Children addressing adults as "ma'am" or "sir"

I just got my son back from a prolonged visit to his grandma’s house. Last night, I asked him a question and he answered me, “Yes ma’am”. I looked at him as if he had just grown another head and he explained that his grandma had really been after him to start using that word when he addressed her.

I didn’t say anything to that, but I probably will if he keeps it up because I really don’t care for it being used on me by my own children. I think it’s great for kids to “sir” or “ma’am” their elders (I do it myself), but not their own family members, for pete’s sake! (Except Grandma Cathy, who never made me do it…)

So anyway, I thought I’d ask for opinions on this subject. Do your children address you in this way? Did your parents teach you to do it, and what were your feelings about that?

When my wife and I travel, we always comment on the folkways and mores of different cultural areas in the U.S. We always comment when we are down south how nice it is the be addressed, “Yes ma’am or yes, sir” It’s cordial and respectful!

As for children addressing their parents…I’d think mom and dad is fine.

It’s done in the South, quite often. I’m after my son to use ma’am and sir for adults, but certainly not to his dad or me.

I have sort of a culturally mixed family. One side is pleased with ma’aming and one side finds it weird but puts up with it without giving me the extra head looks.

However, the further northeast I travel the more extra head looks I seem to get. In fact, I was in Boston recently and got a lecture from a native Boston family that I shouldn’t say it there because people will think I’m implying that they’re old. I didn’t even bother to politely explain why its a habit.

My kids learned Ma’am and Sir at the daycare. Sometimes they use it at home, sometimes not. The only time I try to enforce the girls addressing me either with with Ma’am or Mom is when they’ve been told to do something - like:

“Please go brush your teeth now” I want a reply of “Ok Mommy” or “Yes Ma’am” so I know they’ve heard me and understood what was asked so they don’t yeah, yeah me and blow me off.

I remember being quite surprised when I went home with my roommate for Thanksgiving of my freshmen year. I had never heard a small child use the term “Ma’am” in answering a parent. But it was a regional thing (this was Georgia).

My family, not being Southern, didn’t do it, and I am not raising my child to do it. I mean, not only do we not use it within the family, but not outside of the family, either. It’s uncommon usage around here.

I’ve never required my son to say sir or ma’am to anyone, although my husband requires that he address a person by name if he asks for something (May I have a drink, please, Daddy? instead of May I have a drink, please?). I think even that’s a little overkill and I don’t require that of him myself.

It would bug me that Grandma is requiring this. My MIL imposes all sorts of little etiquette rules on her grandkids and it annoys the bejesus out of me. She corrects them if they say “what” instead of “pardon” (which is a cultural difference between us), if they put their elbows on the table (while she’s all propped up there herself), and a ton of other little nitpickey things. Having dinner with her and the grandkids is a nightmare and miserable for everyone. Manners are important to me and I do make sure my oldest (the baby is too little still) knows the basics, but these aren’t her kids so she can keep her Emily Post books to herself.

Edited to clarify: Some of the things she corrects them about are things that I do teach them, too (elbows on the table being one of them). I just don’t think it’s her place to in any way discipline my children or her other grandchildren.

Except for Leave it to Beaver, I’ve never heard it. To me, “sir” and “ma’am” seem extremely stuffy and not normally used to address close family members.

It annoys the bejesus out of me too! The grandma in question is my mother, and she never pulled this crap on me when I was a kid. She’s only started it now that she has grandkids, and she’s not even consistent about it…at times she’s a nice cuddly old grandma, and other times she has a stick up her ass.

I wouldn’t get too worked up about it. Kids learn pretty quick that they act one way at once place, and another way at another place.

We actually solved the problem by moving 10,000 miles away (literally). That’s not why we moved, of course, but it does make our relationship a helluva lot more pleasant.

IMHO Children should us Ma’am or Sir to address un-related adults. Parents, Aunts or Uncles have their own honorific title.

I did hear an interesting opinon once from a co-worker. She said she wouldn’t teach her kids to say that because she didn’t want her kids to grow up ‘weak’. I have no idea what she ment by that.

My stepchildren used Ma’am and Sir, they also called other adults by their first name, preceded by Mr. or Miss (if they knew them well, last name if they didn’t). The kids were about 4 and 6 when I came upon the scene and they had already learned this. I found it a bit strange at first, but soon got used to it. Neither their mother, nor I, made an issue of it if they didn’t do it, but they did it most of the time.

I grew up calling my parents and other adults “sir” and “ma’am.” They didn’t explicitly tell me to, but it was the norm for kids where I grew up. I still call older folks I don’t know well “sir” or “ma’am.”

I wouldn’t teach my child to call me “ma’am,” but it wouldn’t bother me if they did.

I was over forty when I adopted this little idiom.

I had taken on caregiving for my MIL and exhibiting respect became very important in all communications. I found it worked quite well, actually.

Since then it has just fallen into common usage in my world. Most frequently I now use it with children I interact with. I just like it, I guess.

I also use it occasionally when I am trying to communicate that I am feeling a little bit ordered around or overly directed. Sometimes accompanied with a salute to emphasize the point. All in good fun however and only with my spouse.

This is what I teach my kids because it’s what seems to be standard where we live.

You don’t live in the South, do you? That’s how people address their elders here in South Louisiana, and I find it endearing.

I wouldn’t like being addressed as sir by every kid I see at all. I have a name and I prefer it to be used when I am being spoken to.

We’re in Raleigh, and my oldest was born in South Carolina (although we had several years of Australia in between). I really like it, too. Not too formal, not too casual and it differentiates their peers and their elders.

I was raised to, that being in Texas, Georgia and Florida. But my young daughter now isn’t having much to do with it, I think mainly because her Mom, raised in Colorado, never did it either.

So basically she gets encouragement from me, her nanny and one set of grandparents while her mom and the other set could care less.

We’ve I guess come to a happy medium… no need around the house but she needs to use it with strangers, her elders and, if she’ll remember, during formal events like a wedding, funeral, etc.