kids’ friends just call me “[Kid’s] Mom”, as in “Joey’s mom, can I please have some water?” That works for me! I don’t like being called Mrs. [Last Name] but it does not offend me.
posted by hovizette at 7:57 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]

I'm in California, but I was raised in the Midwest in the 80s/90s. Mr./Mrs./Ms. Last Name was the way to go when first introduced to an adult, and for people you were familiar with but not friendly.

Fast forward to 2021 and I've married an Asian-American person. Their tradition is that all family friends are addressed as Auntie/Uncle First Name, and I like this A LOT. It still includes a title but retains some comfortable familiarity with the first name. It's what we are teaching our Tiny Child to call people.

The gender issue is there, but for strangers I think we will have to come up with a different set of standards and a broader conversation about gender, which will necessarily come later. (Tiny Child is still Tinh enough to be eating the furniture.)
posted by Temeraria at 7:57 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

Growing up in Ohio, I was always under the impression that Mr/Mrs Firstname was a Southern, and specifically a Southern Black thing. Consequently, as a white guy, I don't really feel like that formulation is mine to use. Kind of a cultural appropriation thing.

That's how our daycare refers to their teachers, though, so that's what our kids call them. Ms Sarah, Ms Cassie, etc. It still feels pretty weird to me, but not nearly as weird as Mr. Firstname would (all the teachers they've had to date are female).

We moved to a new state shortly after my daughter was born and don't really have friends here, and my son is only 20 months old and didn't start talking until 2020, so empirically, we haven't had the opportunity to see what people would like to be called. The only real non-relative adult they see outside of daycare is our pediatrician (who's a nurse practitioner, not a doctor), and who my daughter refers to, quite excitedly, as Firstnamelastname, all squished together in one word.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:05 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

Agree with others that this will be highly localized. In my neck of the woods, it's Mr/Mrs/Ms LASTNAME until invited to use something different, which almost always happens, but the point is that the child has shown the respect at the outset. Skipping that part would be a social breach and you, the parent, would be judged for not teaching your children to behave correctly.

Some adults end up being Miss/Ms/Mr FIRSTNAME ... other-than-regular-school teachers and mom's friends in particular. (Mom's friends are Ms/Miss FIRSTNAME, but friends' moms are Mrs/Ms LASTNAME. Lots of nuance to our world ...)

I am always happy to be Ms FIRSTNAME to children, but yes I do judge if they leave off that Ms without being invited to.

I wish we had "Auntie" for everyone like peacheater mentioned, that would be so much easier!
posted by mccxxiii at 8:08 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

We're in a weird cultural transition moment now, where Mr./Miss/Mrs. is outmoded and offensive to many people and we haven't found anything that works instead. In professionalized roles, there are titles that can work - "Professor" (but what about grad students?) and "Doctor" (what about nurse practitioners?) but in the general culture, we have not found a good substitute for the old modes of address. "Ms." was an attempt to provide a alternative to Miss/Mrs. but it didn't quite stick. What's complicated is that there are groups where the old modes are still in effect and if you don't use them, people will be offended. And then there are other groups where the old modes are outdated and if you do use them, people will be offended. You have to know what culture a person comes from to know what you should call them.

So...the easiest thing to do is just ask. Ask every person, "how you would you like us to call you?" and then whatever they say is what you do.
posted by epanalepsis at 8:22 AM on June 9 [10 favorites]

I taught my kids to say "Miss First Name" and "Mister First Name" for clarity's sake, and paired that with "please," "excuse me," "may I," and "thank you." General politeness and respect toward adults rank higher than the first name/last name debate here (though first name only is Just Not Done). Within the family, use of Prefix Last Name connotes a certain distancing or applies to elderly folks who will fuss about anything less than Prefix Last Name plus impeccable manners. The under-18 set calls me Miss MonkeyToes; 18+, MonkeyToes, and God, I feel old having answered this question this way. Ask, and observe local usage, reinforcing that naming varies from place to place, and cohort to cohort.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:41 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

Where I am (Ontario, Canada) it is almost exclusively first names, including most teachers at the secondary school level (it is a mixed bag in elementary). As an adult working in a public library, I look askance at colleagues that insist on being called Miss [Firstname] and assume they have some authoritarian hangup (generally only seen now in smaller "backwards" libraries around here). Doctors, Professors, Mayors and Judges seem to be the only exception where the honourific title is still used (and, for each of those categories I have met many who have dropped the honourific). If one of my children's friend called me Mrs/Ms [Lastname] I would reflect negatively on their parents as being more concerned with formalities instead of building authentic non-oppressive relationships with people.

As mentioned above, the correct answer is to ask what people prefer to be called.
posted by saucysault at 8:49 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

I'm in Montreal and, like saucysault, in my circles it is first names. There are some exceptions for teachers in elementary/primary school and high school. My children are now teenagers. Mr/Mrs/Miss sound very old-fashioned to me.
posted by Cuke at 8:55 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]

Also in Ontario, Toronto, and it's an extremely mixed bag. We ask, it's about the only way.

At work we have our staff and students do Mr./Ms. LastName and it stands out as very formal.

Other people's children tend to default to "MyKid's Mom! MyKid's Mom!" :)
posted by warriorqueen at 8:56 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]

Ms/Miss/Mrs/Mr Firstname is totally a US Southern thing, but I've also noticed it within Black communities in other areas (probably a result of migration?). And in daycares and kindergartens from kids of all races (presumably to give off a friendlier vibe?).
posted by schroedinger at 9:04 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

This is very regional in my experience. I'll give you a Missouri specific answer - lived outside of STL with kids until last year. The default with pre-school-aged kids was definitely Mr/Miss/Ms Firstname (saw this with childcare workers, playgroup friends' parents, librarians, church). Then around school age it swung to Mr/Mrs Lastname. I say default because there were certainly exceptions, but I would say the majority of adults my kids interacted with would introduce themselves in that way or indicate that form of address.

When I grew up (also in MO, 30 years ago) I thought of Miss Firstname as a Southern thing, but it seems to have crept up north, at least into the St Charles County microcosm.
posted by cpatterson at 9:07 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

In the South, I grew up with Mr/Mrs/Miss LastName. Now at over 50, the younger crowd calls me Ms.Rei. (First name) They do get the Mrs/Miss wrong but I could care less. Plus in the south, it is usually Ma’am anyway.
posted by ReiFlinx at 9:08 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

I'm old, and my midwestern parents (one from MO) didn't teach me to use Mr. / Mrs. with their friends; I just used their first names. Yet they taught me all the other polite niceties, so that backs up cpatterson's theory that it's maybe more a Southern thing that crept upward. When I lived in the south, I noticed other kids and younger people using the Miss / Mrs. / Mr. with either first or last name, and I followed that for people I didn't know well, but stuck with first names for family friends. I agree that the best practice these days would be to ask.
posted by taz at 9:16 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

My elementary aged child calls all non-teacher adults by their first name. Teachers he calls by whatever they tell him, so preschool was Ms. Firstname and elementary has been Ms. or Mr. Lastname. He doesn’t tend to say Mrs. but I think that is out of habit from preschool and it’s shorter and he doesn’t really differentiate between Ms. and Mrs. All kids I know from toddlers to high school seniors call me by my first name. When I volunteered in the classroom the teacher would call me Ms. Firstname but the kids didn’t really adopt the title. I also don’t share a last name with my kid so there was maybe some uncertainty on what my last name is. I prefer being called by just my first name but I don’t mind if I’m called Ms. First or Last name. I don’t care if I’m called Mrs. Husband/Kid Last Name either. I would happily have my child call someone else by whatever name they prefer. I would also be calling that person by what they prefer my child to call them, to model the behavior. I think anyone with strong preferences will introduce themselves with what they want to be called.
posted by Swisstine at 9:46 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

(Oh, also about the "Miss" and "Mrs." part: in my memory (in the south) it was really a vocalization that was more like "Mizz" for both, for the most part, and this was definitely not an adoption of "women's lib's" "Ms." title, but, I conjecture, a way to avoid the social transgression of perhaps wrongly assuming a married woman was unmarried, or vice versa.)
posted by taz at 10:22 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

I was raised mostly in Virginia, after moving from New York when I was 6. Teachers were Mr. and Mrs. lastname, never firstname. Friends of my parents were Mr. & Mrs. lastname, except for very close friends. I can think of at least three people that I called by the first name as a kid. Some of my parents' friends later said first names are OK, but that wasn't until I was out of college I think.

I've heard my nieces and nephews, as well as friends' kids, all use the Mr./Mrs. firstname convention and it's always struck me as weird.
posted by emelenjr at 10:34 AM on June 9

One benefit to having children use formal titles with adults is that it reinforces the idea that there should be clear boundaries between the two individuals.

When I was in highschool, I never liked it when teachers asked us to call them by their first names because it seemed like an attempt to elide the clear power difference between us. It also seemed to be forcing me into a greater intimacy with the teacher than I wanted---all the creepy teachers used this naming move as a way to start grooming students and appearing to just be one of us.
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 10:46 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]

My very best friend in the world still has her children address me as Miss Firstname which is jarring to me in my urban Midwestern US context (for reasons of gender/status assumption mentioned above), but seems natural for them in their more formal Southern context. Personally while I agree that having a kid I don't know well just directly use my first name somehow feels odd, I don't like ANY of the common alternatives. I'm trying to get people to call me Comrade or Captain but it just won't take.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:56 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

I’m not sure what the best course is. I do remember that when I was a kid, my parents would refer around the house to my friends’ parents as “Anne” or “Tony” and expected my friends to call them (my own parents) by their first names, so I assumed I should call my friends’ parents. But this led to an uncomfortable situation once where a friend asked me to please start calling her parents Mrs. and Mr. Lin, not Anne and Tony. I agree with the comment above that it’s easier to dial back formality than to drive it up.

That said, I also agree with the concerns around assuming someone’s gender or marital status. In my experience defaulting to surnames is also likely to result in mistakes like assuming Amy Smith’s mom is Mrs. Smith, when her mom does not have the same surname.

I think the ideal would be to teach kids to ask “what should I call you?” upon meeting an adult. That’s my go-to now for meeting friends’ parents (maybe it’s the aftermath of that one awkward experience, but even as an adult I cannot bring myself to start calling a friend’s mom by her first name unless she invites me to. Occasionally this has paid off; I had a boyfriend whose mom told me to call her Aunty, as it would have been unusual in her culture for me to call her by either her first name or as Mrs. Lastname).
posted by chaiyai at 10:56 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

I'm in STL (been here 7 years); I work with kids. My experience:

- toddlers/preschool/young: I'm Ms. FirstName
- school age/high school: I'm Ms. LastName
- friends' kids: I'm FirstName
- after high school graduation: I'm FirstName (but some students still call me Ms. LastName, and that's ok; it's more a "hey, you're an adult-ish person now, you can call me FirstName" kind of privilege)

My distinction of using a title (Ms.) or not is formal (school) or not (friends).
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:01 AM on June 9

Around here, all the kids (including mine) call teachers Mr/Ms LastName or Mr/Ms FirstName, depending on how the teacher introduced themselves, but friend's parents and other adults seem to be called by first name only.

At first I found it a bit unnerving having children addressing me by my first name having grown up always calling adults Mr/Ms lastname, but times change, so I roll with it. It seems less weird now that my kids and their friends are all teenagers.

The only exception is the elderly people in our neighbourhood -- they get called Mr/Mrs LastName.

I've also noticed a lot of kids no longer call Aunts and Uncles by Aunt *name* or Uncle *name* anymore, but just call them by their first name. My kids don't but we always refer to their aunts and uncles as Aunt or Uncle.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:01 AM on June 9

In both public elementary and high-school settings in a big city in the industrial midwestern US, as an infrequent visitor, I'm universally "Mr. first-initial-of-last-name," usually without any hesitation or discussion. (I have a hard to remember last name.) I don't know who's taught them that, but it's rare to hear an exception. My close friends' kids either call me "uncle first-name," or else they don't really seem to call me anything at all.
posted by eotvos at 1:00 PM on June 9

I teach at a school where every teacher decides how to style their name, and that styling is used by students and by the school in all student-facing situations. There's a range of levels of formality, from FirstName to Ms. LastName to Dr. Initial (and a couple of more whimsical nicknames which have equally official status). I'm Dr. LastName myself -- I like how the formality counterbalances my somewhat zany demeanor and reminds students that fun classroom ≠ lack of boundaries. But mostly I just carried this title over from a job where it was mandatory. The school also lets students decide what name to go by, and uses their preferred form (whether that's a full first name, nickname, middle name or whatever) on rosters and things like that.

My opinion, from seeing this free-for-all system at work, is that it is The Way, and people should get over the occasional awkwardness of having to ask "What should I call you?" That awkwardness is the small price of pluralism. And while I will never take any reasonable attempt at respectful address amiss from a child, asking conveys more respect, IMO, than any default.
posted by aws17576 at 2:32 PM on June 9 [6 favorites]

And since some folks are non-binary, Mx. (pronounced 'mix') needs to be included as a possibility (in other words, maybe ask the person which title they use before assuming). That's the most popular gender-neutral title, but there are others.
posted by kokaku at 3:31 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]

Huh, I didn’t even know there were options. I was raised in the South mostly, am Southern, and come from a Southern family. ALL adults were Mr.Ms.Mrs.Miss Lastname, and absolutely Sir and Ma’am. I’m almost 38 years old and I *still* say Sir and Ma’am in public, or when working with people in an official capacity. My friends’ kids call me Auntie Sara, and that’s fine, I suppose. There were some *very* close friends of my mom’s growing up that were Firstname, but that was literally 4 people. I think I just quit calling my aunts and uncles by their titles, and it still feels weird. When I was still a captain, I was called Captain Lastname, and even though I've taken a position as a different (read: lower) rank in a different organization, I am still occasionally addressed as Captain Lastname as a sign of respect for a title which I had earned. I think I would be weirded out if a kid (not high school aged) called me by my first name without some honorific in front of it, but I may be behind the times.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 3:47 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]

I feel super rude based on these responses! I’m 36 and grew up mostly in California and the only people I ever addressed as Mr/Mrs/Ms were teachers and other education adjacent folks. My daughter calls her friends’ parents by first names, which seems to be the norm in WA. I have also noticed a trend toward calling teachers at daycare and other classes Teacher Firstname, which eliminates gender issues.
posted by wsquared at 3:59 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]

I call all friend's parents, "Mr. Friend's First Name Father", their mom, "Mrs. Friend's First Name Mother." I call my husband's uncles, "Mr. Uncle First Name." His mom holds an honorary name that all her students call her; I call her that too. I have reached the age where I'm being call Miss First Name" now. Which is better than "ma'am". I would prefer that all my younger co-workers called me "Miss Last Name" as it's the only bulwark against the sometimes naked aggression and contempt that employment seems to bring out in younger colleagues. Young children? "Miss First Name" or "Auntie". I do not like children, esp. young ones, calling me by my first name. Mid-Atlantic.
posted by divinitys.mortal.flesh at 5:26 PM on June 9

A "default" approach, by its very nature, is going to fail at extending genuine respect in at least some circumstances. As a non-binary AFAB individual, the proposition that being called "Miss" or "Mrs." DingoMutt is respectful is flatly wrong. It prioritizes the comfort of the adults who want their kid to use a title with me over my actual feelings on the matter. Frankly I am not interested in Mx as an alternative (though I'm glad kokaku brought up the point), because it still perpetuates the idea that some gender marker is necessary to show respect.

I work in schools and am constantly fighting this battle. Most of my kids default to just my first name - like I've asked them to - but I have a few teachers and staff who I've had to repeatedly remind not to prompt students to call me "Miss" DingoMutt. In those particular classrooms I shruggingly accept "Teacher DingoMutt" as a compromise because frankly it's nauseating when they insist on "Miss," but again, in my mind this is being done to make the teacher feel comfortable. I assure you there are other ways to maintain a professional boundary between students and adults.

True respect, to me, would be to just ask me what I wanted to be called and then abide by that. Modeling this to your kids would be much more meaningful than promoting some default option that is bound to feel disrespectful to at least some people, some of the time.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:41 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]

I grew up in the south. Miss Firstname is very common for women of any age, single or married, for those who have everyday contact, and this usage is by no means limited to black speakers. I have never heard Mr. Firstname or Mrs. Firstname used. Mr. Lastname and Mrs. Lastname is very acceptable, as it is everywhere in the U.S.
posted by yclipse at 7:57 PM on June 9

My kids use Auntie and Uncle.
posted by potrzebie at 8:58 PM on June 9

I grew up calling non-family adults Mr. / Ms. Last name. Respect/ formality concerns aside, there is something to be said about adults and children using the same name to refer to someone. Recently a parent and I had to play a game of 20 questions to figure out which childhood friend's mother, my parent ran into at the store. My parent only knew the first name of the person, and well... I had no idea who "Susan" was. When I was growing up, calling an adult Ms. First Name was not done, but had it been a thing, I may have had an easier time figuring out whom my parent ran into.
posted by oceano at 10:36 PM on June 9

Like DingoMutt, I hope we can lose the idea that addressing someone by their title (or generic gendered terms like sir/madam) is inherently more respectful than not as fast as possible as a society. As another AFAB non-binary person, I can guarantee that every time I've been called by the title someone assumes is the best fit based on my appearance in recent years, the effect has been the opposite of respectful, because they always misgender me - and I don't find being misgendered a respectful experience, regardless of the intent of the person speaking.
posted by terretu at 4:11 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]

Reading through the comments, I am struck by how many people equate formal titles with respect. When I was a kid, I did not think of formality in those terms. Rather, I thought of formality as a way of creating distance from adults who were practically strangers. Kids so often have limited tools for creating distance, and I like the idea of empowering them to use words and language to do so.

I generally agree that people should be called whatever they want and that the most respectful approach to names is for one adult to simply ask the other adult their preference. However, I am not sure that this guideline translates so well to adult-kid interactions because kids inherently have so much less power than adults. I kinda think that people in power should intentionally try to empower those with less power, and here I think that might mean giving some leeway to children's preferences regarding what they want to call an adult.

I get that gender issues and presentation can complicate this. Maybe the concept of mutual consent could be imported to these verbal actions of intimacy?
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 6:41 AM on June 11

I get that gender issues and presentation can complicate this. Maybe the concept of mutual consent could be imported to these verbal actions of intimacy?

I don't understand what you mean by "mutual consent could be imported to these verbal actions of intimacy," but for the record, I don't consent to being misgendered. I really can't emphasize that enough.

Your point that titles can establish social distance is a good one, and I also agree that we should empower kids to use words and language to do so. That can - and should - mean empowering them to ask what the adult in question wants to be referred to. I totally get that some kids may be too young for this, but I would expect kids who are too young to ask this question to also be too young to be interacting with an unfamiliar adult without parental or guardian supervision - in which case that parent or guardian should be asking the question, in front of the kid, to - well, again - model respect while simultaneously empowering kids in their use of words and language.

Social distance, kids' well-being, and not misgendering people really don't have to be at odds.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:37 AM on June 11

Thanks for responding to my comment, DingoMutt. I wholeheartedly agree with you that kids well-being and not misgendering people do not have to be at odds, and I am sorry if my comment implied otherwise. To be clear, I think misgendering is unacceptable.

I will try to express my thought in a different (and longer) way. Kids sometimes feel uncomfortable calling adults by their first name. Because of the power differential between adults and children, I think that discomfort should be respected. At the same time, some adults feel uncomfortable being called by a formal title because those titled are so often gendered. I think that discomfort and those name preferences should also be respected. Respecting both of these preferences might involve more conversation than some of the comments in this thread imply--- ideally the parties could find a form of address that is mutually acceptable.

So many of the comments in this thread imply that the adult always gets to dictate what they are called, and I disagree with that. The adult should always be able to dictate how they are gendered, but I think that children should have input on what forms of address they feel comfortable using. That is what I meant by mutual consent---a mutually agreeable form of address.

So, for instance, a conversation might go something like this:
CHILD: What would you prefer to be called?
ADULT: Please call me Uncle.
CHILD: I usually just refer to my family members as Uncle. Is there something else I can call you?
ADULT: In that case, please feel free to call me Smith.

I hope that clarifies my thinking. It seems to me that our views on this topic are actually fairly closely aligned.
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 1:10 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]

Extremely regional and cultural. I grew up in southern CO in the eighties and had friends who addressed their own parents by their first names. Outside of school I rarely referred to anyone any other way, and found Mr. old fashioned even back then. All the kids I know now just call me by my first name, as do my (college undergrad) students.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:40 PM on June 12

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