How children refer to adults


When I was growing up, I never used first names with adults. The adults in my life were "Mr. Knabe", "Mrs. Stanley", or "Dr. Woods".

Adults reinforced this norm as well. When I met my parents friends, they introduced themselves — in a friendly way — as "Mr. Brinker" rather than Chris. The same with teachers — I had "Mrs. Bryson", not "Deborah".

My parents would’ve corrected me had I tried something else. I’m sure they probably did at some point, but I don’t remember it happening. It wasn’t notable, it’s how the world was. In lots of cases, I'm not even sure I knew the first names of my parents friends until I graduated from college and then someone like Mr. Hehn would say, "please, call me Gunther" in a way that communicated I was now an adult too. This made me feel proud. The only exceptions I can think of here are my Pastors (Jerry) and family (Aunt Julie and Uncle Bert).

As far as I can tell, this has completely gone out of fashion.

With my kids, 2 and 4, no adult uses their last name. My friends introduce themselves as Mr. Jon and Ms. Veronica, not Mr. and Mrs. Flash. I do this too — I introduce my friends to them as Mr. Graham and Mr. Ted not Mr. Rowe and Mr. Strong. Even my daughter’s teacher is Ms. Heather not Ms. Jones. I assume this will change as they enter the formal school system… but who knows!

This new behavior is so consistent that if an adult that I knew well introduced themselves to my child as Mr. Banna instead of Mr. Rami, it would seem overly formal, like wearing a tuxedo to an office.

This doesn’t bother me on a moral level but I am intensely curious about it. When did it change? Why? I assume it’s related to the broader decline of formality in our culture, the way that the hoodie has replaced the sports coat for menswear.

But what is driving this? Is it a desire to be youthful? Relatable? A way of communicating that adults and children are on the same level? As we’ve made this switch, what have we given up? Anything? Nothing? Does this change how children perceive adults? Does it change how children perceive themselves?

I’d love to hear a theory of the case here.

Growing mastery and agency


We should be thinking much harder about ensuring children can make meaningful contributions, and we should be teaching them in ways that are sensitive to the context of the real world. We are not looking for a job but opportunities for mastery: learning and practice beyond the depth one would find along the common path, which demands no such thing.

That is from Simon Sarris's article in Palladium about how a schooling isn't enough for young people.

At this point, probably my most unconventional belief is that we should be giving teenagers more apprenticeship opportunities at companies. I feel weird saying this because it sounds like I want to return to a world where children worked in coal mines, which is very much not what I want. Instead, I think there is a type of learning that happens best hands on with real stakes and that by keeping children away from it we are doing them a disservice.

One of the things I notice with my children, who are very young (under 1 and 3), is that they are happiest when working on something that is outside their comfort zone, but within their capability, especially when it matters to the rest of the family. My three year old has had a toy cleaning set that she hardly ever played with but now uses daily to sweep up after dinner. I don't want to draw conclusions that are too sweeping from what I see observing my kids, but I do suspect there is something there.

US marriage rates



Amazing statistics from Pew. In 1980 63% of 25 year olds were married and 39% had children at home!

I'm agnostic to whether or not this is a good or a bad change, but I'm amazed at how different it is.