44 answers

Sir and Ma'am

How old are children when they begin saying Sir or Ma'am on their own? I have been correcting my children to say yes sir or ma'am when they address either my husband or myself, but it tends to be when they are in trouble and I say "do you understand" and they say 'yes' and i say 'yes what' and they say 'yes ma'am'. But only when they are being corrected do I make them say it. I would like them to say it out of respect for any adult when they speak to them, but since it is not so common anymore how do i do that? Also do you say it or find it offensive? I am from the south (kind of) and it is a sign of respect here, but i know it is not respectful every where. thanks everyone for your help.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

You model to them what you want them to say. For instance, when my 4 yr old ask me for something I say "Yes sir", and remind him to say "Yes maam" to me when I ask/tell him something. Sometimes he remembers, sometimes he forgets, but overall I think he has a sense of "respect" from doing it the time he does remember or is reprimanded for something.

2 moms found this helpful

People will probably not like my answer, but it is funny you ask, last night, I was getting dinner on the table, and my 3 1/2 year old called me Ma'am, my husband told her not to call me that, we are from up north, and raising her in the south, we do not use sir and ma'am, or miss C. or mr james.... People may think it is disrespectful, but I was brought up calling someone mrs or mr last name, not first name....
It is a matter of opinion, What ever you choose will be the right one!

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with the people who said actions speak louder than words. I respect the child who is polite, not the one who uses the right words. Eddie Haskell always said, "Yes ma'am" and "No ma'am".

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

I may catch some heat here, but here it goes.

First of all I completely understand your thoughts and what you are trying to do. I completely agree that kids are not taught to respect their elders these days and it must come from home. And maybe if I was raised "kind of" in the south I'd look at it differently but if I would have said "yes ma'am" to my mom, or my kids to me, it would be with sarcasm.

I also feel that respect is earned and not a right. My father certainly does not have my respect just because he's my father (I don't need any Biblical teachings here, I was raised in the church). I do respect my step-dad because he was/is a good man and a good person.

My kids speak to me and treat me with what I consider "respect" but it was not forced on them. I think a "respectful" household is kind of like religion, it is how you act on a daily basis, not just what you "say" you do.

7 moms found this helpful

I think the key is RESPECT not the words. Depending upon how you say it and the tone of voice you use, "yes ma'am " can be very respectful and correct or can be highly sarcastic. Model the behavior that you want from them...be respectful to them and they will learn to give respect to you and to others.
My husbands family is from Alabama and I can tell you that there is nothing cuter in the whole world than a sweet little 3 year old girl, with that adorable southern accent saying "yes ma'am"!!! Just melts my heart!!!
I would say, don't make too big an issue out of it, just let it come naturally and don't battle over it. And as far as demanding that they say "yes ma'am" when they are in trouble...you can't demand respect...you have to earn it!!! Don't make "yes ma'am" be connected with being in trouble in their minds.

3 moms found this helpful

My daughter married a man from Arkansas. Their girls are almost 2 and just over 3. They say "yes sir" and "yes ma'am" on a regular basis and if they don't they are reminded.

I think its a wonderful thing. Sure beats all the profanity that is so rampant.

3 moms found this helpful

It feels like I wrote this.....
I am going through the same thing with my kids.

I do not like it when people ( family, friends, strangers ) say
oh no honey you don't need to say that to me.
And then of course I speak up and always say YES, they do and they have to.

For me, it is the sound of respect.

If I am with two different kids and I say " are you two having fun "?
And one kid says " yep" and the other one says " yes ma'am " -- I will tell you that I will have more respect for the child that used his manners.

You are doing a great job. Keep up the good work.

= )

3 moms found this helpful

Well I do agree that you should be teaching your children good manners and to respect their parents and other people in the community...but, I also agree with Lori K. a little bit here too! I think if you want to teach them to say sir and ma'am because it makes you feel good about manners and treating people well, then that's great. But if you're teaching them to use those words so they'll respect you, I think it's the wrong technique. I think they need to learn to respect you and your rules but adding those words onto an apology, a greeting, or whatever isn't going to change how they feel about you or anyone else. I'm not saying don't do it, I'm just saying make sure you're sending a clear message.

2 moms found this helpful

You model to them what you want them to say. For instance, when my 4 yr old ask me for something I say "Yes sir", and remind him to say "Yes maam" to me when I ask/tell him something. Sometimes he remembers, sometimes he forgets, but overall I think he has a sense of "respect" from doing it the time he does remember or is reprimanded for something.

2 moms found this helpful

Hello Mama-

I want to thank you for teaching your children manners. I was raised with souther manners in Oregon, and when I was in grade school and would answer "Yes Ma'am" everyone including the teacher would look at me like I was crazy, but even then I felt it was right.

When I would teach manners to my charges (I was a Nanny), I would make it fun, "Did I miss hearing something?" or just wait until they asked properly.

As a child, it helped that my entire family expected me to say "yes ma'am/sir" (you never got away without it!), so I'd also suggest encouraging all adults expect it.

Thanks Again!

R. Magby

2 moms found this helpful

It really depends on where you live. I had never heard people saying "sir" or "ma'am" growing up in Wisconsin. I moved to TX and everyone said it. I went back to WI and called a teacher "Ma'am" and you'd have thought I called her "almighty God" by the reaction I got from everyone.

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