I hurried up the stairs with a laundry basket to answer the ringing phone.
“Who’s this?” a child’s voice asks.
This is just one of the most annoying examples of how kids talk on the phone and I can forgive it because they haven’t yet perfected their phone etiquette. I wish I could say that this had only happened when a child called, unfortunately it’s happened many times with grownups.
So when do we teach phone etiquette? As soon as your children are making phone calls. For my kids that is around age five. Before then, they talk on the phone, but I don’t let them answer or make calls until they are able to do so respectfully.
Why is it important to teach our children? Think of how many jobs utilize the phone and how important it is for business people to be professional on the phone. If your children learn correctly at a young age, they won’t have to re-learn or break bad habits when they enter the workforce.
Teaching Children Phone Etiquette:
If you are calling, identify yourself. This is Gracie, is Kelli there? Or “May I talk to Kelli?” Never give a lesson to a child or an adult in grammar by being rude. If someone asks, “Can I talk to Kelli?” You don’t say, “I don’t know, can you?” Just as you shouldn’t be superior when someone asks “Is Kelli there?” and you respond, “Yes.” And then make them ask if they can talk to them. We definitely know they aren’t calling to check if the person is there.
May I ask who’s calling?
If your child answers the phone and someone, especially an adult says, “Who’s this?” The child needs to respond, “May I ask who’s calling?” I’ve told my kids if it’s one of their friends, I don’t mind if they say, “This is Sophie.” But an adult should never ask who they are before identifying themselves. Likewise, my children don’t need to give out information about whether I’m busy or gone to an adult if they don’t know who it is.
Take a message
Don’t give out personal information. My mom is in the shower, my dad isn’t here. You can say, “She isn’t available right now.” Or “She’s busy right now, can I take a message?”
Speak in a clear voice, don’t mumble.
Teach your kids how to hold the phone correctly so that they are speaking into the mouthpiece and also holding it by their ear so they can hear properly. Teach them to speak clearly and not mumble as it is difficult to hear. Also give them pointers about what they can do if it gets too loud while they are trying to talk. Go to another room and shut the door, etc. I’ve noticed that my kids have a really difficult time concentrating on their phone conversation if there is any background noise. I think this is because they haven’t learned to tune it out yet, but it will help to ease frustration if you teach them this concept.
Don’t speak too loud
Don’t yell for someone when they’re wanted on the phone (unless you cover the receiver or mute the phone.) This sound is amplified and hurts the person’s ears. Teach your children that it’s better to go and hand the person the phone. In cases where Mom or Dad are too far away, take a message. Also, don’t speak too loud or yell into the phone during a conversation. If they can’t hear, they can ask politely, “Can you please speak louder. I can’t hear you.”
Parents Set the Example
As parents, we can set the example of how to talk on the phone. Children learn by watching and they only have to see something once to mimic it.
I have a high-pitched voice so many times when people call, they ask, “Is your mom there?” Politely, I say, “This is the mom,” or I’ll say “This is Rachelle.” It’s an honest mistake and one that will sometimes happen to kids in reverse, even little boys. What I mean is that sometimes kids will answer the phone and the person might say, “Hi, Rachelle.” Instruct your child that if this happens, don’t be upset. Sometimes there is background noise that makes it hard for the person to hear properly and they can’t recognize the voice. Have your child respond, “No, this is Daniel, but I can get my mom if you’d like.”
Recently I was helping my six-year-old call to invite a friend over and I made this mistake. My baby was crying and when the person answered I couldn’t hear very well, so I just asked, “Is your mom or dad there?”
The person responded. “Uh, no they’re not.” And by that time I realized that it was the husband who had answered the phone. He was totally serious about saying that his parents weren’t there and didn’t say anything else even when there was an uncomfortable pause. I was unsure of how to continue, so I said, “Well, I was calling to see if Emily could come and play with Sally.”
“Oh, all right. Let me check,” he responded.
I was embarrassed that I had made the mistake, but what he did was extremely rude and juvenile. So I made sure to let him know that this same type of thing happens to me at least once a week and I am never rude to the caller. He apologized and I hope learned an important lesson especially since his behavior was being modeled in front of his family.
So back to the initial call I took where the child asked me, “Who’s this?”
How do I respond? I usually say, “This is Rachelle. Who is this?” But if a child calls repeatedly and says that, I will say, “Who is this?” in a kind voice. I’m not going to try to teach them proper phone etiquette, but by example will be polite and draw attention to the fact that they haven’t identified themselves.
If you haven’t taken the time to teach your children proper phone etiquette or if you hear them being disrespectful, it may be a good idea to make a rule: You may not answer the phone until you have learned to do so correctly.
I hope these tips help encourage your children to speak on the phone politely through adolescence and into adulthood.
*This article was featured on YourLDSneighborhood newsletter.