Monday, September 12, 2011


I've been having a spirited and insightful discussion with my friends on Facebook, stimulated by this question I posted a few days back:

Here's a 25-point toss-up for educators, parents, and anyone else with an opinion: who gets to decide what someone is called? Aaron's new teachers insist on being called by their first names, even though I prefer that I and Aaron call them Ms. So-and-So. Do people have the right to choose what they are called, or is it within my bounds to have my children call them something else (and to model it, and show my own level of respect, by calling them Ms. So-and-So as well)? I'm torn.

A wide range of friends chimed in with a wide range of opinions. Some felt it was well within my rights to insist on conferring respect through the use of a title (Mr. Joe, Ms. Kim, Dr. Lucy, Officer Mike, et al), while others felt it was a sign of respect to honor a person's request to be called by their first name. Said another way, the first group felt it was disrespectful to not use a title, while the second group felt it was disrespectful to ignore what a person told me they wanted to be called. By the way, age seemed to play some role in approaching the question (the bigger the age difference, the more correct it seemed to use a title) but not totally (many of us use titles even when talking to someone younger than us).

While I'm still torn as to what to do, I think the best lesson I took from this excellent back-and-forth is that the key thing is, titles or no, to have a sit-down with my kids about showing respect, so that, titles or no, they understand its importance and act accordingly. And, since I am their role model, I ought to remember the same. Thanks to all who chimed in to guide me along on this important life issue.
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