Monday, January 24, 2011

Manners - North vs South

A few weeks ago I answered a question on Five Question Friday. The question was...

2. What's your biggest pet peeve right now?

Huuh, wha, yahuu! oh can I can hear those words and just cringe.  Specially out of a child's mouth.  It is taking all I can do not to loose it when my 2 year old who does not have the verbal skills yet who keeps using the huuh when you ask him a question.  I hate this part of training.  But it will pass then you will NOT hear those phrases in my house! Instead you will hear Yes ma'am!

That response showed up on a web search a 15 year old girl did for the word ma'am.  She sent me the sweet email below.

Sorry to bug u but thought u could help  i was doing a manners search and a blog popped up with a comment from u1 im a teen and we just moved to the south.  do adults expect to hear yes or yes maam when being answered? if so, like when do u expect it? i hear it a lot more  Thanks if you can help and sorry to bug u.

I knew by the email it had to be a teen with all the text typing. Here is my response.  

Nice to meet you.  You are not bugging.  I was raised in a house that used the yes ma'am and no ma'am along with yes sir and no sir.  So am  raising my kids to do the same.  Not all adults expect it but is shows respect when you do it even if it is not expected of you. As an adult it makes me have more respect for the youth if they say yes ma'am to me verses just yes and oh how I hate yeah or wha.  Those just make my skin crawl, so disrespectful.  If you are looking to make a good impression I would recommend you get in the habit of saying it.  Good luck on your search.  Any other questions, I will be glad to help.  

Our emails back and forth have continued.  I have even emailed with her mother. Both are very nice people. But it has gotten me to thinking.  Is there really that big of a difference between the North and the South when it comes to manners? I have always lived in the south (except for a short 10 months we lived in PA) As I said in my response to my new email friend. I was raised in a home where we were expected to say yes/no ma'am.  Are there families up north that expect their children to say yes/no ma'am/sir?  Are there any other manners that might be different in the north then in the south?

Would love to hear anyones input on this.  

Lil' Momma


  1. I am from Texas, and I'm a high school (9th grade) teacher. I raised my three children to answer adults with "yes, ma'am/sir" and "no, ma'am/sir." As well, when asked a question that they didn't hear, or if their name was called from across the room or from another room, they were to say "yes, ma'am?" or "yes, sir?" instead of "huh?" or even "what?" It was just second nature to them...and I never really thought much about it. I was always surprised by the number of positive comments I received about their manners. I remember telling the teacher of one of my sons (when she CALLED my house to tell me how much she appreciated his manners) that I appreciated her kind words, but that I only really needed to know if he WASN'T respectful. I think because this was how I was raised, and how I raised my children, I assumed that most children ---at least in my area---were raised in the same way. NOT TRUE! I only started teaching a couple of years ago...(my kids are grown, and I thought I would enjoy the profession.) first year of teaching was an absolute SHOCK to me. Most of my students answered me "yeah" or "no" or when asked a question, "huh?". Well, I have recovered nicely from the shock, and now make it clear from day one that I FULLY EXPECT what I consider routine courtesy in my classroom. And you know what? My students have all--without exception---responded extremely well to that expectation. I still have to make the occasional gentle reminder, but for the most part, my students understand and comply with my wishes. And---strangely enough---I really think they like the rule, and feel good about themselves when they are courteous. At the end of last year (my second year of teaching) I had each of my students come up to my desk and tell me one thing that they had learned in my class. One of my male students walked up and said....."I have learned that it is very important to show respect to authority." I said, "Wow!...That's wonderful! Can you tell me exactly what you mean?" And he said, "Yes, ma'am. I've learned that manners don't really cost much.....but they buy you a lot!" I have to say that his response blew me away! All I can say is that if that's ALL that this young man learns while he is in high school, he will have learned a GREAT DEAL! The truth is....EVERYONE enjoys being treated with respect, and the reality is....students who are intentionally respectful will be treated differently by teachers, principals, bosses.....anyone in authority.
    So...I guess the answer to your question is, Yes!—the use of yes ma’am/sir and no, ma’am/sir--- IS regional...but courtesy is NOT's UNIVERSAL. When you are in authority, it's OK to require whatever you consider courtesy and respect.(Kind of a fundamental Christian principle, in my opinion) And yes, ma'am/sir and no, ma'am/sir is a great start

  2. Well, since I was raised in the same house as You B... but now live in the Pacific Northwest. It is not a matter of manners as to whether any one says ma'am or sir. Most people here take the yes sir/yes ma'am as sarcasm. It is all in how you respond but not by the ma'am and sir. I started raising my children the same way. They were picked on terribly for the way they talked. As I have been also and in fact, I was specifically told by my boss to never use sir with him, that he considered it disrespectful. I only now require the response of my children of a simple yes or no but I will not settle for slang, lazy talk such as wha....huh.... etc. Eye contact and tone of voice are also part of courtesy, respect and manners. I partly disagree with your comments but this is not uncommon as I seemed to have clearly become more open minded, tolerant etc. since moving from the south. I do expect teens and young people to be respectful when speaking but to say that they MUST address you in such a manner is, in my opinion, arrogant, on your part. Remember, to get respect, one must also give it. Children deserve just as much respect as you or I do. They are not put here on earth to be seen and not heard until spoken to.


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