Teach Children Phone Courtesy And Manners

Teach your kids how to use the telephone responsibly so they can take messages and relay information that may be needed.

Today many teens and even younger children have their own cell phones. Many of them take messages at home for their parents or other family members. But not all of them do so courteously or responsibly.

If you plan to let your children use the telephone, teach them good phone manners by instilling a sense of courtesy and responsibility.

1. Set a good example. Speak clearly rather than mumble on the phone. Answer or screen all calls. Be polite but firm to sales callers. Avoid profanity or vulgarity. Avoid raising your voice or using slang. Time your calls so they don't intrude in others' lives or take up too much time. Don't talk about the caller behind his or her back. Whatever you do on the phone, it's a sure bet your kids are likely to follow suit.

2. Relay your expectations to the kids. Don't expect them to know automatically what you want them to do with a telephone. Telecommunication is not a skill we're born with, and some of us never acquire polish in talking with others on the line. Issue a few clear-cut directions like these:

-Answer the phone after no more than two rings.

-Always say "Hello" and not "Yeah?"

-Respond in complete sentences, not slang.

-Offer to take a message.

-Say "Good-bye" when hanging up rather than replace the receiver without saying anything.

3. You may want to practice with the kids first. Rehearse a possible scenario before you leave the house. Or, after you leave, call in and leave a message for another family member. Remind your kids to speak courteously and to respond fully. Then check when you get home to see how well it was communicated. If help is needed, patiently supply reminders until the kids have done it well a few times.

4. Leave message equipment near all telephones in the house. A pad of paper and a pen that works are your best bets. Don't leave anything valuable, like a work-related report or the phone bill, near the phone in case someone decides to take a message on it. If you use a voice mail program, check to be sure it's working properly before you leave, and instruct the kids whether to answer the phone before the voice mail picks up, or to answer only when they hear a recognizable voice start to leave a message.

5. Adjust instructions as needed. When expecting a long-distance all or an important business caller, tell the kids ahead of time so they don't hog the line with social calls or forget to pick up when the phone rings. Tell them exactly which information you want them to get, and leave a written prompt if you feel one is necessary. Also remind them of what they should relay about you, for example, when you'll return home, etc.

Telephone courtesy is more important than ever, so make it a point to teach your kids this valuable skill so no one loses vital messages. And do the same for them by taking names and numbers when their friends call. After all, one good turn deserves another!

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