Teach your kids phone etiquette (especially if they’re going to be calling my house)

Ivy says:

Seriously, if one more person calls my house and just says “Where’s (someone that lives in my house)?”, I am going to scream. Or, “Is (whoever) there?” which is not exactly impolite, but it just drives me nuts. I’d like to say, “Yes.” and nothing else.

I am HUUUUUGE on phone manners. I start young with letting my kids call Grandma and Papaw and telling them to ask for the person who doesn’t answer the phone. “May I please speak to Papaw?” is what I teach them to ask. I also talk to them about what to say if they dial the wrong number: “I’m sorry, I must have dialed the wrong number, goodbye” instead of “Wrong number” (click) which I also hate.

When they learn to read and write, it’s time to start letting them answer the phone, starting with people we know (Thank you, God, for caller ID) and then when they have the hang of that, letting them answer numbers they don’t know. I make sure to always keep a pen and paper by the phone and tell them to say, “Mr. Ivy isn’t available, may I take a message?”

One good way to practice is with play phones or even with walkie talkies. And don’t forget to teach them to say “Goodbye” to end the call. It drives me nuts when people don’t say goodbye and just hang up. I’ve been known to call people back just to say goodbye when my cell phone drops the call. I just can’t handle not saying goodbye. I know. OCD.

So, Home Eccers, what are your phone etiquette pet peeves?


  1. MichaelDhaseleer on August 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    One of my issues with etiquette is picking up the phone and having the caller speak so quickly that I can’t make out what they’re saying. Most of the time this happens with business calls. The caller says hello this is “abc with xyz” and they say it so fast or sloppy that I have to ask again. If I still can’t make it out I tell them I can’t understand them and they’ll have to speak slower. This same issue applies to leaving messages as well. How many of you are frustrated when you have to play the message back over and over because the person leaving the message flies through the number you’re trying to write down, or just as bad, you can’t make out their name?

  2. Miss Genevieve on October 19, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    The first three digits of my home phone number {not area code} is the same three digits of an area code for a different state so if people forget to dial 1 they call accidentally call my house. This happens several times a day and is very annoying.

    Also, a wrong number call came the other day and they asked for Ashley. I told them that they had a wrong number and they asked if I knew Ashley. Argh.

    Also, my kids aren’t quite big enough yet for the phone but, my husband and I got a landline so, when the time comes they can get calls at the house. Up until about a year ago we only had cellphones.

  3. Two Way Radio on October 13, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I just find it annoying when people make the most random of calls even though you seen them on the same day and you have nothing to talk about. Pointless and annoying.

  4. meghan on September 14, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    At least in work settings, I work at a university, with a lot of phone numbers for different departments obviously and it always bothers me when people call one line looking for another and get mad when I don’t have that number handy. I’m sorry, it’s not my fault you are completely inept at looking up phone numbers.

  5. Patty F. on September 10, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Brenda, I had a boss once who suggested that when a caller asked “Guess who?” you should say “I don’t know, but I’ll call you back when I figure it out”, and then just hang up!

  6. Barbara H. on September 10, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    I hate when people call and don’t identify themselves first, or worse yet, say “Who’s this?”

  7. Summer on September 10, 2008 at 11:39 am

    One of my phone pet peeves is when the folks answering a business phone don’t ID themselves. If they ID themselves — “Good afternoon, ABC Plumbing, this is John Doe” — it immediately makes the call more personal and relaxed. Otherwise, I feel it’s like pulling teeth to get to the right person or get information out of them.

  8. JRae on September 9, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Omg, Brenda I hate guessing voices too! I never know who it is because I’m bad with voices and it’s awkward all around.

    I don’t understand this call waiting is rude thing. Call waiting is way more polite than having to call someone’s house over and over again, trying to reach them and not being able to get through.

    The proper call waiting etiquette is to let the first caller know you’re checking the the other caller and will be back soon. Find out who the second caller is, tell them you’ll call them back when you’re done with first caller, and voila! Piece of cake, done in under 30 seconds, and all very polite. Just keep the check quick and don’t linger and chat with them, it’s rude to the first caller. But it’s also rude to the second caller not to have call waiting…

    If the second call is more important, tell the first caller so and that you’ll call them back later.

    I just go on about it because my boyfriend’s parents also have some hangup about call waiting being rude, and therefore sometimes it can be difficult to reach them at their house. It’s quite frustrating, esp. when we’re trying to make plans or something…

  9. Rachel on September 9, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Relatedly, I’d prefer if parents didn’t put their little ones on the phone for me to talk to, when the kids are too little to really talk. Awkward.

    My parents think call waiting is rude, too. I had a different take on that when I lived 500 miles away from them in college and wondered how I’d get through to them in an emergency.

  10. Brenda on September 9, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    I really dislike it when someone that I know, but who may not have been in touch (voice-to-voice) for a while, will respond to my “Hello?” by wanting me to guess who they are. Not amusing!


  11. Trixie on September 9, 2008 at 6:23 am

    Oh my yes, good phone manners are SO important! And dare I say there are plenty of adults that could also benefit from good phone manners…

    Take Care,


  12. Eyebee on September 9, 2008 at 2:39 am

    The thing I like about email is that I can answer it at a convenient point in my workflow. You either have to answer the phone or miss the call, when they don’t leave a voicemail, or, jsut as bad, leave a voicemail saying call me back as soon as you get this message, but give no hint of the reason for the urgency (which is usually non-existent).

    Some clients never seem to understand that I can actually get their work done quicker, if they stop calling with inane questions all day.

    An example: I had one call me today for changes to a web site. He prattled on for 45 mins about changes he wanted made (which should have been finalized BEFORE giving me the artwork). Even so, a punch list in an email would have been far quicker for him to type, and me to read. Still, it’s another 45 mins on the invoice, so I’m not really complaining. It’s still annoying though!

  13. Shirla on September 8, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    One of my biggest pet peeve is when someone calls me and they have the wrong number and they ask me “what number did I dial”? I’m not going to tell them my number, they dialed it they should know what they dialed. I always say, “well what number did you dial”? They normally just hang up when I say that.

  14. Chucker on September 8, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    My dad did not abide wrong number callers. If the phone rang and they asked for someone he didn’t know, he’d say “Just a moment” and put down the phone.

    Not hang up, just set it down

    Usually – a half hour or so later – when he picked it up, they had gone away.

    I used to wonder how long they stayed on the line?

  15. Jenn on September 8, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Mom of three, my mom taught me that one. I had to use it a few times when I worked for a small hotel company that had trouble paying it’s bills. If someone called back angry I would say that we must have gotten disconnected somehow.

    It does take a little practice to do it well. I tend to pause just before I’m about to hang up because I know it’s coming.

  16. Mom of three on September 8, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    One thing my hubby taught me is no one would EVER hang up on themselves while they are talking. So if you are asked to be put on hold for an incoming call, as you start to say sure, hang up. They will think you got disconnected and will call back if they want to talk. If not, at least you aren’t paying for the call.

    If someone wants to continue a conversation and you don’t want to, just wait until it’s your turn, start to add something important to the conversation, and then hang up mid sentence. IF they call back, don’t answer.

  17. Fawn on September 8, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I’m with Karen on this one. Although I would be very impressed if someone with a child’s voice said, “May I please speak with so-and-so?”, if I heard “Is so-and-so there, please?” that would be just fine, too. The PLEASE is definitely important, though.

    And yeah, someone calling and saying , “Who’s this?” I HATE that!

  18. KarenR on September 8, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Wow, I’m surprised to hear I’ve been so rude all these years. I was always taught (and have taught my daughters) to ask “Is X there, please?” Simple, direct, polite. I guess I would feel like I was taking up too much of the answerer’s time otherwise. Maybe it’s a regional thing, because that’s how people who call my house have always asked, too, and I am very big on phone manners.
    I hate when people who have caller ID answer my call saying “Hi, Karen!” I find it unsettling and would prefer to go through the charade of identifying myself.

  19. kateanon on September 8, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Most of my peeves are covered here.
    One that I have that isn’t: Don’t have two conversations at once. If the person in person is so important to talk to, call me back.

    My first business was a medical answering service, so I have a ton of bad phone ettiquette issues. Just glad to know someone is still teaching good manners over the lines!

  20. April@ SALT for the Spirit on September 8, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    My mom always taught us to identify ourselves before asking to talk to whomever. I like that. Even if people are polite, I don’t think I should be the one to ask, “May I ask who’s calling, please?” That’s one I’ll be teaching my kids.

  21. Angela on September 8, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    It is a good thing not many paople call me and well if you do you should be prepared for screaming kids aswering the phone, fighting as they are running the phone to me. With a new baby in the house I can not jump up to anwer the phone all the time and well my children think it is a crime to just let it ring.

  22. Jenn on September 8, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Dana, we’re keeping our landline just to have a grounded “home phone.” I know my 5-year-old will soon be receiving calls from her friends (Oh, and listening to two preschoolers talk on the phone is hillarious!) and I don’t particularly want to be fielding those on my cell. Plus, without a landline, as the mommy, my cell phone becomes the default way to reach our daughter, as though it’s unthinkable she would be with my husband or hat he should be troubled with the domestic details. And while she is mostly with me, I dislike the assumptions there and I know it would completely frost me for someone to call for her while I’m out on some personal time.

    We won’t be getting our daughter a cell phone until she’s out of the house and able to buy a phone and plan herself so a landline will also be the phone she calls her own. (“Queenbee Moms and Kingpin Dads” has some really good reasons for not giving your teen a cellphone.)

    One of my pet peeves is people who assume I have caller id and will return their call even though they don’t leave a message. We don’t have caller ID on the home phone so if you don’t leave a message I won’t know you called. And if you call my cell, which does have caller id, and choose not to leave a message, then you must have decided to tell me whatever it was later.

    Kaye, I’ve worked hard to overcome my “who’s this” tendencies and now say “this is Jenn, is this xxx?”

  23. Badbadivy on September 8, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    For all the no landline people, I have a few suggestions based on my own personal experience. First, you do not want your kids giving out your cell number as their own number. Kids prank call, they send strange text messages, they do rude kid things and your head will explode.

    Once your kids get to the age when they want to call people and be called, you have a few options.

    The cheapest option that I have found is the Magic Jack. I have no personal experience with it, but it has gotten great reviews from sources I trust, so it is probably well worth looking into.

    There’s also VOIP, which there are many options for. I use Comcast’s VOIP and am generally happy with it.

    Then there’s always the traditional land line, which has gotten significantly cheaper with the advent of VOIP and the Magic Jack.

    And, you can always get your kid their own cell phone. I know, I know! A lot of you don’t want to. BUT, my oldest son had a pre-paid cell phone for the first 3 years he had a phone and it taught him several things about responsibility. He had to do chores to earn minutes for his phone, and last year his grandmother put him on her family plan, and she’s never once complained about him being a minutes hog or anything. So, I think giving a kid a pre-paid cell phone can be a very good tool for teaching responsibility.

  24. chocolatechic on September 8, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    The biggest pet peeve of mine is if I have called you and you put me on hold because someone else is calling. What is that??? call waiting??? I think.

    Anyway, I call my mom ~~long distance, my dime, ~~and it never fails, we will be talking, and she says “hold on a minute, someone else is trying to get through” like I’m not worth her time and the other person is more important.

    The other one is when I am on the phone and my kids ignore the phone at my ear and begin to try to have a conversation with me, or tell me what horrible crime the other has committed…etc.

  25. Karen on September 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    not saying goodbye – seriously? people do this? I thought that was only on TV.

    I have the same peeve as Kaya – the caller asking the responder to identify him/herself. But don’t even get me started on cellphone etiquette! (I don’t even own one. My son isn’t getting one until he can sign and pay for his own. Evil mom, I know.)

    Caller ID especially and also answering machines/voicemail have changed matters. I think that people are unaware that they assume the responder has caller ID. I don’t and sometimes I don’t recognise a voice. I hate needing to ask the caller his/her name.

  26. AnnMarie on September 8, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    I’d never thought of this before: I have no idea how my daughter will learn to answer the phone. We no longer have a family phone. DH & I each have our own cell phone. I suppose his phone will become a family phone she’ll be allowed to answer? How weird that will be ‘cuz I’m so used to only him answering it (as are all of his guy friends, uh oh!).

    And no, we have no plans for her to have her own cellphone until she is at least a teen and preferably not till she leaves home.

  27. Dana on September 8, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    These are all really good ones…I have had people call me and insist that they have the correct number…even though I know that I am not a.)named Vikki, b.)a French bistro, or c.)selling my house in an entirely different state…I’ve had people get into actual arguments with me over this! I’m always tempted to say something along the lines of Sesame Street being a good place to learn their numbers.

    Also, on a related note…I haven’t had a landline phone in years…and although my daughter is no where near old enough to answer anything other than her Fisher-Price phone…I’m wondering how we will handle her getting/making calls and learning this much needed etiquette.

  28. TennZen on September 8, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    My big phone peeve is how people insist on continuing to talk when I’ve indicated that it isn’t a good time. I’ll say things like, “I’m sorry I can’t talk, I was just headed out the door,” or “I’m in the middle of fixing supper,” or “I was just about to go to bed.” But they keep on yakkin’. Being raised the way I was, it’s not in my nature to say, “get to the point, will ya” or to just hang up. I can’t do that.

    The other big phone peeve is when people call and get the voice mail… then hang up and call right back. 3 or 4 times even! If you call and get the voice mail, either I’m not home, I’m busy and can’t come to the phone, or I just don’t want to talk to you. Leave a message. Duh.

  29. Pam on September 8, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    OH MY!!! If you call my home and I answer the phone and you wish to speak to my husband I expect you to acknowlege me presence…”Good evening…..hope I’m not interupting anything….this is Joe Blow and I am sorry to bother your hubby at home with this work related question but could I please speak to him?? Have a plesent evening……. NOT….JUST….is John Doe home???? like I am an answering service…..OH BOY!!!

  30. Mom of three on September 8, 2008 at 11:56 am


    A guy calls Friday and when I answer, he says, “What do you want?” Excuse me?!? I had him repeat himself. “What do you want?”

    “I don’t want anything, what do you want?”, I say irritated. “Didn’t you just call me?” he says.

    “No, I don’t have a clue who you are.” I say, as I hung up. Apparently he thought his caller ID had my number. He also apparently thought I was calling his business. Now I ask you, would YOU use his services? (note: I left out part of the conversation where he informed me, rudely, what his business was and that my number was on his caller ID.)

    I know I didn’t call him, and my mother has her own phone and no one else was at home except for the birds, who are in cages, so I doubt they called him. Needless to say, I won’t call him should I ever need such services either.

    “What do I want?” I want you to wait and call me back IF and only IF I leave my name and number and ask for such a call. I want you to state your name and place of business when you do call back. And I expect you to act like my business is important to your well being and not an interruption to your day. Otherwise don’t call me back. There are lots of other people in your field who do want my business.
    And a proper greeting when someone answers the other line is “Hello, my name is John Smith”, not “What do you want?”

  31. Kaye on September 8, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Oooh. Good topic. My biggest pet peeve…

    When someone calls MY house and after I answer, “Hello?” they ask me, “Who’s this?”

    EXCUSE ME? You called MY house…who is THIS?


    Thank you. I needed to vent that today. =)

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