Kids Calling Adults By First Names

Dear Annabel Manners,

I’m a fellow belle originally from Charlotte, North Carolina. Loved the post about your family’s beach house!
Hubby wants to make movies, so now we live in L.A. with our four-year-old daughter Amelia and baby #2 on the way.
Here’s the thing: out here, kids call adults by their first names. (As opposed to Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So, which is how I was raised and what I would prefer.) I don’t want my children to be playground freaks, but I want them to be respectful. And to know how to act when I take ’em home to visit!
What do you suggest?
Sarah C. — West Hollywood
Hey Sarah,
Talk about a tricky one! On one hand:
  • Adult relatives have obvious titles.
  • Teachers almost always go by “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
  • Close friends can squeak by as Aunt or Uncle Whoever.

But every kid I’ve ever met in Southern California calls me Annabel and nobody says boo about it.

I think the best thing to do is level with your children. Explain that different adults have different preferences when it comes to how they’d like to be addressed. Some insist on going by first names, while others are more comfortable as, for example, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. (Or, for that matter, Mr. and Mr. Smith.)
Try teaching Amelia to take it on a case-by-case basis and use her best manners out of the gate. If she greets Mr. and Mrs. Smith as such and they absently pat her on the head, then that’s how she should refer to them. If they widen their eyes and gasp, “Oh, God. Call us Jen and John,” then your little one will know to use their first names from then on.
In the south, we sometimes use “Miss (First Name)” or “Mr. (First Name)” as a term of respectful endearment, but quite frankly I can’t see it catching on out here.
Write back and let me know how it works in practice. And congrats on Amelia’s forthcoming brother or sister!
Graciously yours,
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