We spent a good amount of time teaching our kids how to handle themselves on the phone, starting from a very young age. (The older boy had a phone fetish going starting when he was about 18 months old…by the time he was three he had no less than ten different toy phones: good for roleplaying!) Whether they were answering the phone or making a call to a friend, it was important to us that they:

1. were polite
2. were clear
3. identified themselves if they were making a call
4. didn’t give out personal information to a caller
5. could write down a message
6. could leave a clear message
7. didn’t fight each other for the chance to answer the phone. (I mean really, is the foot race really worth it?)

We always told them that if they didn’t feel comfortable with these skills, they had no business making calls or answering the phone. When we got Caller ID, we told them to answer only if they recognized the caller.

They have done really well. When we heard something that would be considered “questionable manners”, we called them (no pun intended) on it and explained what they should have said instead.

Now, I have two teens who are stars on the phone. (although they sometimes “forget” to tell me when grandma or Aunt Julie call…) They understand that if they don’t feel like answering or taking on the responsibility of passing on a message, they don’t have to answer it. That’s what the answering machine is for.

Today at work I had to call a potential client who wants to bring in 6 little girls for a Princess Pedicure party. I called the number that was on the note, and a child answered it. If I had to guess, I’d say he was between nine and eleven. The conversation went like this:

Him: “Hello?”

Me: “Hi. May I please speak to The Really Nice Mom Who Is Giving Her Daughter a Cool Party?*”

Him: “WHY?”

Me: Silent. I kinda thought he asked me why, but couldn’t imagine someone actually doing that so I thought maybe he said something like, “Hold on” or “I’ll get her”.

Him: “Hello?????”

Me: “OH! Sorry. Is she there?”

Him: “WHY??”

Me: “Why?” (my blood pressure is starting to soar) “Because I am returning her call.”

Him: “Well, she’s not here.”

Me: “Hmm. Okay. Well, I’ll call back another time. Thanks.” (I wouldn’t have even chanced leaving a message.)

What is up with people? Do they think kids come out of the womb knowing all they need to know to be productive citizens????

Send him to me for a week. I’ll whip him into shape.

*Names were changed to protect the probably-lovely-but-bad-with-teaching-phone-skills-Mom