Who’s Calling Please?

by Melissa W. Sais

You know the drill: The phone rings and your kid bolts from whatever she’s doing to be the first to answer it. But how many times have you  left a message with a 7-year-old that you’re sure will never be delivered? Or answered a cryptic call from a kid that leaves you scratching your head? When kids get phone obsessed, it’s time to lay some ground rules. Angelica J. Menefee, president of the curriculum-development company Trampoline: Learning Programs for Young Minds in Towson, Md., helps you get started:

Pick a greeting. “Hello, Garcia residence,” used to be standard, but some families are now concerned about giving out personal information over the phone. “I don’t want strangers to learn a name to go with the very young and female voice that answers,” says Cecille Hansen, mom of a 7-year-old in Seattle. Let kids know just a “Hello” is fine. but “Yeah, who’s this?” is not.

Focus. When answering, kids should be focused enough to understand who the caller is and whom she wants to speak with. When the caller says,  “May I speak to your mother?” the child should know to respond, “Yes. May I ask who’s calling?”

Don’t shout. Tell kids to set the phone down and go find the person the caller requests or quietly carry the phone to him. “If you know who the caller is, the child should feel free to chat while she walks – the caller will probably enjoy it,” says Marianne Cohen of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in Marblehead, Mass.

Take a message. Designate a nearby whiteboard or a notepad, and instruct your child to write the caller’s name and number and repeat it back to him or her. An alternative is to ask the person to call back and leave a voice message.

Think it through. Before your child makes a call, have her think about what she’s going to say. Greet the person receiving the call with, “Hello. This is Isabella. May I please speak to Caitlin?” Always end with “Goodbye.”

First appeared in Parenting School Years, April 2010.