With Kids and Etiquette, It's Strictly Hits and Mrs.

Dear Vicki: Please believe me when I tell you that I'm barely old enough to be a mother, let alone a granny, but my complaint sounds like something Dolly Madison or the Queen Mother might utter.

Here it is, plain and simple: I resent being introduced to kids and teens by my first name. Kids seem to abide by few, if any, rules of etiquette as it is, and that's their business, but I don't like it when their "informality" gets in my face.



Dear Miss Daisy: Do you hear that cheering and applauding spreading across the Southland? It's the show of solidarity by the thousands of adults who are sick and tired of 9-year-olds calling them Sandy or Bobby Boy.

Many grown-ups I know (at least those who are not in denial about the fact that they are no longer kids themselves) would like the option of inviting young people to call them by their first name . . . or not.

Despite my best efforts, in my family, the only people who are consistently given the respect of their proper names are 1) certain doctors (Dr. Peter has a buddy thing with the kids), 2) their teachers (but never preschool teachers), 3) karate instructors, and 4) certain very old people.

I recommend that all of us who care take a vow today that we will introduce all adults to our children by their formal or professional names. Dr., Governor, Senator, Mrs., Ms., Rabbi . . . you get the picture. Many of these people will be slightly embarrassed and will sheepishly respond that it's OK to call them Rufus, Lillian or Debby. At that point, you might gently inform them that your family is teaching respect for grown-ups. They may tell you that being called Mrs. Robinson makes them feel like Anne Bancroft or their mother-in-law. At that point, respect their wishes.

This won't really solve the problem because most of us teach our little babies to refer to family friends and sitters by first names. I guess we think it's more intimate, and even the most verbally gifted tots are rarely able to wrap their little lips around "Frau Katzenjammer." Also, now that many women don't share their husband's name, it can be confusing to a kindergartner when his buddy Alex Smith's mommy's name is Mrs. Lopez.

To bridge the gap, explain to kids that the most important aspect of addressing adults is respect and deference. Teach them to shake hands upon meeting, to say goodbye by saying, "It was nice to meet you," and, above all else, to insist they always look into the grown-up's eyes when speaking or being spoken to--none of that bored, staring-at-their-feet nonsense.

Remember, they ultimately pick up your habits, so stay polite yourself!


Dear Vicki: How old should a little girl (or boy) be before she is allowed to get any part of the body pierced? What if it's an ear or navel or something even more ridiculous? I have a 10-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son, both of whom are driving me crazy about this! Help!



Dear Pincushion Parent: Some people pierce a baby's ears shortly after birth, while others find the practice as offensive as a cow's ring through the nose. Beauty seems to be in the eyes of the beauty's mother or father.

My daughters are allowed to get their ears pierced on their sixth birthday. By that age, they can cooperate with keeping them clean and not losing the back part so the darned things pop out. Plus, at age 6, they have been yearning for them for about two years, so I've had live bait to keep them in line.

My 11-year-old son has wanted one pierced ear for four years, but I just won't allow it. Gender discrimination? Oh, who knows! It's just that his picture of himself is more like those shaved-head bottle rocket builders.

By the age of 16, you might want to revisit piercing fantasies because your kid then will be quickly approaching that magic time when you stop giving money and he or she begins a life of . . . oh, dear, too much beer, overcrowded dorm rooms and fake IDs.

Vicki Iovine is the harried author of the "Girlfriends' Guide," a columnist for Child magazine, and mother of four. Write to her at Girlfriends, Southern California Living, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053; e-mail GrlfrndsVI@aol.com. Please include your name and phone number.

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