You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 1 p.m.

Is Miss (first name) any less respectful than Mrs. (last name) to children?

By Tammy Mayrend


Is having your children call an adult by Miss (first name) disrespectful? I have fallen into that trend, which only becomes a problem for me when characters like SNL's Mr. Bill pop become my mental image of the person in question!

“Mrs. Mayrend?” 

Standing there, I look astounded, glancing over my shoulder wondering, “who are they speaking to?” 

“Mrs. Mayrend?” 

It hits me that the Mrs. in question is ME. It’s kind of a weird feeling, but better than being called “Zach or Gabby’s Mom.” But frankly, Mrs. Mayrend is my mother-in-law and hearing the name Mrs. Mayrend makes me feel old. (With no disrespect to my mother-in-law.)

I’m not sure how it began, but several of my neighbors called themselves Miss So-and-so to my children. “Miss Julie would like to know if you’d like to come and play?” they’d ask. So I just fell into line and started referring to myself as Miss Tammy. It wasn’t until I read a friend’s Facebook post where I started to question my choice. He vented that through age and wisdom he’d earned the right of being called Mr. (last name) and dammit he was going to get that respect from his children’s friends!

Maybe my mom was laid back, because she also had several of my closest friends call her Pat. That’s not to say she didn’t go by Mrs. Jex, in fact she did at school and also as my scouting leader. It’s just that I heard her say often enough, “Call me Pat.”

I recognize that a title teaches children to be respectful, so maybe in my convoluted mind I thought, “Well adding Miss before my first name (even though Miss is not accurate as I am married) still allows friends of my children to give me that respect.” It really wasn’t an issue though, until my son began kindergarten.

It seems it is becoming more common for individuals to change the norm, going by Miss T or Mrs. B. Especially if their names are challenging or possibly just because they want that title. Miss T is my daughter’s teacher, who is married, and Zach’s teacher had a difficult name and must have said at one time that she could be called Mrs. B, because some children did call her that. My son used her full last name, though.

This has been bugging me for quite some time. What am I teaching my children if I allow them to call someone Miss So-and-so? I try asking the parents what they would prefer to be called, and many have responded with Mrs. K or Miss Jenny are fine - unless I am totally missing some hidden resentment signs they are hoping I just “pick up on.” When I coach I go by Coach Tammy, Coach or Coach Mayrend, but why do I NOT like Mrs. Mayrend?

This perplexed me enough that I finally asked friends what their opinions were. Overwhelmingly I was told that to call a married woman anything but Mrs. (last name) would be a grave injustice and not respectful. One friend said she felt very strongly about it being that way, but never said why. Mostly, though, they agreed that calling another adult by anything other than Mrs. (last name) was not respectful. Only two others felt otherwise with one saying she didn’t mind one way or the other and the second saying she’d actually preferred to be called by her first name and not Ms. (last name).

So what do you think? Is it any less respectful to go by Miss (first name)? Does adding any term before the first name add any level of respect?

I’ll admit though, the only time I feel odd about Mr./Miss (first name) is when I hear a name like Bill. It brings a whole different mental image to mind!

Miss Tammy (Mayrend) is a search marketing professional and mother of two who blogs on low-cost local activities, events, and Ann Arbor area freebies for families at


Joshua Caudell

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

I only go by Ms. or Mrs. with last names of women and ladies because it is respectful thing to do. Ms. with first names for a woman is just as disrespectful as calling a woman by her first name. I prefer to go by last name with Ms. or Mrs. Before the last name. If you don't mind, May I call you Ms. Mayrend? because it sounds respectful. The only time I go by first name without Ms. ro Mrs., is if it is requested that I do so.


Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 4 p.m.

I don't go by my married name for anybody, and even with my unwieldy last name I probably wouldn't respond to Mrs. MyLastName because I wouldn't recognize it. I am and always have been Celia, and while I am not offended if kids call me something other than Celia I would certainly prefer just my first name. All of my close friends are either Aunt/Uncle first name to my kids or just first name. I'm surprised by the number of people insisting on titles in Ann Arbor, I would have assumed that many people my age (30s) had absorbed the hippy-esque casualness I did growing up in the area.


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 6:42 p.m.

I also prefer to be called by my first name. We teach our child to address adults the way the individual adult wishes, be it first name, Ms. First Name, or Ms. Last Name. When I was in college, many of my professors asked to be called by their first names alone. One older professor, however, not only insisted on being called Mr. Last Name, he addressed all students as Mr. or Ms. Last Name, too. When I asked him why, he replied, "Well, I don't want you calling me by my first name, so I don't call you by yours!"

Tom Teague

Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 6:27 p.m.

Good discussion and one that I've lately spent some time thinking about. I'd like to note a couple of unwritten rules from my southern upbringing on how this was handled, at least in my family's circle. Miss (always pronounced Miz) First Name would usually be a close friend of the family, a person who the adults in the family called by her first name. The operating principle was that the person had a close connection but no family title. So,she wasn't Aunt Barbara, she was Miss Barbara. Mrs (also always pronounced Miz) Last Name was for women with some authority over you, frequently teachers, new acquaintances, Sunday School teachers, or someone who had hired you to do some work. (To explain why new acquaintances had authority over you is a whole other posting, but hospitality rules ran deep in my upbringing). Exceptions were plentiful and unexpected, such as "Why I've known your family forever. Call me Miz Julie." Sometimes women who exerted great influence over a social circle were called Miss First Name by the adults as in "Sorry that you have to miss the game Luther, but Miz Harriet's holding a tea for her cousin down from Michigan and we can't skip it." (By the way, this scenario goes a long way toward explaining the popularity of hip flasks and portable radios with discreet earplugs in the south of my youth). Because it was always pronounced "Miz," context was important, as it is with learning any foreign language. Also, whether you used a shortened or formal variant of the name, "Miz Betty" vs. "Miz Elizabeth" for example, was a critical indicator. I'm not advocating any approach, because I feel that people have a right to be called what they'd like to be called. I'm merely reporting what I learned as a child in Tennessee in the 1950s and early 1960s; a great number of positive and welcome societal changes have overtaken these rules. It's good to bear in mind, though, that language is deeply ingrained at an early age, and that even a progressive person with liberal leanings might sometimes use what sounds to you like an old fashioned or unwanted form of address. Don't impose bad intent where none was meant: It's almost always easily corrected with a polite "I like to be called..."


Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 4:48 p.m.

I think that when first meeting or is best to ere (Tammy, can you hear Dr. Haushalter in your head telling you how to pronounce that properly??) on the side of "caution" or respect. Names have power to them. They can tell you what someone thinks of you or what you think of someone. You may start out calling someone Mrs. or Mr. Lastname out of initial respect, but as you get to know them...maybe you don't have the respect for them you initially granted...but you still call them "Mrs. or Mr." Now, not out of respect, but to hold them at a let them know in a round about way, you are not friends with them. Personally, I dislike being called Ms. Gibson. I am not married, never have been...I much prefer Miss Gibson but very often, Miss is no longer an option when filling out forms. If my students call me "Mrs. Gibson" I usually say "That's my mother." This summer, I volunteered with my dog, Kobe, to be a therapy dog team at a grief camp for children. Not quite a formal setting...I let the kids call me Miss Lynda. We needed to have some closeness required for them to feel comfortable talking about some pretty deep feelings...hence the use of the first name...but still keep some emotional distance...hence the honorific. The high school theatre students I have been working with for years end up just calling me "Gibson" and I find that acceptable from them since I have known many of them since middle school (where I am also in charge of the drama program) where they call me Miss Gibson. I don't mind them dropping the Miss in high school because they know me and know where the line is...and often, when they come to talk to me in a serious matter, it turns back into Miss Gibson.

Tammy Mayrend

Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 3:30 p.m.

I never anticipated that this was such a hot button for so many. It was simply an observance for me. Thanks for all the food-for-thought... For those of you commenting on "grandma" or "grandpa" know that there too there are some who don't want that title and they would rather be nana, papa, bousha, pop, pops, grams, gramma, gamma, mamaw, and the list goes on. I always called my grandparents by grandma/grandpa (last name) but that in no way is the norm now!

Mona Shand

Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 2:09 p.m.

In the Egyptian community in which I was raised, we call all adults "Tante First Name" (aunt) and "Uncle First Name" regardless of whether or not they are related to us, because the cultural attitude is one of closeness combined with respect. When I started school and was told to call my teachers "Mrs. Last Name" it was very confusing- I just assumed that "Nelson" or "Beauchamp" or whatever was their first name, since that was all I knew. Cultural influences play a strong role in this, as I realized when I moved to the South and cringed the first time I was called "Ma'am." :-)

Rachael Isaacson

Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 12:40 p.m.

Very interesting to see all of the opinions! I am curious to poll my friends now, to see how they feel about this subject. I am used to how "ms. firstname" sounds, although that wasn't always the case. Most of my friends all have young kids, preschool and kindergarten aged. As far as I know, they all call each other's parents by their first name only. This could be because we are all such close friends that the familiarity seems appropriate. My kids do, however, call their teacher "mrs. lastname" and their babysitter "ms. firstname. I don't care what the neighborhood kids and friends call me, and I am certainly not offended if they use my first name only.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 12:32 p.m.

I can't stand being called Ms [Last Name] but I just tell the person in question, adult or child, that I prefer to be called [First Name]. In the past whenever I have had a child's parent insist that I be called Ms [Last Name], I've just taken to calling the child Mr/Miss [Last Name] or [First Name, Last Name] if there are multiple siblings present. That almost always makes the child uncomfortable enough to remark on it. And that, in turn, usually leads to a discussion about etiquette where I tell the kids the general rule is to begin with the honorifics but if someone specifically requests to be addressed by their first name, then one should go with that.

Sue Talbert

Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 12:07 p.m.

Interesting topic, Tammy. You got my opinion on Facebook. One thing that relates to this comment by Dylan: "Just because I call you by your first name doesn't mean we are close friends." No, it doesn't mean you're close friends if you refer to someone by their first name. It does, however, imply a level of familiarity or intimacy which may or may not be appropriate, per the setting. The French (for example) have two forms of the word "you" - tu and vous. Tu is the familiar form of the word - if you and I were close friends or knew each other very well (implying intimacy), I'd use that form. Vous, on the other hand, is a more formal version. If we were mere acquaintances or I didn't know you at all, I'd use "vous" when speaking or writing to you. For me, there is a lesson here: there is no middle ground. I either know you well enough to use the familiar tu, or I don't. I prefer to assume that I don't know you that well - and if I'm invited to call you by your first name (or, in the case of a child, Mr/Miss First Name), then that's acceptable. But to assume that the familiarity and relationship is there to do that on my own? Nope. I find that too presumptuous. I had a teacher in Jr. High in Livonia who called us "Mr/Miss LastName." When we inquired why, he responded, "Because I expect you to call me Mr. Last Name and I believe it's only courteous to extend that same politeness to you." What a legacy of politeness and courteousness this teacher left with me! Like I mentioned on the Facebook thread, Tammy, I think it has far more to do with respecting the wishes of others and their personal boundaries than it does how being called "Mrs. Talbert" makes me feel. It's a name, it's a title, and to some people, it's important. And I want to teach our son the importance of considering others needs before his own, so we ask what people would prefer to be called before we attach a name to them. My $.02 on your topic. :)


Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 10:49 a.m.

I really have to agree with Leann. How you treat children, and interact with them, has a far bigger impact than any title that may be used. In high school (at Community), teachers go by first names only and while I was there it never created a problem of respect or authority. I think this has to do with being able to recognize different levels of familiarity with a person. Just because I call you by your first name doesn't mean we are close friends. For younger children, that concept may not be understood, and so using a title there can help with identifying appropriate behavior. But there's no reason that the title has to be followed by the last name; just being there is enough. And in that regard, I also think Mrs. should be a deprecated term. There isn't a different signifier for a man who is unmarried - he is always Mr. So why not always Ms.?


Thu, Sep 30, 2010 : 10:22 a.m.

These are a fascinating story and comments! In recent years young children of neighbors have taken to calling me "Miss Crystal". I don't understand it and don't know how it has become acceptable. I agree with Urban Sombrero that "Miss *firstname*" sounds cloying, but it's not really offensive.


Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 8:59 p.m.

I don't like when children call me Mrs. last name. That is my mother in law and I am 70, nor living in the 1950's. I prefer to be called by my first name, but if the parent refers to me as Ms. first name, I really don't mind. I personally feel that if children are treated in a more mature manner, they will behave in a more mature manner. I have found working with children, that if you treat them with respect and how your would want to be treated, they respond in a more mature manner. With that said, I do respect other parents choice of parenting. I just with they could with others.

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 8:36 p.m.

mine should say grandma (firstname) and grandpa (firstname) must be some program language thing

Tammy Mayrend

Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 8:09 p.m.

It really amazes me at the number of comments I have gotten here and on my Facebook comment about the same thing. There seem to be two sides and very few people hanging in the middle of this subject. Thanks for all your well-spoken comments. I certainly have a lot of food for thought!

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 8:01 p.m.

i don't have a problem w/kids calling adults mr. firstname and ms. firstname. sometimes a last name is a mouthful. especially to young children. my kids call grandma and grandpa, "grandma and grandpa. they started when they first could talk and have carried it on since. the grandparents even get a kick out of it. makes them feel younger too.


Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 7:21 p.m.

I think it's most appropriate to use "Ms. LastName." Then if the person says "call me FirstName," go ahead. It just makes me cringe to deal with the Miss vs. Mrs. thing... I would never assume someone is married. Of course, I'm not married yet so... we shall see how I feel once that time comes. I'll definitely teach my kids (if and when they come!) to go with the "most respectful" first and then let them get more casual if the person tells them to. I actually think the Mrs. is a little outdated - maybe that's why you feel uncomfortable with it!

Heidi Hess Saxton

Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 5:51 p.m.

I feel myself twinge every time I hear a little kid call an older person by her or her first name. My husband's siblings and in-laws call the patriarch and matriarch of the family by their first name... but I couldn't bring myself to do it. We went from "Mr. and Mrs. Saxton" to "Mom and Dad." (They are now in their eighties.) A few years back, I tried to slip a "Bill" into the conversation, and was immediately chided, "What happened to DAD?!" And so, Dad it remained, out of love and respect for my in-laws. The line between the adult world and the children's world has been all but obliterated in our society... and offhand I'd have to say it is not a change for the better. Before I met Craig, I dated a man who insisted that his eight-year-old be allowed to call me "Heidi" (He thought "Miss" was too off-putting, and "Aunt" too familiar. Ironically, he was a good ol' Southern boy.) Perhaps not surprisingly, his daughter was a significant factor in our parting ways. Kids need boundaries. We tend to kick against the idea that a person is automatically owed respect (let alone authority) because of the role he or she plays in our lives. The idea that we owe older generations respect simply because of their age and experience has become foreign, almost *gasp* "old-fashioned." And yet, when children are encouraged to say EXACTLY what's on their minds, 24/7, it makes the job of teachers, catechists, and parents that much harder. And so, I prefer "Mrs. Saxton." "Miss Heidi" will do for friends' children. First names get the old "pickle face." I find it has a way of keeping things friendly... but not too familiar. Especially in the classroom.


Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 5:40 p.m.

I have never wanted to be called Mrs. Last Name. It's not who I am or how I define myself, an M. R. S. I am Eliza and have always been Eliza. I introduce myself to children as Eliza. If their parent's want their children to call me something else, that's fine. I do, however, ask my children to call women by Miss First Name.

Urban Sombrero

Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

Personally, I prefer being called solely by my first name, no matter the age of the kid. "Miss *firstname*" sounds cloying, or like a cartoon character or something to me. And "Mrs. *lastname*" really irks me because Mrs. *MyLastName* is my dreaded mother-in-law. (And, being called "Mrs" makes me feel old.)