"Susan" or "Mrs. Jones": How Should Kids Address Adults?

My good friend Amy's toddler son Sam used to call me "that guy." We’re not sure if it’s because he really didn't know who I was (not possible, I saw that punk everyday), or if everyone who wasn’t Mommy, was just "that guy." We were at least partly to blame, of course, because we never gave him any real direction on what he should call me.

I was raised to call all of my parents' friends Mr. and Mrs. Yaddayadda, and most of my friends say they were raised the same way. This was just the way things were done. But now in our increasingly laid-back, casual-Friday-all-week-long society, some people are choosing not to be so formal. 

My friend Mike says he tells his kids to call grown-ups by their first names: "I think it instills a more comfortable, less intimidating relationship to adults." My friend Danielle agrees, but says that this policy has backfired on occasion, when her daughter has addressed her this way at dinnertime, as in, "No Danielle, I don't want peas!" Sometimes my older son's friends call me "Drew's Mommy," which is practical, if a bit narrow. And my lovely friend Karyn has her daughter call me Miss Rebecca, which is adorable and makes me feel somewhat Southern.

Another friend Rachel, however, says that she likes the respect that comes with being addressed as Mrs. Yaddayadda by her first grader’s buddies. I can’t argue that using a title has a nice ring of authority to it, but I have never introduced myself as "Mrs. Gerstung." Isn't that my mother-in-law?

Once my kids are old enough (and by that I mean that they stop referring to everyone as Mr. Poopman), I'll tell them to always address an adult they don’t know as Mister or Mrs. Chances are they won’t offend anyone by being too formal. For my inner circle, I’ll ask them what they’d prefer to be called by my spawn. As for what kids should call me, as long as it’s not "that guy," I’m good.

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