Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ma'am I Am


Think you’re about to read the downhearted diatribe of a woman chagrined by her old-school, old-lady designated title? Think again. Atypical perhaps -- but please, call me Ma’am. Yes, Ma’am. Thank you, Ma’am. Excuse me, Ma’am. Could you please pass the nutmeg, Ma’am? Yes, it is a Diet Coke, Ma’am.

Believe “ma’am” antiquated? Too stodgy? Suit yourself.

Before you start composing your rebuttal, convinced somehow I am demeaning the communicator of the courtesy, know this: I dish it out even better -- and certainly more frequently -- than I take it. The recipient needn’t be my elder; in fact, my daughter and son are often addressed as “ma’am” and “sir” when deserved or applicable. The spoken-to need not be my superior; they merely must be someone I respect. Elders and officers merit the ma’am (and sir), even when the respect factor may in fact be somewhat in question.

Coming down from my comportment high-horse for a moment, I will concede that in politeness protocol, Ma’am usage is entirely optional. Manners and “ma’am” can be mutually exclusive.

So what etiquette omissions incur correction in our family? Please and thank you. “Magic” words, no. Mandatory words, yes.

When our twins were teensy tots, and would chirp a precious, “P’ease,” when seeking a bite of cookie in the mall food court, fellow dining parents would frequently come up and ask, “How did you get them to say ‘Please’ so early?” My incredibly easy tip? Don’t give ‘em what they want until they do. Truthfully, parenting doesn’t get much easier than that.

So what of “thank you?" How can you retroactively extract the expression of gratitude after they’ve received the goods? Literally, it’s as easy as taking candy from a baby. If the gift goes unacknowledged, it goes away. When do you know you’re on the right track?

1.) The child asks with a “Please.”
2.) He/She accidentally forgets the “Thank you.”
3.) You (politely) take the item away.
4.) Then you hear, “May I please have the cookie back? [you give it back] Thank you.”

Music to my manner-loving ears.

Not to say our twins aren’t prone to the occasional “yeah,” sporadically forget a “thank you” (or you’re welcome), or are never guilty of un-met eye contact, but largely, they are amongst the most mannerly of munchkins I’ve met.
Courtesy may be a family strong suit; maternal humility, not so much...


...so please do pardon me, Ma’am -- or Sir.
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18 comments:

Gibson Twins said...

Oh Cheryl, I love this post! So many times have I let the kids' manners slip and you are exactly right about not giving them what they want until they ask with Please. Mine have yet to figure out the correct routine but have please and thank you down pat. They seem to get confused when I say "you're welcome" to them, so they say "taaaanks" yet again. But I love it love it love it!

The other one we're working on now is "Sorry". But more than saying sorry, we're trying to avoid the NEED to say sorry by eliminating the problem (hitting, biting, hair pulling).

cat said...

You are so right - manners is everything in life. For The Little Miss, thank you comes easily, it's the please part I have to remind her about. But getting there, slowly.

MommyJ said...

When Jordan was meeting one of the kindergarten teachers at his school's open house, way back when when he was starting kindergarten, the teacher asked him if he was excited to start school. He responded, "Yeah." I was totallly mortified and was, from then on, on a mission to rid my house of the word. When I call the kids, the don't say, "Yeah, or what?!" They say, "Yes?" or we don't finish the conversation... I'm all about the ma'am's too... I'm a southern girl and was raised to beleive you didn't dare speak to an adult without using sir or ma'am...

how do you feel about first names? A lot of kids call the mother's of their friends by their first names... don't like that too much either.

And now I'm done hijacking your comments section:)

rachael said...

thanks for the post! it has come at the perfect time, since my patience for teaching manners to my 3 completely mannerless 1 year olds is wearing thin these days!

The Burger Blog said...

Not too many people around here use Ma'am or Sir but please and thank you are mandatory. I am constantly after Braeden, for the most part he is really good and when he forgets I usually just give him a look and he coughs it up.

Last night we went to Trunk or Treat and I reminded him before we began that there were two things he needed to remember..

1. to say Trick or Treat

2. to say Thank You

You wouldn't believe how many kids don't even say trick or treat these days, they walk up not saying anything, get the candy and walk off....no words exchanged at all *gasp*.

Tracy said...

I continue to learn from your experienced wisdom!

So when are you going to write a follow up to Twinspiration, about raising twins beyond the first year? Just a thought...

And if you do, could you somehow have it published sometime in the next 9 months? Just sayin'.

MereCat said...

RIght there with you, once again. This is a big deal to me. I say ma'am or sir to whoever I'm dealing with, not just elders and such. And I want my kids to do the same. We have please and thank you, but it's still inconsistent. We need to work on ma'am though now that we have yes and no straightened out.

Nancy said...

Nice!! I have to say that Burke and Maggie are good about saying please...if you wait a beat before handing something to them...that beat is what triggers that memory. Maggie has said "thank you" since I can remember...and she even says "you're welcome" ... we're working on Burke. And we're working on not having to have that beat in there for the reminder. But I have to say - it's a big step-up from the "JUUIIIICEEE!!!!!" days ;)

Now, ma'am and sir...we haven't gotten into that, but I think if they started to say that in New England, we'd be looked at quite strangely. *sigh*

mom2twinboys said...

I had to giggle at the title and reading about calling the kids ma'am and sir because I have called the boys sir so much that Ethan has picked up on it and will tell please sir or yes sir. I remind him that I am a ma'am but that one hasnt hit home yet. He is pretty good about please and thank you most the time and Hunter is working on signing please and saying it but he's still having a hard time with it. He will sign thank you but after having Ethan tell him to just say thank you not blow a kiss he has begun just blowing kisses when asked to say thank you.

mom2twinboys said...

I had to giggle at the title and reading about calling the kids ma'am and sir because I have called the boys sir so much that Ethan has picked up on it and will tell please sir or yes sir. I remind him that I am a ma'am but that one hasnt hit home yet. He is pretty good about please and thank you most the time and Hunter is working on signing please and saying it but he's still having a hard time with it. He will sign thank you but after having Ethan tell him to just say thank you not blow a kiss he has begun just blowing kisses when asked to say thank you.

Rebecca said...

LOVE the Ma'am and Sir...being a teacher, I always love when kids come in saying those words...I know they were raised well. I also totally agree with the consistency with Please and Thank You...it works every time.

BTW...I had no idea that you wrote Twinspiration...that book made me so much less freaked out about having twins! Thanks!

Giovanna Diaries said...

Funny post.
The boys always get complimented on their manners. I think Aidan actually has a bit of an "excuse me" stutter...b/c he says it like 1000 times a day.

Jenni Jiggety said...

I prefer to be addresses as Your Most Royal Highness, actually...

I think Ma'am is a regional thing! If someone calls me Ma'am I feel like I need to hit them with my walker.

BoufMom9 said...

Excellent post and something that sadly is often way too forgotten. There are soooo many non-polite kids. Drives me insane.
my kids must ask to be excused from the table -"May i be excused please?", aways use "please" and "thank you". We don't always use ma'am & sir, but it does come out among those they must respect.

Maybe you could give lessons.... there are definitely some parents forgetting these very simple rules with their kids :(

Threeundertwo said...

I've been meaning to write a post about this, because my kids know if they want my attention, they have to say "Mommy, oh goddess of the universe. . ." Seriously. It makes them stop and think.

Are those books still in print? Or have they been reprinted? I remember them from a long time ago.

Octamom said...

We're very much into 'please' and 'thank you' and 'yes ma'am', 'no ma'am' and the rest. The older ones have certainly enjoyed the response they get from appreciative adults! However, I am amazed at the people who have chided them for saying 'Yes ma'am'--that just blows my mind.

Love this post!

Blessings!

Gail said...

Oh Cheryl -- This is such a wonderful post! It's great to know that there ARE parents out there that believe in manners. Too many these days don't believe in teaching and/or chide children who have manners.

I get asked ALL the time how I manage to get my 2 year old to say "please" and "thank you, I appreciate it". (yes, she really says that all as thank you. lol) We're working on adding "may I" to her sentences now, but usually that comes out as "can I". I suppose it's not too bad as long as there's a please attached to it. lol

Another thing I'm big on is adding Ms. or Mr. to names. Frances calls our nanny "Ms. Tammy". Of course, this leaks over into her calling her grandmother, "Ms. Grandma", but... that's just cute. lol Honestly, I think teaching kids manners shows that a parent really CARES about how their child -- and how that child is accepted into society.

Er... Oops, my apologies... I think I hijacked your comments section too. lol LOVE this post. Thanks Cheryl!

cc said...

My Grandma is very big on manners. My mom was as well... and I have followed suit! At one point in time, I had strangers tell me how mannerly Annie was at such a young age! I am working on the twins. I would say my older ones do pretty well. I also remind them always to give their close relatives (my parents, my grandma, my aunts) hugs and kisses before they leave them. I am a firm believer in showing how much someone means to you!

I love it that you call your children sir and Ma'am. YOU are awesome!
Great post!