First of all, I’m not from the South originally. I have lived in the South for the last 9 years, and, for the most part, southern mommas make their children say, “Yes Ma’am” or “No Ma’am” from the time they can talk.
I did not grow up saying “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” to my mom. In fact, looking back, it seems like it was almost rude to say that to my parents or teachers.
But now that I’ve been a mom for 9 years, I’ve realized that requiring my kids to say “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” is a secret superpower I have as a mom. Here’s why:
1. It forces them to acknowledge my words. So many times they are focused on playing, watching TV, or reading a book–and my voice becomes part of the background noise in their lives. Requiring them to respond with “yes ma’am” means they’ve heard and at least acknowledged my instructions.
2. There’s power in the positive response. Usually, in my experience, when they acknowledge and respond with “yes ma’am,” they will follow through and actually do what I ask. It’s not foolproof, but it’s got a 95% success rate in my house!
3. It’s universally respectful. Regardless of your geographical location, in English-speaking countries, it’s considered good manners to address an elder or authority as “sir” or “ma’am.” Granted, there are exceptions, but for the most part, it’s just polite. Requiring them to say “yes ma’am” at home will *hopefully* help them to continue to be polite and respectful as teenagers and adults.
Just a disclaimer: I still have to remind my kids to say it. And…I don’t punish them for not saying it. I just gently remind them. And now, I can tell that my son (who is 9) is getting it, usually saying it before I can remind him.
Do you require your kids to say “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am”?