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Teaching phone manners to kids

Got manners? Learning proper manners for using the telephone is an important life skill for your kids. Whether they are old enough to answer the phone or simply having a chat with grandma, using manners is important.

Child on phone

Even when your child is young, they are paying close attention to you when you use your phone. Infant toy telephones and toy cell phones offer a good chance to model appropriate phone behavior.

So much more of our day revolves around the phone now that learning proper manners early is important.

Making a call

Phone manners are all about respect. A great early experience for using the phone is calling a grandparent to say hello or a friend for a play date. These are relatively safe phone calls to make. Teach him to identify himself first, by saying, “Hello, this is Joe. May I please speak to John?” Discuss how to ask to leave a message if someone is not available and to always say “Thank you” and “Goodbye.”

Sometimes kids need to call coaches, neighbors or other adults they don’t know well. In those cases, teach them to introduce themselves more completely, as in, “Hello, this is Joe Smith,” and then move on to the question or reason they have called. Again, they always need to say “Thank you” and “Goodbye.” These types of calls are more difficult for kids and require more practice. Make sure they remember to listen carefully to the information they are given and to take notes if they need to remember something.

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What a child says when he answers the phone is as much about safety as it is respect for the person on the other end. When answering the phone, she takes on the role of information gatherer more than information giver.

Giving a name — or any other information, for that matter — isn’t always appropriate. Caller ID is a great aid in discerning how much information to give, or whether to answer the phone in the first place. You might have a rule that if the kids don’t recognize the caller ID, they don’t answer the phone. If it’s a valid call, the person will leave a message, and you can call them back.

For calls they do answer, kids should be taught not to give their names or any additional information — who is or isn’t at home, address and so on. When in doubt, your kids can pass the phone to an adult, or ask the caller to leave a message or to call back another time.


Taking appropriate phone messages is a sign of respect for the caller and for the message recipient. Plenty of adults even struggle to take and deliver proper messages. Have a pad of paper near the phone for messages and plenty of writing instruments located at each phone location. Cordless phones may not always be in the base, so be sure to have extra pads and pencils at strategic locations throughout the house.

At the very least, your child should be able to get a name and number of the person calling, and note what time the call was received. Teach them to verify spellings if they are unsure. They can even ask the caller, “Can I please have my mom (or dad) call you back for those details?” if the message seems complicated. Delivering the messages is also important. Show your child a good place to leave phone messages for all family members, since it’s easy to forget about them hours later.

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Teaching phone manners is a process that takes time and practice. Start teaching your kids early about phone manners, and they soon become second nature.

More on kids and manners

Benefits of good manners go beyond the table
5 Table manners rules every kid should know
Kids and manners: Start with the basics

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