In Defense of Ma’am and Sir

Not that they need defending, but since when did teaching a child to respect his elders become a sign of disrespect? I’m tired of people acting offended or correcting children who have the audacity to call them ma’am or sir. It’s not an insult. It’s not derogatory. It’s being polite. Deal with it.

This came up recently while I was indulging in a secret guilty pleasure — watching Duck Dynasty. I know. I know. It’s scripted. It’s trashy, but I can’t seem to pull myself away. But I digress. What I found refreshing about the episode I was watching was the grandkids in the show were using “ma’am” and “sir” at the end of all their sentences. It was like someone had opened a window inside a part of me that had been closed so long I forgot it even existed. I felt my chest swell with pride. I felt a glimmer of hope that all is not lost in this “People of Walmart” world in which we live. In some pockets of the world, on reality TV no less, manners are still practiced.

I feel like ma’am and sir is becoming something of a lost art, so I reminded myself that when the time was right, we would be sure to teach our son the importance of using those words. Well being the on-the-same-page type of parent I am, I thought I would confirm with my dear, sweet wife that she too thought raising our son to be a polite, respectful young man was important. What I got was a a cold splash of crass northern reality. “I hate ma’am and sir. It’s insulting. Why would we want to teach our son to insult people? I find it awkward and off putting when a child calls me Ma’am.” she replied.

I sat there speechless. Literally speechless. How do you begin to explain the importance of manners to someone who finds the practice of them an affront to them personally? Having no comeback, and realizing that my son won’t even begin speaking, let along practicing manners for quite a while, I decided to drop it to fight another day. He’s only 13 weeks. I’ve got a while to formulate a proper rebuttal.

i know it must be a Northern thing. That somewhere along the line they decided it’s “cooler” to be seen as a peer to your kids than an elder, but don’t come down here and start destroying our civility as well.

Showing respect instills a sense of properness in the child. It’s not even really about the person being addressed. I’m not teaching my son to exalt the adults around him for the sake of the adults. I’m not asking him to proclaim you The-Exalted-Poobah-His-Excellence-The-Carpetbagger-From-Yonder. I’m teaching him to show respect, deference. To recognize that age is something to be honored. It teaches a touch of humility and a sense of place. I’m not doing it to embarrass you. If I wanted to do that, I’d teach him to say “yes liverspots” and “Yes, receding hairline.”

So the next time you decide to correct a child who has the audacity to call you ma’am. Take a minute and remember it ain’t about you. And when you undermine my authority as a parent, you’re doing no one any favors.

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