Parents: Your Kids Aren’t Born With Phone Etiquette (You Have To Teach Them)

We spent a good amount of time teaching our kids how to handle themselves on the phone, starting from a very young age. (The older boy had a phone fetish going starting when he was about 18 months old…by the time he was three he had no less than ten different toy phones: good for roleplaying!) Whether they were answering the phone or making a call to a friend, it was important to us that they:

1. were polite
2. were clear
3. identified themselves if they were making a call
4. didn’t give out personal information to a caller
5. could write down a message
6. could leave a clear message
7. didn’t fight each other for the chance to answer the phone. (I mean really, is the foot race really worth it?)

We always told them that if they didn’t feel comfortable with these skills, they had no business making calls or answering the phone. When we got Caller ID, we told them to answer only if they recognized the caller.

They have done really well. When we heard something that would be considered “questionable manners”, we called them (no pun intended) on it and explained what they should have said instead.

Now, I have two teens who are stars on the phone. (although they sometimes “forget” to tell me when grandma or Aunt Julie call…) They understand that if they don’t feel like answering or taking on the responsibility of passing on a message, they don’t have to answer it. That’s what the answering machine is for.

Today at work I had to call a potential client who wants to bring in 6 little girls for a Princess Pedicure party. I called the number that was on the note, and a child answered it. If I had to guess, I’d say he was between nine and eleven. The conversation went like this:

Him: “Hello?”

Me: “Hi. May I please speak to The Really Nice Mom Who Is Giving Her Daughter a Cool Party?*”

Him: “WHY?”

Me: Silent. I kinda thought he asked me why, but couldn’t imagine someone actually doing that so I thought maybe he said something like, “Hold on” or “I’ll get her”.

Him: “Hello?????”

Me: “OH! Sorry. Is she there?”

Him: “WHY??”

Me: “Why?” (my blood pressure is starting to soar) “Because I am returning her call.”

Him: “Well, she’s not here.”

Me: “Hmm. Okay. Well, I’ll call back another time. Thanks.” (I wouldn’t have even chanced leaving a message.)

What is up with people? Do they think kids come out of the womb knowing all they need to know to be productive citizens????

Send him to me for a week. I’ll whip him into shape.

*Names were changed to protect the probably-lovely-but-bad-with-teaching-phone-skills-Mom


  • KathyLikesPink

    I’m also a stickler about the phone. Oh my gosh that just irks me. “WHY?” GRRR.

  • Mom24

    That is really, really aggrevating. Unfortunately, my 7 year old is not so great on the phone. We tell him if you’re not going to do a good job at it, don’t answer it–he’s fine with that. grrrr. The 5 year old I think was BORN with a phone in her hand. There won’t be enough minutes in the world for that one!

  • Melissa

    Even better? Let two 5 year olds talk on the phone together. 10 minutes of silence and uhm…I learned this one the hard way earlier this week.

    I finally said to Hope ask her what she wants…obviously I haven’t taught Hope good phone manners either.

  • Mags

    Seriously?! Why?!? WHY?!?! Are you kidding me? That’s terrible. Holy cow…crazy!

    I can’t even imagine.

  • Michelle

    Is it bad of me for assuming that said mom probably isn’t so great on (or off) the phone either? I feel like such a mean person.

    And can I have a princess pedicure party, too? Sign me up. I’ll pretend it’s for Little Miss if you like.

  • NukeDad

    This has come up in the neighborhood lately. We’re (the parents) all working with the kids to improve their phone skills. You nailed it. Cancel her party, and when she calls for a reason, ask her; WHY?

  • Crazed Mom

    I’m sending my 17yo and his best friend for the month of July. You whip em into to shape for me Melisa!!!!MUahahahaha.

  • Kat

    If you don’t write a book about parenting soon I may have to force you to ;o)

    Seriously I totally admire you for the way you and your husband parent your kids. If all parents were this awesome the world wouldn’t be in a downward spiral.

  • Dea

    This is the main reason my kids aren’t allowed near a phone yet – because they haven’t learned what’s proper etiquette when answering! They do practice conversation skills with Daddy when he’s out of town – but answering? Heck no. Forget it.

  • devilish southern belle

    I’m blushing furiously over this one. While my efforts to instill phone manners went off without a hitch with my oldest son, my youngest son’s phone manners are atrocious! I can’t complain about when people call me, he usually does that right. But I’ve heard him call for a friend before, and if they weren’t home, he’d ask stuff like “Who is this?” and “Where is so-and-so?” and the only slightly more acceptable “When will so-and-so be back?”

    Needless to say, he didn’t have phone privileges for very long! He does do better now, though. Thank goodness. And now that he’s a teen, he’s got his own pre-pay cell phone. He and his friends can just text one another instead of calling.


  • Melisa

    Melissa: I’m not sure I agree with your statement about not teaching Hope phone manners: totally different story when 2 five-yr-olds are on a planned call. (and I’ve heard lots of those: I wanted to rip the phone away and hang up!)

    Michelle: I still haven’t talked to the mom yet, so I’ll get back to you on HER phone skills. 🙂 BTW, we do adult pedicure parties too. LOL

    Nukedad: Unfortunately, though that’s a great idea, I have to uphold a certain customer service standard here. 🙂

    Janice: BRING IT ON! LOL

    Kat: You’re sweet as always!

    DSB: Ugh! The texting! Ugh! 🙂

  • abritdifferent

    Get on and reverse look up the number, get in your car and go smack the kid on the head with the phone base. It won’t accomplish much, but you’ll feel better.

    Seriously though, good grief. Some peoples’ kids!

    It’s funny, as you get older, you start to think, “wait, why am I jumping to attention for a noise? I am a slave here.” The appeal of answering it is suddenly over…hahaha!