Rules are important.
Rules can instill respect, teach fairness, even help us in making new friends.
What happens, though, when the rules aren’t the same for one family as another?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) nameofthegame788 when he came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for some outside opinions.
“AITA for enforcing a rule equally?”
OP began with a quick summary of the people involved.
I (43 Male) have an eight-year-old son (S) who’s a good boy but, like most kids his age, will unfortunately often copy things he sees other people/kids doing, not understanding that it’s wrong.”
Then moved quickly to the problem at hand.
“Recently he called me by my first name during a conversation, and I was shocked.”
“I admonished him, and he told me his best friend (F) calls his dad by his first name.”
“I explained to S that children referring to adults by their first name is rude, and it was disrespectful for his friend to do that.”
“I didn’t punish him, because he didn’t know, but I made sure he understood the behavior wasn’t acceptable. Everything was fine until yesterday.”
“My wife arranged a playdate for the boys, and since Monday is my day to pick up our son, I picked up both S and F from school.”
“They were talking in the backseat, and I heard F refer to his father by his first name. I needed to reinforce the rule with my son, or he would be confused.”
OP tried to minimize confusion.
“So I told F that it was rude of him to call his father by his name.”
“F spoke back to me, saying that was what he called his dad.”
“I reiterated that it was disrespectful and asked him to remember his manners while he was in my car.”
“He got quiet, and the boys didn’t talk much after that. I figured he was thinking about what I said.”
“We’d only been home ten minutes when F’s father showed up to retrieve his son.”
“He didn’t explain why he was so early, just picked up his son and left.”
“An hour ago I got a text from him calling me a major A and telling me I was way out of line trying to parent his son.”
“He told me I had disrespected his child, which makes no sense at all, as he’s a third-grader, not a peer.”
“I think this guy is a little wacky, but my wife thinks I shouldn’t be trying to parent someone else’s child, as I wouldn’t want anyone else to parent our son.”
“She has a point, but I wasn’t really trying to parent him, just keep my son from being confused.”
He was left to wonder.
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for their ruling.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: YTA
Some saw this as a different kind of teachable moment.
“You don’t get to enforce what other children call their parents.”
“That is not for you to decide.”
“Furthermore, you have absolutely no idea as to why this child refers to his parents by their first name, but you went ahead and decided it was rude and that you had power to control this.”
“Also, your kid is 8.”
“He’s more than old enough to start learning that some families follow very different rules than his own family and that’s okay.” ~ CanterCircles
“What an opportunity to learn that there are differences in how other families and cultures behave.”
“One isn’t good and the other isn’t bad, they’re just different.”
“You can explain your rationale for calling a parent by their title (mom, dad, etc.) as a sign of respect, but don’t condemn people with different beliefs.”
“AND don’t shame an 8-year-old for following the social norms and rules set up by his family.” ~ Potential-Pear-5055
Others took a more global view.
“Haha this is definitely a cultural thing.”
“I am from Canada but my parents are both immigrants and the number one thing my friends from immigrant backgrounds and I think is weirdest is that white people here call their parents by their first name.”
“I would NEVER even as a grown man call my parents by their first name and when I hear other people do it I still find it jarring.”
“But even as a little kid I understood that their parents had different rules than my parents, this was not hard for me to grasp at all.”
“It may have seemed disrespectful to me, but that doesn’t mean it has to feel that way to everybody.”
“OP’s 8-year-old son is definitely able to understand this.”
“Even I would never tell someone else what to call their parents because it’s none of my business.”
“OP YTA unambiguously here, you can’t parent other people’s kids and you have no idea what their parents’ rules are for how they should be addressed.”
“It doesn’t matter if you think it’s weird, you can’t enforce rules on kids that aren’t yours that don’t apply directly to you or your home.”
“You wanna tell him he can’t wear shoes in your house?”
“That’s fair. You wanna tell him what to call his male guardian in his own home? That’s not fair and the fact that you can’t see that is wild to me.”
“You are not everybody’s Dad.” ~ DonerDonDada
There was also an education on respect.
” ‘He’s a third grader, not a peer.’ “
“Respect isn’t something you show to only your peers, dude.”
“If you don’t treat others with respect, they won’t respect you – it doesn’t matter their age, gender, social status etc. and this mentality of not treating children with respect will lead to them thinking it’s alright to disrespect others.”
“Saying someone is ‘a little wacky’ because they want you to treat their child with respect and ask you not to parent them isn’t right.”
“It’s understandable that you don’t want your son to call you by your first name and think it’s disrespectful, and it seems you’ve explained that to him and ensured he understands.”
“But I don’t think it’s any of your business what someone else’s kid has been told to call their father.”
“As long as it isn’t affecting you I don’t see how it’s something you have to comment on as the child has been taught to call his dad that and if you really had an issue you could have a civil conversation with the father about it.”
“Just like you said, you wouldn’t want anyone else to parent your son.”
“YTA.” ~ Ariruru
“This is the comment I was looking for.”
“I’m getting “I don’t have to treat all humans with respect” from this guy, ‘my respect must be earned’.”
“ALL humans should be treated with respect. YTA” ~ Disastrous-Dot-2707
Some commenters even gave advice on how to have a better conversation.
“This is exactly what I’m thinking. “
“The conversation should have been something like ‘When you have a relationship with someone else, you don’t get to call them anything you want. The other person has to be okay with it’.”
” ‘F and his dad have talked about this, and F’s dad is okay with being called by his first name, that’s why F does it. But I’m not okay with that, and it doesn’t make me feel good when you call me by my first name’.”
“And if OP has done a good job explaining boundaries, I don’t think this would be a problem at all.”
“OP, some things seem disrespectful to you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be disrespectful to people completely unrelated to you.” ~ sortaangrypeanut
There were, of course, personal stories shared.
“I’ve had a few ‘dads’ in my life and the first 2 were both a bit abusive.”
“I called them ‘dad’ before I realized how bad it was and now I call them by their names if I’m referring to them in private, I call my birth father ‘dad’ only when I’m talking to him.”
“I call my stepfather, the male figure I actually love and see as a father, by his first name; just because the title of ‘dad’ has been ruined for me.”
“Calling a man my father won’t make our relationship better, so I don’t bother anymore. It’s not rude, it’s just what I call him to be comfortable.” ~ usernameemma
“I call my parents mom and dad, but if we’re in public and I’m trying to get their attention, it’s ‘Sally and Bob’.”
“We were once out for dinner at a loud crowded restaurant, and I turned to my mom and said ‘Hey Sally can you please pass me my jacket?’.”
“She handed it to me and I said ‘Thanks mom’.”
“My uncle’s husband FLIPPED his lid.”
“He got in my face and told me how rude and disrespectful I was.”
“I was the child (early 20s at the time) and I didn’t have the right to call my mom by her first name, that’s only for her peers and I am most definitely not one of those.”
“He told me I should stop being a disrespectful mouthy brat and learn some respect.”
“My mom had to intervene and tell him off, and that she was ok with it.”
“Sometimes, it’s just easier to call someone by their first name regardless of their honorific.” ~ anadian_maplesyrup
Rules are important.
Of course, rules aren’t a one-size-fits-all construct that applies to everyone the same way.
That’s where the idea of the “spirit of the law” comes from – that the rule means something beyond the written words.
Treating each other respectfully often isn’t about the words, but the context.
Remember to insist on respect from those who you associate with, and always give respect to others in a way that’s comfortable for both of you.
No matter what anyone else thinks.