I dial a friend’s number and when the phone is picked up I say hello.
There’s silence on the other end.
Than a small voice, an under-eight-year-old voice, says, “Who is this?”
Maybe it’s the question, or maybe the inflection, but it sounds rude.
The appropriate response to “Hello” when you call someone is almost always “Hello.” Right?
But kids don’t know that unless they’re taught. And telling your kids about good phone manners isn’t enough. In the moment they might feel shy on the telephone, or uncertain what to say, so you actually have to practice with them. When the kids were smaller, we’d play stuffy games to practice manners (and practically everything else). The manatee would have bad manners. The teddy bear would have good manners and Puppy would mediate their fights and instruct them both. Now that my kids are older, we practice phone manners when we’re walking home from school sometimes. I’m the person calling and the kids “answer” the phone.
“Who is this?” becomes “May I ask who’s calling please?”
“She isn’t home,” becomes “I’m sorry, my mom isn’t available right now.”
“Hold on,” becomes “Just a minute please.”
The rule in our house is that if you don’t have good phone manners you may not answer the phone.
A few days ago the phone rang. Athena, who’s nine, answered. “I’ll see,” she said into the receiver and then held out the phone to me. “Mom, it’s for you,” she said, without covering the phone. Her tone? Pleasant. Her manners? Not so good. I think it’s time for another lesson.
Are manners important to your family? How do you teach your kids to have good manners on the phone?