Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D               [ Back ]    [ Home ]    [ Next

OPINION COLUMN “Here’s a Thought.”                  

Nan DeVincent-Hayes                                                            Computer Word count without headings/blurb: 543




I hate when kids answer the phone. Sometimes I’m graced with a “hello”; usually it’s a: “Yeah?”

“Is your mother in?”

“I dunno.”

How can children not know if their parents aren’t in?

“Are you the only one home? Is there someone I can tal -“


“No what?”

“No. I ain’t the only one home.”

“Then is your dad home?”

“He’s in the bathroom,”

That was more information than I cared to know. “Would you please leave him or your mother a message?”

“Jist call back.”

“I won’t be here to call back.”


I try again. “Please tell your mother and father that the neighborhood meeting has been changed from tomorrow night to -“

”Wait ‘til I get a pencil.”

“No, look, it’s simple. Just tell them to go to the hall Thursday instead of tomorrow.”


“Could you read the message back to me please?”


“No? No you can’t or you won’t?”


“‘Yeah’ what?” I should have sent e-mail instead. I hear a toilet flush in the background. With hope, I ask, “Is you father available now?”

“He’s still in there.”

“Then please make sure to give your parents the message, okay?”

“Right, tell them to go to hell Thursday instead of tomorrow.”

“No No! Hall, I said.”

“What was it again?”

“The message? You want me to repeat it?” Maybe I should have just gone to their home;             “You want my parents to go to a meeting tomorrow.”

“I want them to get Thursday. Thursday! Why don’t you just write down my name and number?” I give him both. “Will you please relay the info back to name and number?”


I know the kid can tell that I’m losing my patience.

“So like you want me to give you back your number? I dint’ write it down.”

“Never mind. I’ll get them some way or another.”

“Wait! Heeeeeeeey, Maaaaaaaaam!

Your mother’s been there all along?”


I can never understand why parents don’t teach their children how to answer the phone, speak properly, politely, and clearly into the mouthpiece, and to write down all messages, even if from relatives.

Today’s youth don’t even speak proper grammar on the phone; neither do many adults. I hate when I ask, “Is Joan there” and the other person says, “This is me” or “this is her.”  It should be: “This is she.” But given that a lot of people get that wrong, there remains no reason callers and receivers can’t at least act dignified on the phone. Just as bad as an ill-mannered receiver, is a poorly bred caller.

Caller: “Is Tom in?” Not, “Hello, how are you? May I please speak to Tom” but just, “Tom in?”

Here’s a  thought: Let’s teach our children how to behave properly on the phone either as a caller or receiver. Better still, let’s model the right behavior for them. If children are old enough to call or answer a phone, then they should be old enough to demonstrate some decorum in using it. When my daughters were younger, we used to have “play-role” sessions on the phone. I think they learned the point.

Funny thing, though, I called my daughter the other day and she answered, “Yeah?”

Maybe it was the caller I.D. thing.


Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D. 

Copyright 2002 Nan Hayes