To be honest, I have been more of the typical Nigerian mother who would introduce adults as ‘Uncle X’ and ‘Aunty Y’ to children.

However, recently, I was having a discussion about issues surrounding child abuse when my friend made a point that got me thinking. She said a friend of hers has instructed her children to save the Uncle/Aunty titles for only the real title holders. As in, she was okay with them calling her siblings or her husband’s siblings Aunty/Uncle. However, every other person goes by ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ That’s because the familiar title Aunty/Uncle puts the child’s guard down and considering that the only people she could actually trust were her siblings and her husband’s, she didn’t want her children throwing caution to wind when with these ‘outsiders’. Yes, she is of the opinion that they should stay cautious even when with familiar faces.

Okay, that approach could be dicey in the Nigerian setting where everyone elderly is referred to as ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ and people are quick to take offense if not addressed in what they deem to be the ‘proper’ manner.

Nevertheless, in spite of ‘culture’, I will dare to agree with my friend’s approach even though, in reality, I may not take its application that far. For example, I cannot imagine introducing trusted friend of mine as Mrs. X to my children. It will still have to be Aunty X. However, when dealing with casual contacts and acquaintances (e.g. a neighbour or a work colleague), I guess my introduction will be this way – ‘This is Mrs. Y. Say good afternoon Ma’. Maybe I am wrong but ‘Ma’ sounds like a safer, inoffensive approach as compared to ‘Mrs.’

So, yes, the ‘Mas’ and ‘Sirs’ will be saved for both the familiar and unfamiliar ‘strangers while ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’ will be for actual family and trusted friends. With that said, the child will still have to be properly educated on when to raise an alarm because when it comes to sexual abuse and even cases like kidnapping, the wolfs are often familiar faces.