Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Dear Lily,
     my son has just started junior kindergarten. Since he is the youngest of four that have gone to the same school, I am very familiar with most of the teachers there, including his teacher who has taught one of my other children as well. My son has heard me refer to his teacher by her first name and now has gotten into the habit of calling her by her first name also. I didn't think it was a big deal, I mean he is just a little kid but his teacher has brought it up a few times to me. She said that she wasn't comfortable with him calling her by her first name as opposed to Mrs.____ and that a couple of the other children have heard him and now call her by her first name as well. I haven't talked to my son about it because like I said, I didn't think it was a big deal but now I am not sure what to do. Is she being silly about this or am I the one in the wrong?


Dear Julia,
     children are such lovely little sponges, aren't they? They pick up everything they see and hear from adults, especially their parents. While you didn't really do anything criminal with calling an acquaintance, like the teacher by her first name, if you choose to address her that way in public, it is your responsibility to clarify the different expectation you should have for your son to him. There should always be a distinction of respect between a child and an adult, especially one who is an authority figure in your child's life, like his teacher. Allowing your children to address adults informally sets a confusing pattern for them, blurring the lines of respect and authority which they will take with them as they grow and mature from a little one into a not-so-little one.
Generally, so as not to confuse the young child who is already trying to adjust to the new routine of school, I suggest refraining from calling teachers by their first names. Since this pattern has been initially set, explain to your son that children do not call teachers by their first names and tell him why that is in a manner he will be able to grasp and understand. We, as parents and caregivers, must show our children what is appropriate social behaviour and as harmless as you might think it is, it is not acceptable for a child to call a teacher by their first name.


Pemberley said...

I could not agree with you more! I always refer to teachers and other professionals by the last name (and title) if front of my children. It's a good reminder for the little ones.

I have a friend who lets her little ones call me by my first name and it is so annoying and so insulting! Finally I said to her daughter "My name is Mrs. ____. Please call me Mrs. ___, I worked hard for that title!!"

Anonymous said...

I so wish my normally circumspect mother would have made clear this distinction for me. I am now nearly sixty but recall a childhood disaster which befell me as though it happened yesterday: in the presence of the grade school principal I made the error of addressing my new first grade teacher by her first name - which actually was how she wished to be addressed when she taught my Sunday School class (so you see I already knew her). The principal was NOT amused and the dressing down I received was truly dreadful and performed in front of all my classmates. As the new teacher reacted as I did (think "Bambi in the headlights") I had no assistance from that quarter, either, and was sent home in disgrace that day. When a friend's child addresses me by my first name because they have heard their parent do so, I gently say "why don't you call me Miss Sarah" which is a sort of southern and old fashioned convention that doesn't seem to embarrass or distress either parent or child.

FairyFiligree said...

If all else fails, perhaps you could ask teacher to call him Mr..... when addressing him and he can exchange the compliment. It might be made to look like a game but it would be a game to learn politeness when speaking to your superiors....

Bethany said...

Well stated! As a parent, I refer to my childrens' teachers by Mrs. even when I write emails to them. It is a sign of respect, in my opinion.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Working in a school I highly agree it is last name only out of respect...
I always referred to my children's teachers by their last names only.

Jacquie | After Words said...

Generally schools have a policy about whether they address teachers by first name, last name, or some combination thereof (usually Ms. First Name). As a teacher, I've worked in schools where I've used my first name and in others where I've used my last. I prefer to use my first name, but I follow whatever the policy is.

In this case, since the teacher has clearly expressed a preference , it's clear that the child ought to use the last name, but unless a preference is clearly stated, I don't think it's disrespectful for a child to refer to an adult by his/her first name.

North of 25A said...

Wise words, my dear. I have a friend who told my daughter she could call her by her first name; and then of course I had to have a whole conversation about why that was not appropriate.

PS True Prep arrived - thank you so very much!

James said...

Sound advice, but it is amazing this is an issue. Why would calling a teacher by her first name ever be considered proper? I know ,it's a different time.

Bringing Pretty Back said...

I agree 100%!!!!!!!!!!!!
Great advice.
Have a pretty day!

Anna said...

I come from a country where teachers at all levels are called by their first names, and it's absolutely normal and accepted. I was very interesting to hear about this custom of yours! Tell me, is it really true that children even refer to friends of their parents as Mrs/Ms/Mr Last name? Is it like this in all America?


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