As children, we were perhaps taught to limit pronoun use when referring to members of our family. Have you ever tried to refer to your mom or dad as, “she” or “he” when in their presence? If you did, it’s likely that they weren’t too impressed with being referred to with these pronouns rather than a simple, “mom” or “dad”. Understanding why our parents feel disrespected when we refer to them by using pronouns involves understanding the underlying meaning these pronouns carry with them. Doing so serves to teach us lessons we can take outside the context of family matters, and into the world with us.
She Takes Her Job Seriously
Using “she,” and other pronouns to describe family members can be interpreted as trying to distance yourself from them. It shows a lack of respect for their identity and how that identity relates to you. Your mother may feel disrespected by this because the word, “she” can be used for anybody who identifies as a female. However, not every female can identify as your mother. Your mother cares about her role in your life, which is why she gets upset when you don’t recognize it by using pronouns such as, “she” or “her” in conversation. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but to her, being called, “mom” signifies that you’re empathetic to the job and hardships of what being a mother entails.
This concept can be applied to feeling disrespected if others don’t refer to us by our proper titles. For example, if you were to walk into a doctor’s office for the first time and exclaim, “hello John,” towards your doctor, he may be taken back by your lack of respect for his position. Your doctor is referred to by, “Dr. Peterson” in his day-to-day interactions, and referring to him by just his first name shows a lack of respect for the work it took to get to his position. The same can be seen with professors, presidents, and military leaders.
Your parents’ proper titles, as they relate to your communication with them are, “mom” and “dad,” respectively.
People’s Interpretation of Pronouns Changes Based on Setting
Using pronouns to describe someone when they’re in the same room as you removes them from the conversation. It makes them feel that they’re being gossiped about, even if the content of the conversation doesn’t point toward that fact. It also serves to imply that their input is not sought for, even though you’re talking about them. Visualize yourself in the situation in which your friends are talking about you. Rather than saying, “John, remember the time you totally blew that lay-up when we were up by two?” One says to the other, “Remember when he blew the lay-up when we were up by two?” The latter example sounds ill-intentioned, as though they are complaining about your performance rather than making a joke about it.
When your parents are in the room and you refer to them with pronouns, you are excluding them from the conversation and perhaps being hurtful in doing so. Instead to referring to people as their pronouns when they’re in your presence, form a habit of including them in conversation. Call out their name and ask for their opinion on the matters which you’re talking about. Make it a priority to include the people you’re talking about in the conversation, and do not give others the opportunity to assume that you’re gossiping about them.