Why My Kids Say “Yes Ma’am”

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Why My Kids Say Yes Ma'am

This is a conversation that occurs quite a bit in our family life:

“Thank you so much.”

Oh, OK. For what, Ma’am?”

“For raising kids with manners. It’s pretty hard to find kids like that these days.”

As we checked out of the grocery store, the cashier pretty much shocked me with this conversation. She seemed to be very appreciative of my two oldest kids. They’d chatted her up while I put the groceries on the belt, and as usual, my kids wouldn’t let her off easy with small talk.

The talked about everything, from their new little brother, to what they’re learning in school and why she was working at the grocery store during the day and not at night. Completely random, yet lovely conversation. They were my usual kids. But what I always forget is the fact that they say “Yes Ma’am” or Yes Sir,” and “No Ma’am” or “No Sir.” I hardly hear it anymore, and I forget that it’s such a rarity, especially in Central New Jersey.

Every once in a while, my husband and I get pulled aside and thanked for the work that we’ve done with our kids. Work? If only it was that pre-meditated. The real reason our kids call their elders Ma’am and Sir is pretty simple. It’s out of respect.

Before I graduated from military training, the idea of saying Yes Ma’am was constantly drilled into me. I had to say it about 700 times a day, and it was such a pain in my butt to do at first. I hated it. I also had an attitude problem. That one little requirement changed me around. I needed to respect those that were in charge, that I have never met or interacted with, and I needed to address them properly. It was life-changing.

When it comes to my husband’s upbringing, he was taught to say Yes Ma’am or Sir since he was itty bitty. It was not an option. He comes from a family that is well- respected in their community, and would always return that respect to others. During one of our first conversations, my husband made a point of saying that his children would learn to say Yes Ma’am/Sir to their elders, and it would start right with their mom and dad. Besides finding that kind of talk extremely attractive (ahem), I really admired how adamant he was about the subject. I got it. And I wholeheartedly agreed.

So, that’s all. Our children respect every person they meet by addressing them the way they should always be addressed. If that’s some sort of big deal, then we’ll let it be. In the mean time, don’t be surprised if a Yes Ma’am or Sir comes out of my kids mouths. That just means they appreciate your conversation. Don’t worry; once we get home, they’ll run around the house screaming like any other kid. That’s how we get down.

How do you teach respect in your household? Do your kids address grown-ups in a certain way?

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

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  1. 12.12.14

    Yes, girl! That’s what I’m talking about. I grew up saying it, too. Hwwever, I wasn’t required to say it to my parents. I did say it to my grandparents… but I def grew up to respect all adults and address them as ma’am and/or sir. Some people call it a Southern thing and I call it a respect thing. Kudos!

  2. 12.12.14
    Jenny said:

    The cashier was right, not many parents teach kids to be respectfull these days. And the generation of “entitlement” kids are for one hell of a rude awakening once they grow up. Because no one will be codling them. And if they are rude and act out they’ll get put in place very fast.

    • 12.19.14
      Nichole said:

      Jenny, I completely agree, they think they are entitled to everything!

  3. 12.12.14
    Val said:

    We are really trying on this one and your kids do stand out when it is not part of the culture. Down South though, it is almost expected, but in other places it is a pleasant surprise. I hear this alot from teachers about my boys that they are polite. I’m glad they are outside of the house, because at home… LOL. Good job family. It will help them in so many areas in life.

  4. 12.12.14
    MJ said:

    We are on the same page. I was raised to say “Yes Ma’am/Sir” etc. We were also raised to use proper greeting by time of day and that includes when calling or answering the phone. Not to mention not calling adults by their first name. My husband’s family is different but our kids will learn and so as I did when I was growing up. Respect is so important just as is etiquette, appropriate language/grammar and writing skills. These things can’t be lost in our society.

  5. 12.12.14

    Among other things, we taught our kids to address our peers with honorifics, i.e. Mr. So and So or Mrs. So and So. My kids are teenagers now, and in this day and age, adults are pleasantly surprised, if not veritably taken aback.

  6. 12.19.14
    Nichole said:

    I still say “Yes Ma’am” and I am 42 years old. This society is becoming too lax which is the reason there is a lot of mess in the world now. I was looking for places for my 89 year grandfather and the lady called and said, “I understand you are looking for a place for Thomas.” WAIT! What? Who is Thomas? I said, ” I am looking for a place for Mr. Jefferson!” You will NOT refer to my grandfather by his first name!

  7. 1.3.15
    Katherine S. said:

    People say the same thing to me…some actually tell me not to call them “ma’am” but I can’t help it lol Being Southern through and through, it’s just how I was raised. Hubby grew up in Chicago and said it would be acceptable for our children to just say “yes” or “no,” until he listened to a child say it for a whole day. Guess who’s kids are gonna be raised right…hehe

  8. 11.5.15
    Dee said:

    I am from NJ, but my parents were raised in the south. After a few weeks of vacation in the south, I asked my mother why she didn’t teach us to say ma’am & sir? She said it was because she had to say it to white people. We were taught Miss & Mister and that is what I teach my children. They are being raised right. A friend of my husband’s insinuated something similar when he tried to correct my son into saying yes sir to him. I had to take a breath and let him know that this yankee wasn’t taught that and my son wouldn’t be taught that either. Side note: my husband is from NC and has no problem with this.

    • 11.5.15
      Amiyrah said:

      Thanks for sharing, Dee!