Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Disrespect or a Cultural Shift?

This may not be happening where you are now, but I am noticing it in various places. I am finding more and more that children are calling me only by my first name.

I remember as a child that you would always address adults by their title, Mr., Mrs., Miss, Rev., etc, and their surname (last name). As my generation aged, they began to tell children that “Mr. Smith” was their father and to call them “Mr. John” and after a while, culture shifted and it became acceptable for children to call adults by their title and their first name.

Now I find children calling me solely by my first name and it surprises me. After a while I realized that most of the children were not meaning to be disrespectful, it is simply that they hear their parents, and other adults, referring to other adults in their presence solely by their first name. When I reference other adults while talking to children I always refer to them by their title and first or last name depending on the situation.

Have you noticed this trend of children calling adults by their first name alone?

Do you see it as disrespect or as a cultural shift?


Updated: November 7, 2017 — 7:45 pm

The Author


  1. I haven’t witnessed that. My clubbers call me Mr. Matt (Kristofferson is to long for just about anyone, anyhow). And I’m good with it. It anyone would call me by just my first name, I think I would correct them, and remind them we aren’t peers. But I’m sure if that happened it wouldn’t be a disrespectful situation, but instead just a child who may not have a structured home life.

    1. I ask them to call me, “Mr. Bill”, “Commander Bill”, or whatever title is appropriate as a reminder. At first I was shocked, then I realized it was what they were used to calling all adults.

  2. I see it as a cultural shift which is a result of lack of intentionality to show respect. Yes, children are hearing their parents refer to other adults by first names only, and many parents are not intentional in directing their children to demonstrate respect when addressing adults. Disturbingly, I see lack of intentional parenting as a trend in so many areas. As the director of Cubbies at our church, I try to keep standards high and address other leaders by title (Mr./Mrs./Miss) and last name. It’s admittedly old-school, and I pray the formality doesn’t turn away the younger generation of parents who may see it as aloof and unfriendly.

    1. I would tend to agree with your assessment. I often find it fascinating how public schools are so heavily criticized, yet that is one of the few institutions remaining that has children call the teachers and staff by their title and surname.

  3. I do tutoring for a company and all the tutors are addressed by just their first names. I’m fine with it because it separates the tutor from the teachers. In Awana, our leaders set how they want to be addressed. If a kid knows them elsewhere, they may call them what they know them as. Situation and expectation dictate. If leaders set the expectation, most kids will go along with it. Yes, we live in a much more casual society than we boomers knew as kids.

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