Greeting Gaffe: Adolescents meet and greet

by epi on February 21, 2013

Q: My children are 15 and 11. Their uncle feels when the say hi that they should say Hi uncle His name. The older one occasionally does, the younger one who is generally on with few words, simply says hi. Is this poor etiquette?

A: It’s thoughtful of you to want to get this right. We are inclined to agree with your children’s uncle – when a person’s name is known, it’s always best to say the person’s name when greeting: “Hello, Mrs. Jacobs,” or “Hi, Uncle Joe.”

Some greetings are very casual, such as when a young person says “hi” to a neighbor. In places where a spoken greeting will disturb others, a wave is enough. Since adolescents are often self-conscious about attracting attention to themselves, parents may need to review meeting and greeting manners and remind older children that failing to acknowledge another person’s presence is a sign of disrespect.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen February 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm

What if they have only met this Uncle when they were much younger?? I have a 15 and 13 year old. They will see their Uncle this weekend after 11 years of no interaction whatsoever. They were questioning what title they should use when addressing him, as well as his bride of 7 years. They said it feels strange calling someone Aunt, whom they’ve never spoken to and an Uncle that hasn’t been in the picture. Should they address him by his first name only?


Chocobo February 21, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I agree with Elizabeth. While it is nice that your children have close relationships with other aunts and uncles that they feel it is a sentimental title, this more distant relative is still their uncle. It would certainly be much more insulting to instruct them to call him by his first name; as you say, they hardly know the man, how could they call him on a first-name basis? And using his formal title, “Mr. So-and-So,” is far too stiff for most family circumstances, and would make a point of his estrangement as though you have cut ties and he is no longer considered family. No, I think using uncle is for the best.


Karen February 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I’m curious how a 15 year old and 12 year old should address their Uncle that they haven’t seen or spoken to in 11 years. He also has a wife of 7 years that I have never met either. The kids feel strange calling either of them Aunt and Uncle, but they want to be respectful.


Elizabeth February 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm

“Uncle” isn’t a title of affection, it merely designates a particular relationship (that he is the sibling of a parent). Your kids shouldn’t feel uncomfortable calling him uncle, and you should instruct them to do so. He is actually their uncle.


Mariette's Back to Basics February 21, 2013 at 11:31 pm

At this time of age, there is a tremendous lack on RESPECT! Period. An uncle is an uncle, as is an aunt. That birth right cannot be undone as he or she is a sibling by blood. Calling them by first name is rude and shows absolutely no respect. They try to be cool maybe but we better learn from other countries where they still maintain a respectful way of addressing relatives the proper way. Even affectionately calling someone uncle or aunt, even if they are not by blood, does look far better than first name calling. That is just a lack of class and manners.
Parents better work this up a notch or two for the future. Courtesy will always take you the farthest in this world and at times a person is being judged on good manners for job purposes.


Karen E. February 22, 2013 at 2:09 am

Hmm. My nephews are 10, 5, and 1. They all call me Nana. I understand that “Nana” sometimes means grandmother, but this has been my nickname in the family since I was a toddler. My parents, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents call me Nana. My mother wishes they would call me Aunt Nana. My oldest nephew probably picked up Nana from everyone else, and the other two from him, and we never corrected them. They understand I’m their aunt and they treat me with the respect that can be expected from kids. I think by this point it would feel unnatural and uncomfortable for them to call me Aunt Nana, and I have made clear I prefer they didn’t. They call my younger brother Uncle [His Name]. I don’t feel that what they call me indicates a lack of class or manners but I suppose we may have different standards. I guess, when I’m with them, I’m more concerned whether they remember to say please and thank you and to be polite and kind.


Alicia February 22, 2013 at 7:54 am

I think it is not disrespectful to call an Aunt or Uncle by their first names if the Aunt or Uncle has made it clear that that is a form of address that they like. All my neices and nephews that can clearly say words call me by my first name. I prefer that to being Aunt first name. However, for my uncle I met at age 3 and again in my twenties I tried calling him Uncle Firstname and he almost immediately corrected me to call him by just his firstname. So there is absolutely no disrespect if someone has made clear their favorite form of address.


Jody February 22, 2013 at 10:16 am

I agree with Alicia and Karen on this point. If a person prefers to be called FirstName (or family nickname) rather than Aunt/Uncle Firstname, that’s what the kids should call them. As Karen says, if the child/teen is polite, respectful and kind, that’s more important to me than what they call me.


Chocobo February 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I will also throw in my hat with Karen E., Alicia, and Jody. It is only disrespectful if the adults wish to be called Aunt and Uncle and are not. Then the children would be taking liberties.

However, if the adults wish to be called by another name — including their first name only — in place of a traditional title, then it would be much more disrespectful to teach children to ignore how other people prefer to be called. That is not proper. It is an important skill in life to learn how to address individuals and not force one’s own wishes upon them.


polite punk February 22, 2013 at 9:58 am

I agree with Karen E. Having grown up in a household where uncles and aunts were never addressed Uncle First Name or Aunt So and So, I think it comes down to “family standards.”

However, to me, it seems like the point of this isn’t whether or not the kid is calling the uncle by just his first name, but rather whether or not, he’s addressing the uncle personally at all when he says hello. In which case, I think the uncle needs to get over himself. It sounds like even just getting “hi” out might be hard for the kid, let alone an enthusiastic “Hi Uncle First Name.” I think this is a case of needing to choose your battles.


Lucia March 3, 2013 at 8:29 am

I disagree. My mother had me when she was only 21 as the eldest of three siblings, so my aunt and uncles are also quite young. I think the formality of calling them aunt or uncle would be too strong for such a close familial bond. Additionally, while we will always have only the four grandparents, the number of aunts and uncles varies, so titling them Uncle So and So simply makes them one of many, a shape shifting mass. It shows more familiarity and homage to them as the sibling of your parents to title them either by name or family nickname. However for great aunts and uncles with a larger generation gap and the same age as grandparents it is respectable to call them Aunt Jane or Uncle Philip. I think the distinction should rely greatly on the generation gap and therefore the amount of respect and formality due or in some cases, preference (I have to address my grandfather by his first name and it’s made us closer).


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: