Green Piece

The simple musings of a man who thought he knew everything . . .

Sunday, November 13, 2005

What's In a Name?

For some reason, within the last couple of days or so an interesting topic has come up in front of either myself or my wife. The subject is regarding whether or not children should be allowed to call adults by their first name. I will let you know right off the bat that our children are not allowed to call adults by their first name. A very popular option in our church is to have the children call the adults by their first name, but put a "Mr." or "Miss" in front of it. Frankly, my wife and I are not really into this either. We have found through a couple of conversations that other adults actually have a problem with the fact that our children are required to call adults by their last names.

I am not really sure when it became the norm for children to call adults by their first name. My parents were not what you would call strict, but still, calling an adult by their first name (with the exception of some really close family friends) is very foreign to me. I didn't really realize it was a big deal until Lisa and I started to work with 3 and 4 year olds at church. Lisa and I always refer to ourselves using our last names. "Hey everybody, Mrs. Green is going to lead us in a rousing chorus of 'Jesus Loves Me'". It was obvious from the start that we were in the minority on this issue. It doesn't bother me that I am in the minority. I wish I could tell you that it doesn't bother me when I hear a child call an adult by their first name but it does. It really does.

This whole business of children being put on an equal plane with adults is one that liberals have been trying to push for a long time. To a liberal, there is no difference between an adult and a child. Children's opinions and thoughts are as valid as any adult's. This does not wash with common sense, with tradition or with the Bible. Liberals do all that they can to promote the idea that children are simply little people. This is done by trying to lower the voting age, by lowering the age at which they become sexual and lowering the age at which their parents have control over them. Actually this last point has more to do with lowering the age that government has more control of them so that the State will control them for the rest of their lives but hey, let's not split hairs.

The apex of liberal's fascination with treating children as adults came during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. During the convention the Democrats paraded a 12 year old girl out on the stage. This young girl was given the opportunity, and one must assume encouraged, to give a scathing diatribe against the President and Vice-President and to openly show disrespect, not only to an adult but to the President of the United States of America.

If my child spoke this way to any adult they would certainly know the "wrath of Dad", but in today's society seeing a child speak this way to an adult is taken very well. If the child is 2-6 years old it is seen as cute. If the child is 7-12 it is seen as the child "learning to think on their own". Anywhere between 13 and 18 and the child is just trying to "find out who they really are".

You may be wondering why I think this is so important. The reason is because if you go into the average school today and ask the teacher if they can tell which kids in their class are the Christian kids based on how they treat their teacher I am positive you would be told that they cannot. More than likely the best they would be able to do is point out a few Mormon kids who show them the respect they deserve. I know this to be the case - I have asked teachers this exact question. I have spent a considerable amount of time around Christian teenagers and seen their disrespect towards adults. I know this to be the case.

Why is this happening? Because we are not teaching our children that there is a difference between children and adults. I will bet that most of the people who read this post now have a lower opinion of me for even suggesting that maybe, just maybe a child's thoughts on a particular subject are not as important as my thoughts. Why is what I have to say more important? Because I am an adult. I have had more experience in life. I have had time to develop a better awareness of how this world works. There are people who come to our house that are appalled to find out that we do not allow children to take their drinks out of our kitchen, but that we have no problem with an adult doing the same thing. People actually ask me how I explain this discrepancy to our children. The answer is simple, we are adults they are children. We have greater faith that an adult will not spill her drink. It is amazing how this makes perfect sense to the child, but not to the parent.

This post is dragging on a bit so I will wrap up with my thoughts on why children should refer to adults using their last name.

1. Children are supposed to refer to adults by their last name.

2. It makes it harder to make them mind. This probably doesn't matter to a lot of people, but it's a big deal to me. We, as adults, are given the charge of teaching these young ones how they are to act in the world. This is harder to do when they just think of you as someone who is on equal footing with them.

3. A rite of passage is lost. I will never forget when I was in college and I was told by a man I respect that I should call him by his first name. He had been a coach at my High-School. I called him "Coach Wolfe" and he told me to call him "Mike". I couldn't do it, but man what a way to let a boy know that he is truly a man.

4. Children are supposed to refer to adults by their last name.

5. You are setting them up for a better respect for God. It would be easy to overstate this one but I really do believe that instilling a sense of respect for adults in children sets them up to have a better respect for God. One time I was praying with a group of people. It was really more of a deal where we were sitting around giving some praises to God. Something happened that struck me. One of the guys actually said the sentence "God, you are the man". We as Christians really have developed a severe lack of respect for the righteous and holy God of the universe. I believe that some of this, but not all, is attributable to our lack of respect for our elders.


  • At 9:51 AM, Blogger marrie said…

    Thanks for your comment on my blog.
    My children are 2 and 4, and we have only recently had to face this issue. We hadn't thought about it at all until we heard our four year old daughter yelling to our neighbor, "Jim!" and I realized that their son referred to me as "Miss Marrie" and I wondered if the neighbors might be offended by the children's use of their first name. I instructed the kids to call them, "Mr. Jim, and Miss Merrilee" since that was what they seemed to like. Personally I don't have a problem with children calling adults by their first name. People who have a title in their life they call by their title, like, "Auntie Liz, Uncle Jacob, Grandma, Mrs. Smith (for a teacher)" but think the notion that children should have respect for anyone simply because they are older is a dangerous one. I respect people because they are human, and everyone is afforded a basic human respect in my mind, but beyond that, people prove that they deserve respect, and simply living longer doesn't cut it, in my opinion. How many adults are liars, cheats, child molesters, drunks, thiefs...? There is a difference between an authority figure in a childs life, and an aquantance. An authority figure commands a certain ammount of respect based on position in the childs life, and they should be referred to accordingly, but Joe Blow they just happen to meet is a different story. It is my job as a parent to protect my children from adults who might hurt them, and it is simple now, I just keep them away from people who I don't know, but when they are 7-18 I wont always be there, and I don't want them thinking that all adults deserve their respect and compliance.

  • At 7:16 PM, Anonymous Whitney Becker said…

    This is the kind of thing that I think about for WHEN we have children. This is a big deal. These simple things set up children for what they will be like later in life. Politeness is about out of our children in today's world. My oldest nephew is a perfect example of this. He is absolutely out of control when it comes to being polite. I wonder about what happened to the morality we used to teach kids, the matter is we've decided to allow an inanimate object teach our children. Calling people by their first names is a tricky one and I don't know how to feel, I don't think I like it though. But I know alot of adults who don't want to be called by their last names. They perfer to be called Miss Suzie or Mr. John. So it's a tricky one. Thanks for the post it sure made me think.

  • At 6:40 PM, Blogger Jason Green said…

    Thanks for the message. I would encourage you to not make your decision based on whether or not others prefer it. It's either the right thing to do or it is not. I, obviously, think it is the right thing to do.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • At 3:52 AM, Blogger StephenH said…

    I think that adults have become more tolerant of kids calling them by their first name. I also feel that the internet and digital communication methods may also play a part in it. Next, I feel we have evolved to a society of being less formal, as well.

    I predict that this trend started in the early 1990s. This is when children started calling adults by their first name. Additionally, it seems to be the years of the information age.

    The reason I feel that digital communications has a role in this, is because when you look at Email, Cell Phone Text Messaging, MySpace, etc almost all things refer by first and last name, and don't use "Mr." "Mrs." etc, and over the net and such, it is hard to determine if messages come from an adult or a kid without reading them first. As the common protocol for Instant Messaging and Online Chat emerged, it seemed if everyone just went by first name, and in the tech world, the young are often more tech savvy than the older adults.

    I don't nessecarly think that this name trend is as much of a religious issue, as it is a culture and changing of the times issue. We have gotten ourselves in a more casual, less strict society. If you look, people go to work in Jeans and short sleve shirts today, instead of requiring everyone to wear suit and tie.

    I personally think that kids should call adults what the individual adult wants the child to call them, wether it be "Mr Lastname" or "Mrs Lastname", or "Mr or Miss Firstname", or their first name. I think it is not disrespectful to call someone what they prefer to be called, regardless of the persons age. In fact, I tell young children they are welcome to call me "Stephen" for example, as that is what people have called me all my life.

    For example, at our college, our professors are usually called "Professor Lastname" but everyone else the college students call by their first name. We seldom use "Mr. or Mrs" around here.

    I personally don't think this is a religous issue, as much as it is a cultural trend myself. Just like the in thing changes among the years, I think that kids calling adults by first name is just another trend that will go in phases, or perhaps will be here to stay for a generation. Will I cary on to the next generation? That is up to the new generation of parents to decide.


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