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What children need to know about answering the phone

August 31, 2000

What children need to know about answering the phone

Teaching your Child | By Lisa Tedrick Prejean

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Michael Scultz"Hello, Schultzes. Michael Schultz speaking."

That's what you'll hear if you call the Hagerstown home of Randy and Carol Schultz.

The voice belongs to the Schultzes' 11-year-old son.

Randy Schultz, principal of Emma K. Doub Elementary School in Hagerstown, says he thought it was important to teach his three children how to answer the phone properly and take good messages.

"We just never thought it was special. That's the way we were taught. We thought everybody did it that way," says Michael, a sixth-grader at Northern Middle School in Hagerstown.

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It's frustrating to call someone's house and wonder whether the parents of the child on the other end will receive the message, Randy Schultz says.

He says his kids started answering the phone when they were in kindergarten, but the age will vary based on the child's development.

Children need verbal, memory and speech skills before they are given this responsibility, says JoEllen Barnhart, a speech instructor, assistant to the director at Frostburg State University Center in Hagerstown and mother of three.

Here are some suggestions from Schultz and Barnhart:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Before you allow a child to pick up a receiver, role play with him using a toy phone or your hand - thumb at your ear, pinkie at your mouth. Have your child "call" you and, in your response, model what is appropriate.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Teach your child to identify himself.

"People on the other end need to know who they're talking with," Schultz says.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Keep a notepad and pencil by the phone. Children should be told to write down who called, a telephone number and who the call was for.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Message taking is the child's primary duty. He should not offer family information over the phone.

"We are very cautious about giving information. They know they are listeners," Schultz says.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> A child should not tell a caller he is home alone. He can say that his parents aren't available to come to the phone.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If a parent is in the house but unavailable, the child should tell the caller just that. Don't say why.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> The child will take pride in seeing messages delivered, especially if callers later remark to his parents about how polite he is.

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