Is it okay for kids to call parents by their first name?


Fact Box

  • The first documented use of the word “mom” is from 1867, while the use of “mama” dates back to 4,500 B.C. Similarly, the first use of the word “dad” dates back to 1,500 B.C. but is “likely much older.” 
  • A 2014 poll found that 75% of surveyed parents think that kids today are less polite than kids from a generation ago. 
  • According to experts, one reason for young children to call their parents by their first names has to do with a form of play based on copying one’s environment, “Children hear their parents and other adults calling each other by their first names and they want to mimic them.”
  • A recent study on naming practices in same-sex adoptive families found that 13% of respondents participate in “undoing gender.” As Ellen Kahn, a director at the Human Rights Campaign, said, “For queer parents who don’t think of themselves as gender-conforming, ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ may be a little discordant with the way they think about themselves.”

Maha (Yes)

Calling parents by their first name may feel like a trend from the 70s; however, it's a choice parents are making in the present— and for good reasons, too. 

Firstly, it reinforces the parent's personal identity, i.e., what makes them stand out from others. After all, one's given name is important in establishing one's uniqueness. This is especially important for mothers since they're more likely to lose their sense of individuality. Studies show pregnancy brain, or the frequent forgetfulness mothers experience before and after birth, occurs because the brain prepares for new child-related priorities and tasks

Allowing children to forgo traditional titles further enables adults to feel younger. With the average age of new parents ranging from 30.6 to 33.6 years, parents may become prey to age-related insecurities— after all, being in your late 40s or early 50s when raising a teenager certainly creates a more significant divide between generations. 

Parents aside, children too benefit from this trend. According to psychologists Carolyn Pape Cowan and Philip Cowan, children thrive when parents take care of themselves. That's why they urge parents to make themselves a priority. 

Moreover, this trend nurtures elements of friendship, such as warmth, trust, and acceptance. These allow parents to provide social support to their children without crossing the line between parenthood and friendship, which can be beneficial for teens who have trouble forming friendships. 

The bottom line is parents are parents, whether they're called by their given names or 'Mom' and 'Dad.' And this is a personal decision which they alone should make for their families. 

Sharon (No) 

Naturally, what individuals do in their own families is up to them. However, many mainstream child-rearing professionals consider the authoritative parenting style to be associated with the best outcomes. Clear boundaries and respect for parental authority are a part of that. Being on a first-name basis with parents can muddy those waters.

Using words and linguistic patterns to communicate respect has been with us for thousands of years and is built into many languages. The words we use can subtly shape our understanding and perceptions of our relationships because language helps to form our thoughts and our experience of the world. Being on a first-name basis with parents can contribute to a perception of equality and diminished parental respect that isn't useful for the parenting role.

First names are traditionally for friends during childhood, notwithstanding some trends to the contrary. Parents aren't equals and aren't friends— at least not during the child-rearing years. The parent's role is to produce well-adjusted individuals able to live an independent, fulfilling life. We need to provide children with the knowledge and life skills to live well. Understanding authority is an essential part of that. 

Teaching children to respect authority provides them with an important life skill. We all have to learn to successfully deal with authority because there's always somebody with a certain degree of control over us— employers, managers, courts, etc. We fail our children when we don't provide them with the tools they need to succeed, and that includes the correct way to interact with people who have authority over us.

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