I am an African, and I come from a part of Africa (Nigeria precisely) where respect is a virtue that is more than necessary, and indoctrinated into every child from birth. Where I come from, we don’t take the issue of respect lightly, and by respect I don’t just mean the type you say with your mouth, like when you look at somebody and say stuffs like: “I’ve got respect for you”. No, not that kind of respect.

When I say respect, I mean the type of respect where you have to show it in every action you carry out for, and in the sight of that person. You are supposed to greet in a way, talk in a way, smile and even laugh in a certain way. when I mean respect, I mean the type where you stand up and offer the elder your sit if the elder doesn’t have any, and make sure you don’t say or do some kind of things in front of that older person. That’s the kind of respect I’m talking about.

This kind of respect doesn’t leave you with an option. You know all that talk about how respect is reciprocal, and how you have to respect yourself to earn respect, and how you can lose your respect for someone if you think the person doesn’t deserve your respect? No, none of that applies here. Nobody cares if the person is worth your respect or not. If the person is older than you, it is an obligation for you to respect the person, and that’s final. You could possibly loathe the person in your mind, scorn the person in your privacy for whatever reason, but that’s as far as you can take it. Never let any sign of disrespect show; it goes against all our cultural values and etiquette.

Now this practice is good, because somehow it helps us as we grow, and it gives our society a large level of decency and sanity despite our challenges as a nation, but however, there are some mentality concerning the issue of respect which I believe should be discarded already, because of its misconceptions and flaws. We should understand the fact that the society is changing rapidly, and anybody who refuses to acknowledge this reality has chosen to be left behind.  What is this issue on respect that I’m bringing to everyone’s mind today?

The belief that calling one’s parents any name apart from mummy and daddy, or sir and ma is wrong.

This idea and mentality is outdated, has a lot of flaws, and needs to be reviewed in some way.

Many people still seem to be against the idea of calling one’s parents any form of name apart from sir and ma, and their reason for this is that it is disrespectful and inappropriate.

They believe that calling ones parents, names such as ‘mumsie’, ‘popsie’, ‘p-man’, ‘malee’  and others of this nature points to a child loosing respect and value for the parent, and hence any child seeing doing such is heavily criticized and rebuked.

A certain man was preaching heavily to me and some group of other teenagers on why this name calling is very wrong, and he added that as he is, he calls his father sir, and mother, ma, and he cannot imagine calling them anything else, and therefore this should apply to us as well.

Now that left me puzzled to a large extent

Growing up, I had issues trying to reconcile this preaching of no other name calling, with how I really wanted to relate with my parents with whom I share a very special intimacy with, and at times when I got caught up in an emotional excitement, I found myself bursting out with a name that wasn’t mummy and daddy, and that left me confused. When did I start getting disrespectful?

It took a long of debate, pondering, and how I really felt inside to reconcile this issue in my mind, and as I grew older and developed a strong will of my own, I eventually discarded this teaching.

Now to all who care to be enlightened, try and understand this.

On its own, there is nothing wrong with a teenager calling his parents a name that is not mummy or daddy.

I acknowledge that some names are out-rightly insulting and disrespectful, and in some cases, it could be a demeaning part of a teenager that produced such names, but before you conclude that a child is being disrespectful by addressing his parents with another name, you need to be able to ascertain first of all, what side of this teenager produced the name.

The ‘strange name’ producing side of this teenager that many people fail to see is the side of this teenager that feels a strong emotional attachment to his parent, and therefore there is a need for new words to use to express this feeling.

You need to see the side of the teenager that strives to remove the air of formality that follows the relationship he has with his parents, and hence he tries to find and something that would remind him of what exactly makes his mother different from any random woman. It’s not a good thing when a child is comfortable calling other men and women, new names, but can only call the parent sir or ma under the talk of respect.

The society needs to start seeing the side of a teenager that just wants to establish a more intimate relationship between himself and his parents, and parents need to realize that because the name doesn’t sound like a pet name to them, doesn’t change the intention of the teenager who is using the name.

There is also a side of that teenager that is accepting the changing patterns in the society and flowing with it, but then where is the disrespect in that? Or isn’t it better to have a child who calls you my old man, and yet loves and values you, than to have a child who would call you sir and be emotionally distant from you?

If only people would start addressing the more serious issues going on between parents and their teenage children, instead of spending time on sentiments that just serves as distraction from the urgent ones.

Is it worth it, pushing your child away simply because you want him to call you a particular name that reminds him of how serious things are between you against what he wants the both of you to share?

It is not every time a teenager uses a different name for the parents that points to a growing sign of disrespect or lack of value for the parents. There is no need to always feel threatened with the foreign name.  Maybe, just maybe, (Remember I said maybe!) the tendency for a parent or an elder to constantly feel threatened with a foreign name that is not sir, ma, mummy or daddy, might actually be pointing to an insecurity of the parent.

I mean, if you’re sure you trained your child well enough, you wouldn’t get excessively jumpy when he calls you another name that you’re not used to.

Also, if some elders and parents don’t allow their fear of what they think is the wrong thing we are picking from the entertainment industry and other ‘wrong sources’ to cloud their ability to reason truthfully and logically, this misunderstanding would be greatly reduced.

May I also remind you that the word mummy and daddy wasn’t there since the beginning of human existence, but along the line, cultural changes and evolution caused these words to come up. Let’s also face the fact that this change is constant, and there might be a time when the generally agreed name for a parent would become ‘p-man’ or ‘m-lady’ or something like that. After all, there was a time teenagers called their parents mother and father when addressing them, but imagine how weird it would sound now if a twenty first century child starts saying stuffs like

“Mother I want ice cream” “Good evening father, time to pay our school fees is due” “Mother; this is the thing you asked for” “Thank you but I am not hungry mother”

I know a guy, and one day we got talking about a lot, and eventually we entered the family talk, and he started talking about his family, constantly using the word ‘old lady’ to refer to his mother, and that just sounded weird in my ear. I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling my mother old lady,(not because it’s wrong, but because I won’t just feel comfortable) not even when she gets old, but here he was, and his mother wasn’t even that old.

Well, I made sure I didn’t judge or jump into conclusions, instead I just listened, and in a matter of time, I understood exactly how he saw things. There was this glow in his eyes whenever he called her old lady, and there was a way he spoke with such protectiveness and intimacy that I discovered that to him, the word was explaining just how he saw her. To him, it was a reminder of the fact that he believed that she was very vulnerable without him, and he felt the responsibility of being the one to take care of her, especially as she was a widow.

How ironic it would have been if someone heard him and shut him down under the talk of being disrespectful, and having no value for his mother.


  1. So many beautiful writings I never saw. This one on names for dad and mom. Well I am for authenticity! Whatever comes from the “right side” of the teenager

  2. It depends, there is a stage you reach where your dad let’s you call him p man and stuff, same with your mum, but until then, as a teenager you ought to call them those names because your brain is still developing and you still fully don’t know what respect is. TBH if my parents let me call them those names at this stage, my respect for them will diminish because it’s just how the brain works.

    1. I agree with you, but your respect won’t diminish if you do not attribute name calling as the sole factor that influences your respect level. I know quite a number of teenagers who call their parents names like that, and still maintain their respect for them.

I would love to know what you think