Teaching Telephone Manners, One Preteen at a Time

Being tough means never again having a kid demand to know “who’s that?” on the phone.

On an ordinary day, my phone rang. I answered it -- a pleasant “hello” -- and got a shock: “Who’s that?” a young person demanded to know.

I felt a little surge of anger at the rudeness but told who I am. “Is (son’s name) there?” the rude kid said, again in a demanding tone.

I got my son but the next time a rude kid called, he got a lecture and a detailed spelling out of how you approach a telephone call.

Because here’s the deal -- the kid involved is a really nice kid. And so are the other kids -- and there are a few -- who call and say “who’s this?” after they dial my family’s number. One by one they each got the lecture: When you call someone’s house, you identify yourself and state your business.

And one by one, the kids got with the system. “Hi, this is (Nice Neighbor Kid),” the child would say. “Can I talk to (son)?”

There are just two flies in the ointment.

The first is a child who doesn’t know that I have caller ID but who hangs up if the wrong person answers the telephone. She’s young, and I’ll have to have a talk to her at some point.

And the second is closer to home. I happened to overhear my own kid on the phone the other day, one who has had chats about phone manners and practice sessions when he was six on how to politely telephone a friend.

I heard him dial a number and then, a pause, and then I heard him say in a rude demanding tone: “Who’s this?”



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