This is a common problem; your older child or teenager comes home one day and starts calling you by your first name and not mom or dad. It’s my guess that this starts when your child hears another child do the same to their parent.
I was at soccer practice one day as a child and sitting on the sideline with a few friends. One boy’s mother walks up to him to take his sweat shirt from him and he responded with “Thanks Margaret.” At first I thought that was kind of weird and asked him why he called her that. He replied with “Because that’s her name.”
I didn’t question it but thought about that for a while. When I got home after practice, I thought about calling my mother by her first name. I imagined saying to her “Bernadine, what’s for dinner?” Immediately however, I also imagined her yelling at me or even slapping me for doing that. I knew she would consider it as disrespect, so I quickly dismissed the thought and went about my business of being a kid.
One of the main reasons that some kids might try this is because when adolescence begins (usually ages 9 – 13), they begin to separate themselves from their parents as parents. In past articles, I’ve explained that during this tough time for kids, they begin to see themselves as young adults and not young children. This normal transition for them has them dismissing the fact that they were once a young child and certainly, a baby.
As they start to shed their “baby image”, they also start to shed their parents. That means their parent becomes annoying and embarrassing to them. In some cases, they even dread saying the word mommy or daddy. This is often where they change that to mom or dad, or even mother and father. In essence, they begin to develop an allergy to their parents and just being around the parent makes them feel uncomfortable.
A child who calls his or her parent by their first name has simply found a new way to make that ‘shedding’ process easier. They may think, if I call my mother by her first name, then it doesn’t feel as if she’s my mother; she’s just a woman who lives with us and I can handle that. So as you see, they don’t mean it as disrespect, they are doing it to make life with you a little easier for them.
If this happens to you, get to your child’s eye level and explain to them calmly and with unconditional love, that you’re not OK with them calling you by your first name and that if feels disrespectful. Tell them that your first name is reserved for adults such as friends, co-workers, neighbors and adult family members. Explain to them that you will ignore them if they continue. When they do go back to using your parental title, thank them for respecting you and your request.