“Must Use” Parenting Tool: Nine Point Checklist for Proper Phone Etiquette

moe-logo.jpg Parents learn quickly that telephones are like magnets to children. With multiple cell phones and land lines ringing, children have greater access to phone communication than ever before, and are more fascinated than ever with their use.  

Per Spiderman’s creed, “With great power comes great responsibility,” children need to be taught early that the telephone is not a toy and that proper behavior is a must for anyone who uses the phone. Parents should always model courteous phone etiquette.  

The check list below is a good parenting tool to ensure that children use the phone properly. 

Ask to use the phone

To maintain boundaries, it is a good idea to require children to ask before using the phone. Very small children can be tempted to hit the redial button over and over, annoying the person on the receiving end. Older children can while away hours chatting, before parents become aware.  

Answer the phone properly

Parents should equip children with a polite greeting for answering the phone. “Hello, may I help you?” or “Hello, who is this speaking please?” are polite salutations and not abrupt like, “Yeah? Who’s this?” Unless the child knows who is calling, he should refrain from identifying himself. If the child knows the caller, (the phone is handed to him, or he recognizes the number displayed on the caller I.D. feature) he should say politely, “Hello, this is “Dan”.” 

When a child answers the phone and it is for someone else, he should politely say, for example, “Yes my mom is here, one moment please while I get her,” and always hand the phone to the requested person. Yelling, “MOM, PHONE!” is disrespectful to caller and call recipient and should be curbed immediately. Suspending phone privileges is an effective method of reinforcing ground rules; time out from phone use gives kids an appreciation for the privilege. 

Responding to a wrong number appropriately is crucial. Kids should never give personal information of any kind to unknown callers, including their own names or the names of others in the household. A respectful and smart response to a wrong number is, “I am sorry you have the wrong number,” and hang up.  

Conversing with a stranger over the phone is dangerous. People who prey on children know how to manipulate them into giving personal information. Parents should teach kids to hang up immediately and without saying, “goodbye,” if the caller makes them feel even remotely uncomfortable. After hanging up, the child should alert a parent immediately. 

Older children, home alone, should never let a strange caller know. Parents can train children to have an excuse ready, “I am sorry but my father is busy and can’t come to the phone right now. Goodbye.” The child should hang up immediately without further discussion. Screening calls is an even safer idea, kids can pick up only those calls where they recognize the caller’s I.D. 

Use a polite salutation when placing a call

A child placing a call should identify himself using his full name, “Hello, this is John Jones, is Miranda at home?” is a polite greeting. 

Speak so the listener can understand

Kids should be told to use an “indoor voice,” and encouraged to speak into the receiver clearly, without mumbling or yelling. Very young children sometimes go silent or trail off when on the phone, so parents should be ready to encourage the conversation or take over. Parents should make sure that the caller is amenable to speaking to a small child, as adorable as kids are, not everyone responds positively to teaching kids to use the phone. 

Establish time limits

Phone use is a privilege and parents need to set clear boundaries. Most families don’t allow calls to go out or come in between 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning and 9:00 at night.  

Set a reasonable amount of time for children to be on the phone. Preschoolers up through elementary age children are easy to limit, but parents need to be very clear and consistent with time limits for preteens and teens. It is appropriate to take a time out from the phone during the homework block, while eating dinner or during family time. Cell phone use and text messaging should be monitored to ensure activity doesn’t get out of hand.  

Finish the call politely

Little children should be taught to say, “goodbye,” at the end of the call, not to just toss the phone down or hang up. As children mature they should finish all phone calls with a polite remark such as, “It was great speaking with you,  Grandma.”  The phone should always be returned to its designated home by the person who used the phone last. 

Be respectful when others are using the phone

Eavesdropping, creating background noise, and speaking to or distracting a person who is on the phone, are all impolite behaviors that should not be tolerated. In addition, pushing phone buttons, playing with the cord, picking up an extension and grabbing at the phone are off limits behaviors that should be “nipped in the bud.” 

It is difficult for very small children to understand that they must be quiet when a parent is taking a call. Cutting calls short or planning important calls when children are napping, occupied by the other parent, or engaged in an activity, helps ensure less stressful phone calls. Parents can let older children know beforehand that they need quiet while they are on the phone.  

Take a message please

Children of about age eight and up can take a basic message. Paper and pens should be placed near phones and kids can be coached to ask for whom the call is for, who is calling, and the telephone number where the person can be reached. The child should read the information back to the caller to ensure accurate content. 

Leave a clear message

Even small children can be taught to leave a clear and concise message with their name and telephone number.  

The increase in telephone usage over the past decade has magnified the need for good telephone skills. Most people have a telephone on their person at all times. In addition, predators have gotten very adept at infiltrating homes and communicating with children. Completing the above checklist will assure parents that their children are politely and safely using the phone.                    

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Six Communication Skills Every Child Should Know

“I was at a party the other night and I got trapped in the corner by a man who just talked and talked and talked. I tried to give him the signals to end the conversation, but he didn’t pick up on them. What a bore.” 

Teaching children how to communicate politely and effectively is one of a parent’s most important tasks. Assuming that children will learn proper communication skills without parental guidance is a big mistake. Parents should begin teaching their children basic communication skills at birth and continue to hone their child’s skills as the child matures. Communicating well with others is a basic tenet of society. 

Daily conversations with children are an excellent way for parents to model basic communication skills. Deliberate conversations with children, using polite conversational skills, help lay a foundation for good communication later in life. The parent’s ultimate goal is to raise a person who converses courteously, who listens to what others say, and who is able to clearly express his or her own thoughts, ideas and opinions.  

On page 195 of her book, Emily Post’s Etiquette, Peggy Post lists six basics of communication that parents should teach to their kids.  First, she advises, make eye contact. It is important that children be taught to establish eye contact with the person with whom they are speaking. Looking directly at the other person in the conversation shows interest and gives respect. Children need to be taught that looking away is a sign of disinterest and is not good manners 

Second, speak clearly and correctly. Using good pronunciation, not rushing speech and using good grammar are all aspects of communication that parents should model for children. Parents should pay attention to how their children are speaking and gently correct without embarrassing. There is no need to correct mistakes in front of others, doing so may cause children to feel self-conscious, inhibiting their speech in public. 

Third, take turns and don’t interrupt. Children must be trained not to jump into a conversation just because they feel like talking. It is important that parents curb this behavior and teach children self-control. When a child interrupts, the parent should stop their conversation, firmly tell the interrupting child to wait their turn, and then pick-up the conversation where they left off. 

Fourth, pay attention and respond appropriately. Modeling good listening skills to children is the best way to teach good listening. When conversing with children, parents should listen attentively and repeat key phrases back to the child so that the child feels heard. Ask appropriate questions of the child and allow the child to respond. Show interest in what the child has to say. The best conversationalists are those who listen well. 

Fifth, enter conversations politely. There is a correct way to join a conversation that uses good manners. If parents consistently demonstrate how to politely enter a conversation, overtime, children will learn the practice. Parents should show children how to approach the group quietly, smile to those in conversation, listen to what people are saying, and wait until they are spoken to before speaking.  

It is also important for parents to teach children how to behave politely when someone joins an active conversation. Those in the group should smile and nod to recognize the person joining them, when the speaker finishes, the group can greet the newcomer and make introductions. 

Finally, Post notes that one should end conversations pleasantly. Walking away from a conversation with good manners is a crucial skill to possess and one that parents should work hard at teaching to their children. Parents should encourage children to leave a conversation saying some pleasantry such as, “I promised my cousin that I would throw the ball with him and so I need to go now, but it was really nice talking to you.”  

Other important skills that parents should focus on when teaching children basic communicational skills are controlling volume, not using “potty talk” and keeping private matters private.  

Parents should also help children to understand nonverbal communication and cues. Rude facial expressions like eye rolling and grimaces as well as yawning at a speaker, hair twisting, turning one’s back to the speaker, finger nail picking and checking one’s watch, are all bad manners. Children need to learn that their nonverbal actions and behaviors can make people feel badly.

Learning to read other people’s nonverbal cues is an important lesson too, and with time, children will begin to understand when to end conversations, finish a story or change a subject.  

Being an adept communicator is a necessary skill in today’s world. Children need guidance from their parents to learn how to communicate effectively and politely. Good listening skills, self-control, use of good grammar, and sensitivity are all skills that are learned. If parents start modeling conversation skills early, they will help their children develop refined and sophisticated communication behaviors that will benefit them greatly in adulthood.   

14 Table Manners that Your Child Should Know

After interviewing for an exciting employment opportunity, the young candidate was rejected, “When I asked for real feedback, the interviewer told me that although my job skills and education were a good fit, some of my table manners raised a red flag. The position entails many client dinners and I guess I had a few bad habits that they saw at meals during the interview process.” The candidate continued, “I would have loved to have been taught proper table manners by my parents. I feel at a real disadvantage, and I am quite frankly, embarrassed by my lack of manners.”

Sadly the situation the interviewee faced above is not uncommon. Competition is fierce for good jobs and seats in good universities. There are many more highly qualified applicants than positions. Polished table skills are a needed asset and social skill in this competitive culture.

Every parent wants to launch their children into the world with the skills they need to succeed. Equipping children with good table manners is an important lesson that all parents should want to give to their children. Using good table manners allows the focus to be placed on the conversation not on the act of eating. Having good table manners gives people the confidence to participate in any dining situation with ease.

Start introducing manners lessons slowly to very young children and add more refined lessons as the child matures. Consistency and repetition are very important when teaching children. Parents will have to reinforce the rules time and time again until good practices become habit. Remind children whenever a slip in manners occurs but don’t scold or nag.

Practicing good manners daily will eventually lead to mastery and manners will become second nature. As children develop fine motor skills, their use of utensils and glassware will improve. With constant repetition, by the early teen years, kids will have built up a comprehensive collection of manners which parents need only fine-tune for teens to be capable of attending the most formal of occasions.

For the well being of the children, even busy families should find the time to sit down together each evening for a meal. The most simple of meals, including take-out fare, are fine choices. Make sure that the food is transferred and/or served in serving dishes and that the family uses dinnerware. If dinner is impossible on certain evenings, families can sit down later in the evening for dessert; make sure to set the table and use dinnerware and utensils.

Teaching children the proper way to set the table is a perfect start for introducing the use of utensils, plates and glasses. Explain where each utensil is placed, what it is for, when it is used, and the correct way to hold it. Young children love being given a responsibility and will happily and proudly set the table each evening. Put placemats, napkins, silverware, plates, cups and bowls within reach of children to facilitate easy table setting. A good idea in homes with small children is to purchase nice quality melamine dishes so when plates drop they will not break.

Children do not learn proper table manners overnight. It takes years of repetition and consistent training to refine their skills. Parents have eighteen years to help shape their child’s table manners so there is plenty of time to patiently work with them. Expect lots of errors and missteps, use gentle guidance, never scold or embarrass, just kindly correct and continue eating.

If parents begin teaching manners when their children are toddlers, by the time the kids are in kindergarten they will have mastery of the basics.

The following is a list of table manners that your child should have a good grasp of by age six.

  • Wash their hands and face before sitting down to the table.
  • Sit down in their proper seat and put their napkin in their lap.
  • Wait to begin eating until everyone is seated and has been served. Many families wait until an adult gives permission to start eating.
  • Stay seated in their seats without wiggling in their chairs, going under the table, or getting up and down.
  • Say, “Excuse Me,” and ask permission to leave the table.
  • Elbows do not belong on the table.
  • Mouths should stay closed while chewing and pieces should be bite sized.
  •  “May I please” and “Thank you” should be used when children would like food and never reach across the table.
  • Participate in the conversation during dinner and no interruptions when other people are talking.
  • Slurping, burping, squealing, singing, humming are all sounds that are not to be made at the table.
  • It is never kind or polite to make negative comments about what is being served for dinner.
  • Before getting up at the end of the meal say, “May I please be excused?”
  • Ask if adults would like them to clear their dinner plate.
  • Thank the cook.

Preparing children for adulthood starts the moment the baby is placed in the arms of the mother. Teaching children to use good table manners is a wonderful gift that will serve them well throughout their entire lives. Parents will be proud that their children are using the good manners that they have taught them, and more importantly children will be polished and refined and capable of being comfortable in any situation.