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Teaching Your Preschooler Telephone Manners

Good phone manners are important for etiquette and safety

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Telephone manners are something that will stay with your preschooler for the rest of her life.

Telephone manners are something that will stay with your preschooler for the rest of her life.

Elisa Cicinelli

What happens when the phone rings in your house? Is it a race to the finish line to see who can get there first? And if your preschooler "wins" how does her victory call go? Is she confident when she picks up, saying "hello" and giving nice clear and concise answers or is she timid and shy, barely speaking at all and (even worse) hanging up before you get a chance to talk to the person on the other end? A little of both? Not knowing what you are going to get phone manners-wise is enough to make you ban your little one from picking up the telephone at all, but really, that drastic move is unnecessary. With a little guidance and coaching, your child can have sparkling telephone manners, ones that will show off her good etiquette and help keep her safe. Here's how.

Start early You may feel like your three-year-old is too young to answer the phone, and that might be true for your family, but you still may want to review the basic rules. The fact of the matter is that a ringing telephone can be mighty enticing to a young child and too tempting to simply pass by. There may also be occasions when you can't get to the phone -- you are in the bathroom, downstairs doing laundry or a number of other settings where it would be helpful if your little one can lend you some assistance by picking up and saying hello. So even if you'd prefer she let a ringing phone ring, it might make sense to go over the proper etiquette so she can answer the phone if you need her to or if she decides to anyway.

Keep it simple. Want your child to answer the phone politely? Make it as easy as possible for them. Instruct them to simply say, "Hello?" and then wait for the caller's response. Rather than have your child getting tripped up in relaying messages or answering questions (see "Safety" below), have them bring the phone directly to you, unless they know the person who is calling well -- a family friend, a relative, etc. Take advantage of your child's big imagination by doing some role playing to give them practice time.

Consider safety too. A big issue to be aware of when a young child answers the phone is the possibility that they'll give away a lot of person information to someone that they (and you) don't necessarily know. When reviewing the rules of answering the telephone, tell your child to never give his name, address or other information like who is home and who isn't unless it's a person they absolutely know.

Know that people understand. If your preschooler picks up the phone and gives little more than a grunt to the caller on the other end, or starts singing or shouting or some other inappropriate behavior, you might be embarrassed, but chances are whoever is calling you, even if it's a professional call, will understand what has happened. If your child gets to the phone before you are able to, simply apologize (and even share a laugh) and move on to the business of the phone call).

Calling requires manners too. There are instances where you may want your child to pick up the phone and make a call. Some are happy reasons -- calling grandpa for example -- while others are an emergency situation. Whatever the case, again, practice how you'd like your preschooler to act when they pick up the phone and make a call. If you are having them practice making a 9-1-1 call, be sure to disconnect the phone first. If you'd like to have them call a relative or friend, see if you can get someone on the other end of the phone to practice with your little one. An easy sentence for your preschooler to remember for making a phone call is, "Hi, this is Mary, may I please speak to Grandma?" Follow up with "thank you!" and "goodbye."

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