Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Phone Etiquette Lessons For Kids

A few weeks ago, I posted this piece called Ten Things I Didn't Realize I would Have To Teach My Kids.  One of the things I included was "How To talk On The Phone" and that one really seemed to strike a chord with my readers as several comments alluded to this being a problem for many other parents as well.

When I first had my daughters, I envisioned them spending hours and hours on the phone talking to friends during their adolescent years.  My two oldest daughters have now reached an age at which they actually do occasionally have friends call them at home.  As I stated in the original post, often the initial conversation goes like this:
Me: Hello.
Friend: Hi.
Me: Who are you calling to talk to?
Friend: Megan
Me:  Ok  She can't talk right now because she is doing her homework.  Can she call you back?
Friend: O.K.
Me: Well, who is this?
Friend: [gives first name only]
Me:  Well, I'll have her call you when she finishes her homework.
Friend: 'K
Me: Bye
Have you ever had a conversation like that with one of your child's friends?  Personally, I find it rather frustrating.  They called my house, yet I'm the one doing all the "work."  It's like going on a archaeological dig for information.

The fact is that kids these days are so busy emailing and/or texting, they don't have as many opportunities to practice actual verbal communication skills.  It seems that the phone is only used as their last resort method of connecting with others.  Adults do this too, which means kids rarely even overhear their parents talking on the phone.  As a result, I have found that phone manners among young people are severely lacking.  The phone may be used less and less, but it is not going to disappear.  Therefore, I have come up with some basic points of "Phone Etiquette" all kids should learn.

  1. Identify yourself.  Contrary to your egocentric state of mind, I do not automatically know who you are simply by the sound of your voice.  Believe it or not, some people don't have caller ID either.  When I say "Hello" your response should be something similar to, "Hello.  This is (say your name)."
  2. Tell me WHY you are calling.  First of all, I have three daughters and, since I may not know who you are, I've only got a 33.3% chance of correctly guessing which one you want to speak with.  After that first introduction, your next words should be a POLITE request specifying your purpose such as, "Could I please speak to ____________?"
  3. Use your manners.  Why is this important?  Because I'm listening and, right or wrong, I'm judging.  They are my little girls and, ultimately, I decide who they are allowed to have as friends  (At least until they can pay to put a roof over their own heads.)  If you are disrespectful or unable to communicate intelligently durning a simple thirty second phone exchange, it is likely that you are disrespectful and unable to communicate effectively in real life.  Therefore, it is also likely that I will have serious reservations about the amount of time my daughter is allowed to spend in your presence.  I know this sounds harsh, but I'm just being honest.  There is a quote that says "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."  So, take my advice and do your best to make a good first impression.
  4. Speak clearly.  I'm old.  At least compared you.  If you mumble, I can't hear you.  If you speak super fast, I can't keep up.  If you use use popular slang terms, I won't understand what you mean.  Make it easy on me and just speak clearly in a language that makes sense to us elderly folks, okay? 
  5. Give adequate information.  In the conversation I outlined above, did you notice something was missing??  The kids' phone number perhaps?  How is my daughter supposed to call you back if she doesn't know your number?  Remember, I said that not everyone has caller ID.  It is perfectly appropriate to give additional information as well.  So you need her to call you ASAP because you have a question about homework??  Or maybe she should wait until tomorrow because your younger brother is going to bed.  Perhaps you are calling from your mom's cell phone which means my daughter should prepare to follow all these same tips since it is highly like that your mom will answer when she calls.  
  6. Respect family differences.  You go to bed at 11:00pm?  Fine.  My girls go to bed earlier than that (much earlier, in fact) so don't call too late.  Also, don't call right at 6:00 when we are probably eating supper.  In short, before you call, think about the person/people you are calling and, as much as possible, make sure you are being respectful of their schedules and lifestyle.
Although my list or "rules" is slightly tongue-and-cheek, I really do believe that effective communication is an important skill to master and I really don't think these expectations are too much to ask.  I promise you we are trying very hard to make sure our daughters learn these "rules" as well.  Hopefully, the next time one of their friends calls our house, they will put these kind suggestions into practice so that it's a little less work for me and a little more productive for them!  


Janine Huldie said...

My girls being so little I haven't thought about this yet, but I can see this being a problem, because you are right kids don't use phones to talk much on them as to text or surf the internet of Facebook. Great list though and will have to keep much of this in mind as my girls grow up.

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Thanks, Janine! I never though about it either until my girls were older. Now, it's something I have to guide them through on a regular basis!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

You bet! Thanks!

Tamara Bowman said...

This hasn't come up for us..yet..but I still remember my parents getting so exasperated when our friends called! There were five of us and it never ended.

Danie' russell said...

My oldest is only 5 so thankfully, we haven't reached that point. Sadly for her, if mom picks up, she best be prepared to be embarrassed. That way I do t have to deal with kids calling, she'll be the one making the calls, haha, just to avoid being embarrassed. Thanks so much for linking up with the Tattler Thursday Blog Hop. (ImNoHumdrum-Mum)

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Ha! I only have three and the youngest is still too young. Can't imagine how busy the phone was with five!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Ha! That is certainly one way to keep them rom calling! :-)

Chris Carter said...

You are SO right about this... such a great idea to really teach specifics to our kids on how to converse on the phone! That is just so frustrating...

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Thanks, Chris!

and baby makes 4 said...

Yes and YES! I'm appalled by the general lack of social skills that abounds. But then again, it just means a little extra time to teach them the basics. I think you make an excellent point that phone communication has fallen down the list of common practices for kids. I will forever be thankful to my parents for teaching me how to make a call and answer the phone.

Karen said...

I totally agree with the rules... we always have to model and teach our kids how to behave and interact...Thinkyou should teach a course for adults too! pinning this.

Michelle Nahom said...

Sadly, kids today really need this. Quite honestly, I will have to pay attention the next time my kids answer the phone. They don't usually answer it, because we have caller id, and if they don't know the person, they don't answer (nor do I). Most of the time if someone is calling the house phone, its a telemarketer. Or one of our parents, in which case we do answer it. But I'm curious to see what they do if someone else we know calls. I don't think my kids ever call any of their friend's house phones...they simply text or Snap Chat to make plans.

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Thanks Karen! There are definitely some adults who could use these rules too! :-)

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

My kids aren't old enough to have cell phones yet so if they want to talk to their friends they have to use the home phone. And, they are just old enough to answer the phone sometimes. I am working to teach them to look at the Caller ID before they excitedly just pick it up and say "Hello!"

Ashley Linder said...


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