It was Thursday night pizza night at our house, so I made my weekly trip to the carry-out pizza place. The young guy behind the counter greeted me cheerfully by saying, “Hey babe, what can I get for you?”
My jaw dropped, and it was an awkward time before I recovered and asked for two medium pepperoni pizzas.
Babe? I thought as I got into my car. On my next birthday, I’ll be 48 years old. My daughter is married, and my son is beginning his sophomore year of college.
“You should feel flattered,” my husband said when I told him the story at home. We had a moment of joking about how I should be used to this kind of thing by now, considering my hot bod’. (Briefly ignoring the fact that I am now buying pants that have some stretch in the waistline, ya know.)
But I was not flattered. This pizza guy’s complete lack of respect for me was offensive, to say nothing of his disrespect for me as a customer.
How do we teach our kids that calling an older woman “babe” is inappropriate, to say the least?
When my little girl was in first grade, I remember she had an amazing teacher who, unfortunately, insisted that the kids call her by her first name. I was appalled.
At home, I bent down in front of my little blondie girl, got eye-to-eye with her, and said, “I never want to hear you call your teacher by her first name. Do you hear me?
I do not care what the rest of the kids call her or even that she requests the use of her first name. You will call her Mrs. _____, because it is not appropriate for children to call adults by their first name.”
As you’re reading this, you may think I’m a freak. (Unless you’re from the south, where saying “Ma’am” and “Sir” are still strongly in place.) But as you move north in the country, titles of respect are diminishing rapidly.
I think we can all agree, however, that respectful kids and teens are refreshing. To have a young person speak to you with respect feels right, don’t you think?
How Do We Teach a Respectful Attitude?
To foster respect, we need to draw old-fashioned, solid social lines. My husband and I taught our kids to speak to adults with the title of “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
When our kids were little, if an adult was a close friend of our family, we stole a wonderful idea from our Texas friends and taught our kids to say “Ms.” or “Mr.” in front of the person’s first name. It allowed a more casual relationship while keeping the lines of respect in place.
It was a little weird at first because Montana folks just do not do this. We insisted on it, though, and we have raised the kind of respectful kids you want to have.
Something else that was valuable to us was that so many of our friends at church adopted the same practice. I’ve watched many of these kids grow up. They’re young adults now, but most of them still call me “Ms. Christy” or “Mrs. Fitzwater”.
So here’s an idea: talk with your group of friends about this idea of teaching your kids titles of respect. Maybe it’s a value you could work on together. You won’t regret giving it a go, and the world will thank you.
The Lord’s blessings on your parenting.
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Christy Fitzwater is a writer and pastor’s wife living in Kalispell, Montana. She has a daughter who is married and a son in college. Christy writes to help people know God, and you can find her new book about becoming blameless on Amazon. Or follow her devotional blog at ChristyFitzwater. You can follow Christy on Instagram here!