Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Teaching kids good manners

proof that I've been organising photos - this one March 2011 - 20 months

Miss Jennifer is MandyE's babysitter.

I love all her stories about Miss Jennifer and most of all, I love the Southern thing about calling people Miss.

I asked Mandy once if they call everyone Miss this and that and she said that basically, this is how she was raised and that it's a sign of respect.

I love it.

There is nothing cuter to me than a child with good manners who says their please and thank-yous and is respectful to adults.

A colleague's 6-year-old son was in the office the other day and she had to go off to a meeting so the boy sat at her desk, occupying himself.

I offered him food (I always seem to want to feed people - what is that about?!) twice... just to make sure he wasn't just being polite by saying no, and I was so impressed by the quality of our interactions.

He was respectful, looked me in the face and answered nicely.

I told A the next day about this whole thing and she BEAMED she was so proud of him.

The reason why I made a point to tell her is that I know how hard she works on manners and how important it is to her.

Now here's for a big old generalisation.

I tend to think Afrikaans people are generally better at doing this greeting thing with their kids than English people.

This has been my experience!!!

A is Afrikaans and her boys have always called all of us in the office, "oom _____" and "tannie _______" (oom and tannie is Afrikaans for uncle and aunt)

Back to me.

I was raised to call adults/ friends of my parents Auntie and Uncle as a sign of respect and we never, ever called anyone by their first name.

D wasn't. He only called "real aunties" Auntie and if they were his mother's friends, he called them by their first names.

That would have been seen as a sign of disrespect in my world.

It just illustrates that there are different parenting styles!

I do think we're more relaxed these days and it is a bit cumbersome to keep referring to your own friends as Auntie this and that.

Or what do you think?

What do you do? Do you refer to your friends as Auntie for your kids, or do they call them by name?

PS so C, if you hear me refer to you as Auntie C on Sat, you'll know I'm trying out some parenting stuff :)


  1. Well, I am Afrikaans and me and my hubby teach our children to say "Oom and Tannie" to each and every Adult they come to meet and talk to. We don't allow them to say other than that even when an Adult insist on being called on their name, we tell that Adult that this is not acceptable to us. Respect to us is that our children will respect an Adult by calling them "Oom and Tannie".
    I also do understand that there is different styles to parenting - we all are different. I will respect it if I do get someone who wants their children to call me on my name just as I want them to respect my wishes with my children.

  2. How interesting, M, as I'd just published my post when another Afr guy walked past and I asked him. He said they let the adults dictate how they want to be referred to. (he is unusual in many respects :))

    Then my one colleague added after he'd left, "in that case, we tell those adults, SORRY, they (their kids) are not allowed to call adults by their names. Ever" :)

    But I love your style, M :)

  3. Another topic near and dear to my heart! We're also very big into manners. We do use Aunt or Auntie and Uncle to refer to our close friends to our children. We are referred as the same by theirs. I'm known as either Miss Heather or Mrs. Wilson to the other neighborhood or school children. I have my daughter refer to our neighbor across the street as Mrs. Goldman. It just seems respectful to use proper titles. We're also big on "Please", "Thank you" and "May I". I remember when Phoebe was old enough to say "I want such-and-such" I taught her to say, "May I have such-and-such?"

  4. For me growing up, you called adults Mr. or Mrs. (insert surname) - no Miss (insert first name). The latter seems to be a more modern thing, maybe now that more kids are going to preschool (I didn't) which is less formal than K-12.

    That being said, I find it SOOOO HARD to teach my young kids to call anyone Mr. So-and-so or Mrs. So-and-so. Honestly, its just hard for them to say! I like that in Afrikaans, they have Oom and Tannie - seems easier for everyone to get it right. Do you have to use last names with Oom and Tannie? That's where we run into problems. Some last names are also difficult for my 2.5 year olds to say.

    The hardest situations for me are my mommy friends. I, of course, use their first names. But my kids would presumably call them Mrs. So-and-so since they aren't family - and I really want them to call the parents of their friends by their last name. I'm hoping school will help me get them used to addressing adults that way. It really bugs me when I hear school-aged children calling adults by their first name...shudder...

  5. Nicole, it would be Oom plus the first name of the person and Tannie Marcia :)

    But if you say thank you, then the child would probably just say, "dankie (thank you) Tannie"

    Please if anyone's reading and I'm getting it wrong (again I can only speak from my experience), feel free to correct me!

  6. I agree with Marcia. It's the best to let the children say "Oom Jacob or Tannie Erna (First names)." And "Dankie Oom or Dankie Tannie." Much easier for the kids and that is also how I teach my children.

  7. We tend to use a lot of "Miss (First Name)". In my family, we call aunts, uncles, and cousins by first names. The terms "Aunt" and "Uncle" are used for my parents' aunts and uncles (thus, my great-aunts, etc.). I find that many people here are quick to ask you to call them by their first name, so the Miss/Mr.+first name adds a little more respect to it, for me. I don't want to be called Mrs. H, but Ms. Deanna is fine! : )

    My girls call my best friend Aunt Kelly and sometimes call my sister Auntie LJ (for Laura Jo). All their teachers at school are Miss Misty, Miss Hope, etc.

    So interesting to hear the different cultural customs!

  8. Mmmmm...not cumbersome at all. I insist on my kids calling all adults (family or not) Aunty and Uncle. Unless of course the adult in question prefers first names and insists on it. There is currently only one adult who my son addresses on her first name and it took a lot of convincing for me to be OK with it. Like Nicole, I shudder when I hear school-going kids call address adults by their first names.

  9. Hmm... I totally agree that kids are not taught to be respectful. It is rare that I get a 2nd grade (7-8year old) student who says please and thank you. And BLESS you, when someone sneezes! What happened to saying bless you?

    We use aunt, only if it is your actual aunt. But, I am very big on "maam". Yes maam, no maam, etcetera. Sounds like that is sort of similar?

    I will work hard with mine on manners. It is so wonderful when kids have manners! Sure sign of good parenting!

  10. I grew up calling everyone auntie or tannie... but my hubs wasn't for it... they aren't aunties and I have to say I never want to be called tannie!!! I still feel sixteen and I don't need any reminders that I am not actually!!! My kids called all adults Mr or Mrs "Surname." Formal but they can do it. Occasionally they get an adult that says call me by my first name... and then that person becomes"Firstname+Surname" forevermore... it sounds like one word and they say it really fast... but it sticks straight away, my kids would never feel comfortable calling an adult by just their first names... and wouldn't dream of calling anyone auntie!!!
    Similarly, they wouldn't dream of not saying "Please" and "Thank-you" they are never too young, if they can't say it they can't have it... Guess which words are in the first ten words list!!!

  11. So here is a quirk of mine, I'm big on manners. Many "peas" and "tank ooo"s happen around here. I'm not big on Mr. and Ms., I feel that a name is a name. I actually dislike the use of Aunt/Uncle for family friends. Although we do use Aunt for my cousin as she is an adult second cousin which is basically an aunt, right?

    So I've unconsciously decided to focus on please and thank you, waiting turns, not being rude, and the like. Titles are at the bottom of my list. I don't even enforce Sir/Ma'am but I use them myself.

    My return question:
    With so many sub cultures in SA, is there a social norm between them all for things of this nature? Are the regional norms? Does everyone just accept other cultural norms?

  12. I have spent a bit of time thinking about this. As an Australian with South African parents we called our close family friends, Aunt and Uncle, but then I didnt have any 'real' ones here. My children have special relationships with their aunts and uncles so I like reserving that title for them, emphasising that family closeness.

    But then what to call everyone else. As toddlers they just caught on to calling our friends what we did so they use first names and now it would seem strange to get them to call them mr and mrs. It would seem very formal and less intimate.

    But now my oldest is at school and i think she should call her new friends parents by mr and mrs to show respect. But this no longer seems the culture.

    So I remain confused and just referring to the mums at school as 'so and so's mum'!

    I look forward to reading your other comments.

    ps - hello - i have been quietly following for a few weeks and enjoying reading your blog.

  13. I think it's regional here- With us being military there's such a mix of people from a million areas. I've heard Ms & Mr with first names, Aunt & Uncle, Sir & Ma'am, etc.

  14. In general our kids refer to other grown ups as "Oom en Tannie" but there are some exceptions. We have English friends that prefer to be called by their names and our kids address them as such. I wish there was another respectful title that was not sort of "family confusing" if you catch my drift.

    At the Boys' school a lot of the Diplomatic service kids will address you as "mam" and "sir"which I quite like.

  15. Mandy, there seems to be different ways of doing things spanning culture, race, etc. I don't think there's a definitive one but largely depends on how the person was raised and whether they want to continue the tradition.

    Cat, I love Ma'am and Sir. We used to call our teachers that at high school and that's solely because our principal was very strict and a stickler for these sorts of things :)

  16. I have to say, our girls are pretty "polite" to us at's the way we all try to interact with each other. I know the real test will be when they get a little older and are in a situation without us, like you described. We'll just hope those manners stick! :)

    And, as I think I said to you, I hope that I'm not confusing the girls on some level about familial relationships. They haven't started to question how many "sisters" I have...but I wonder if that will come one day...HA!

  17. It is a culture thing in SA I think. I grew up in an Afrikaans town where "oom" and "tannie" were used. We spoke english at home and had many english friends I was taught to use "aunty" and "uncle", regardless of relationship. Later in life I met english speaking people who also only used it for actual aunts and uncles, and called other adults by their first names. I found this quite weird and uncomfortable.

    I am trying so hard to make sure my kid has good manners. I really really he will be seen as a polite boy.

  18. Raised in NY, we rarely knew our parents' friends' first names! We always called them "Mrs. Last Name ONLY!"

    That's, why when I moved a bit South, I was completely surprised by this practice...and not entirely comfortable with it. I want the Crazies to also see my friends as authority figures in their lives...likened to teachers...that's just how I feel. So, generally, I have them call my friends by their last names.

    It's what I feel more comfortable with.

  19. Love that photo :)

    For the most part my kids refer to my friends by their name. Aunty/Uncle just sounds wrong in a way.

  20. I commented middle of the week but guess it died somewhere between my phone and the blog. I think the not calling older people by name thing is certainly common for those of us with african backgrounds. My challenge is having my girls understand that while living in the waaaaay more relaxed american culture

  21. I'm Afrikaans born and bred, so for us it's always been the "Oom" and "Tannie" thing. I do the same with Nicola, but she hasn't picked up on it properly yet. If she knows someone's name she doesn't use it, if she's not sure sure what their name is, she does.

    I found that the oom and tannie business is fine for after hours but at work it doesn't work. Especially if you have older people reporting to you, or working with you - so I dropped it at the office. And I don't Mr or Mrs anyone there either.

  22. Stopping by on account of Twintopias "Shout Out" to you on happy I did!

    Manners is something that I place a HUGE emphasis on around my house. Please, thank you, excuse me, bless you, pardon, your welcome...and they are not even speaking yet (17 month old twins)...but you can never start too early...right?!?

    As far as the addressing adults debate...I struggle so hard with this one and I have enjoyed reading everyones point of I mentioned my children are not talking yet, so I have not had to "inforce" anything so far. Through some discussions with friends, I have decided that the expectation will be that they adress ALL adult but Mr & Mrs until given permission to call them sure if the is the "right" way to go about it but this is a tuff one...for a lot of us as I can see! LOL

    So happy I "clicked" following!

    Cheers! Ginger

  23. I really enjoyed this discussion. When I was small (American child growing up in the 1950's in California) we called some of our friends Aunt and Uncle except for the ones who insisted we call them by their first names. When I moved to the Cayman Islands and had my children in the 1980's it was a REAL sign of disrespect to call someone by their first name if you were a child. Everyone was taught to say Miss or Mister before the names of adults. My sons grew up doing that. Another interesting thing the first time I referred to someone's children as "kids" I was quickly corrected and told that "goats have kids, not people!" Interesting cultural differences! P.S. Thanks for linking in to my Word for 2012 blog hop


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