“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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4 Successful Parenting Tips I Learned from my Harvard MBA Husband

moe-logo.jpgMy husband is an insightful businessman with the unique ability to create something out of nothing, envision the future, work efficiently and strategically, and quickly get to the bottom line. In his books and seminars he teaches useful business strategies to high level executives so that they can grow their businesses successfully. His clients rave about the results they achieve when they implement his lessons.

Eager to have the same successful results parenting that my husband’s clients have with their businesses, I have incorporated four of his business practices into my parenting technique.

Think Strategically

When one thinks strategically he or she devises a careful plan of action to carry out and achieve a goal. Strategic thinking is a helpful tool for today’s busy parents who are pulled in many different directions and pressed for time. Set a goal and devise a smart plan to achieve the goal. Strategic thinking can be used in conjunction with meal planning, grocery shopping, leaving the house in the morning, etc.

For example, getting the kids to bed at the same time every evening is a great goal that can often go awry for many households. Creating a step by step plan, in this case a bedtime ritual, is an excellent means towards achieving the goal of consistent bedtimes. As children become more and more familiar with the bedtime ritual their internal clocks get set and falling asleep gets easier and easier.

Strategic thinking makes parenting easier because the whole family knows and adheres to a good plan and with a minimum of stress, achieves their goals.

Time Management

Good time management asks two questions: Is the activity of value? If the activity is of value, what is the best way to do it efficiently? Parents who find that the day is overwhelming, should ask themselves whether the majority of their time is being spent doing important activities efficiently.

There are four questions that should be asked when determining the efficiency of their activities: Should the activity be done at all? Does the activity need to be done now? Can someone else do it? Does the activity have to be done perfectly or is good enough, good enough?

A simple example is setting the table for the evening meal. The answer for most families is, “Yes, this is an important activity.”  Does mom or dad have to step away from the stove to set the table now? “No, a child would feel proud to do it now.” Does it have to be approved by the Queen of England? “No, good enough will do and I am proud my child completed the table, not guilty that it isn’t perfect.”

Create Possibility and Move Things Forward

Creating possibility opens the future to bright and wonderful situations and creates opportunity. Moving things forward happens when the person acts on the possibility created.

Parents should be coming from the possibility of love for children when there is opportunity to express it. For example, when a parent is faced with a challenging discipline situation, he can scream and lose his marbles or he can come up with ideas or possibilities to express his love while still managing the children’s behavior.

“Maybe my kids are out of control because we have been in the car all morning, if I take them to the shore and let them run on the beach for an hour I bet we would all calm down.” Moving things forward is then simply Dad driving to the beach and having a wonderful time rough housing with the kids for an hour.

Another way of thinking about this is Stephen Covey’s concept of choice. As he says in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People:“BETWEEN STIMULUS AND RESPONSE IS OUR FREEDOM TO CHOOSE. We have self-awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will. Responsibility is the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”

Manage Risk

With every activity in life there is the chance that something could go wrong. Putting a baby in the tub and feeding whole grapes to toddlers are high risk parenting activities. Moving the baby from the crib to a bed with a rail is medium risk and coloring at the counter with washable markers is low risk but risky all the same.

Thinking ahead will help parents manage risk and will minimize the likelihood that something might go wrong. Parents need to get in the habit of asking themselves, “If I let my kids do this, what is the most likely outcome.”

Parents should measure the probability of something (good or bad) happening multiplied by the negative impact if it does happen. They should then ask, “What is the cost of eliminating the risk?”

For example: Electrical outlets are dangerous if a child sticks a fork in one, so parents are willing to go to the baby store and buy outlet protectors. A child might possibly be able to remove an outlet cover, but is that slight risk worth the parent hiring an electrician to come in and move all of the electrical outlets up to the ceiling?

Parents who overestimate the probability that something will happen, compulsively worry and hover. People who underestimate risk don’t provide a safe environment for kids. Good parents are able to correctly estimate risk so that they protect their children when the risk is too high and loosen up the reigns when the risk is low.

Applying these business management practices to the everyday challenges of parenting will help give parents tools to parent more efficiently and with less stress. Parenting thoughtfully and creatively will model effective adult behavior to children and create a calm and peaceful home.