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Phone Manners

In English class, we've been learning about our telephone manners and what to say when people call. Perhaps I am the only parent deliberately teaching my child rudeness, but I'll share a bit about our homeschool experience anyway.

In the Bob Jones curriculum, a sample conversation would be the following:

JR: Hello. Ramirez residence. Juan speaking.

Mrs E: Oh, hello, Juan! This is Mrs. Edgington. May I speak to your mother?

JR: I'm sorry, Mrs. Edgington. Mother has gone to Australia, and Father to the United Kingdom. I'm afraid I'm all alone in the house with this large pile of money and several young infants I'm having trouble keeping a good eye on. Good thing everyone who calls our house is a Christian, or they might take some of them as well as the stock certificates in Father's upper-right desk drawer...

(Yes, I'm exaggerating. But only slightly.)

Mother has amended the curriculum so that it more closely resembles the following conversation:

JR: Hello. (No way my kid is telling the caller who we are. They know who we are because they're calling us. If they don't know us, and they're telemarketers, they'll ask for me under my maiden name because that's what I deliberately got phone service under. You don't think I'm just going to let ANYONE know who we REALLY are if I can help it, do you?? The children have been instructed to hang up on anyone asking for "Mr. or Mrs. B.")

Mrs. E.: Can I speak to your mother? (OK at this point, we know it's either a friend or a diabolical childnapper/burglar/telemarketer. We need to differentiate between the two categories.)

JR: Who is this, please?

Mrs. E.: Oh, it's Mrs. Edgington. I go to church with you guys.

JR: Sorry, Mrs. Edgington. She can't come to the phone right now, so can I take a message?

We want to be polite, but not stupid. Unfortunately, I've been placed in situations by telemarketers where I am forced to be extremely rude. I refuse to feel guilty about it when someone calls and asks for Mrs. B and I ask who they are... and they say, Is this Mrs. B?... and I tell them I'm not telling them who *I* am until they tell me who *they* are because they're calling *my* house... Oh, well, I need to speak to Mrs. B. ... Um, I can't tell you if you have the right number until you tell me who you are... and so on until one of us hangs up.

I just have the kids hang up on that sort of nonsense.

But I don't want them to be rude ordinarily.

The phone, I think, is a difficult tool to teach children to handle. I'd rather my children be a bit rude and maintain our family's safety than to be overly polite and risk Child Protective Services with "Mother's out" comments, or worse. Before we place a call, I will generally go over a "script" with them.

Yesterday we called Nana to thank her for hosting Flat Stanley. Things went well until the end of the conversation when Emperor, instead of the expected "goodbye," decided on the closing remark of, "I don't want to talk to you anymore. Here's Elf."



  1. Trying to get the right balance of being polite and safe must be quite difficult to teach.
    Sounds as though you have it well in hand though!


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