Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Works For Me Wednesday...The Ma'am, Sir Debate

Child #1- Yes, sir I would like some more.
Child #2- Yes, Dad I would like some more.

Which child is being more polite?
How about here?
Child #1- Yes, ma'am I had a good day at school.
Child #2- Yes, Grandmother I had a good day at school. Thank you for asking.

Child #1- No, sir.
Child #2- No thank you Uncle Sam.

For me both children are being equally polite and respectful. And you've probably guessed that Child #2 is the voice of my child and my own voice for that matter. Before I had children I had the experience of watching parents and children communicate as a teacher and youth pastor. And my conclusions were always the same, just because a child put sir or ma'am after a yes or a no it did not necessarily mean they were showing any more respect or manners than one that didn't. Sarcasm can drip from any word of the English language, as well as body language that puts any parents teeth to gnawing. Sometimes parents would get so caught up in making sure that their child was addressing them correctly that they completely missed what the child was trying to tell them. I am guilty of this!
Anyway, my point to all this is that what works for me is to follow the words my wise mother gave to me many years ago. I can still see her, head buried in the Tupperware cabinet looking for a wayward lid as I asked her why she didn't make me say sir and ma'am like my friends parents.
Turning to look up at me she smiled, brushed her hair out of her face and said, "The words you use are not nearly as important to me as to the way you use them. When you speak I want you to speak with honesty, respect, and caring. If you do that neither I nor anyone else will find fault with your manners."
So I've taken those words to heart. If my children put a ma'am or a sir into their sentence I'm great with that, but I don't require it. My dear husband has gone along with my way of thinking, although at first I think it took every effort he could summon not to blurt out "Sir!" when our first child would respond with a sweet , "Yes".

So that's what works for me, what works for you?

Head over to Shannon's for more!


His Girl said...

Good things to think about. I require "sir" or "Ma'am" out of my kids - and at times I have missed the conversation because I was caught up in the absence of what I wanted.

Edi said...

We have never used the sir/maam thing in our home...we live in the midwest but I grew up far north in Canada and sir/maam were never used.

I have mixed feelings about children using "Mrs. Smith"...partly b/c when we used to go to a certain church there were married woman all related and had the same last name so it would be crazy to try and differentiate between them for kind of on their own or listening to other kids they began calling adults with a Miss or Mr. and their first name - ie. Miss Cheryl or Mr. Jay. Sounds respectful to me - so I'm happy with that.

I've heard children use adults' first names and I think that can also be handled in a respectful way - like you said - it all depends on the tone and manner in which it is spoken.

Wanda said...

Awwww Man! Southern born and bred here. Sorry. But it's seriously important to me.
I still, (I'm 42) use those words with my parents and elders. IT is in my blood.
My kids are very polite (and I hear you on....the way words are used) that is very true.
I won't argue that.
Still....using those simple little words shows I am acknowledging you as worthy of my respect.
We are from the deep south and it is considered rude to say.."Yea" to an adult when speaking to them.
I cringe thinking of it, really.
My kids have spent the last 10 years in Indiana (they don't use yes ma'am or sir here)...and I have only heard wonderful things when people meet me and find out I'm the mom to G, A, & G!

As a side: They have experienced some issues a few times with people over there use of sir and ma'am. A teacher thought my son was being a smarty pants once because he used that to address her. She apologized later....after realizing he was genuinely showing her respect.
It's a culture difference for sure.

It will remain a priority in my family. It's just how we roll. That's what works for us.

Sasha @ Cherished Moments said...

Kara, I am totally with you on the respect, honesty and caring thing. We don't use 'sir' or 'ma'am' in Australia very much at all. I am more worried about please and thank you, at Naomi's age. And I think that if the adult she is addressing is happy to be called something particular, like 'Gran', or 'Harry's Mummy', or 'Miss Kerry', then that is fine.

Kara said...

Thank you all for chiming in! I just wanted to add that I totally agree that using sir and ma'am are a form of respect, I'm a southern girl myself. And I cringe myself at the "yea" response. It needs to be yes or no and thank you or please:)
Having said all that I have many dear friends that require the sir and ma'am and I just want it said on record here...I love your kids and their manners!!

Carol said...

Being called Ma'am makes me feel like the person saying it thinks I'm old (I'm 43). Here in the midwest, it seems rather antiquated or nerdy for kids to use sir or ma'am.