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Handling Telemarketers, Kiddy Style

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As parents, we always strive to teach decorum and proper behavior to our kids. One of these areas has to do with how one handles telephone calls.

As a matter of personal choice I rarely pick up the phone. Having three females in the house for a number of years, the Pavlovian in me has learned that chances of me receiving calls is rather insignificant. Nevertheless proper telephone etiquette is a necessity of life. I still answer most calls I receive in the office.

So here's the conundrum. How can we teach the kids proper telephone manners when most callers are telemarketers? My wife and I have different approaches in dealing with them. Depending on her mood she could go from rude to nasty. In some cases it even makes me shudder, which is why I sometimes plead with her to allow me to handle the calls. My methods are more gentle. They go from abruptly declining to fooling with them.

I have to admit neither of us employs much etiquette in dealing with telemarketers. But I'm afraid that now my children have acquired some of this crude behavior and that worries me.

As adults we can differentiate between a genuine call and a sales cold call. The distinction is murky for kids however. The learned response is to be rude, no matter how amiable the caller is. In fact it seems that the more polite the agent, the more harassment the kids will unleash.

I'm not sure what the solution is. How do you teach grade-schoolers that some polite callers are really script-regurgitating sales-people interested in selling something they may not even know about and collecting a commission? And they might be calling from the next town, India, or even a federal prison.

For now we've taught them to never identify themselves or disclose any information no matter how trivial. I suppose adding my number to the federal Do-Not-Call list would also be a good move. I just hope my kids don't find out about it. They almost look forward to tormenting the hapless agents.

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