My child forgets to give me phone messages. Should I be more patient?

A mother found a stray piece of paper with a week-old phone message, “Mom, call Carol.” Two days after taking a message, an eleven-year-old asked his father, “Did I tell you Uncle Mike called?” One woman’s phone conversations often begin with her caller asking, “Did Jennie tell you I called?”

Many kids forget to relay messages. Parents hope that their ten- to thirteen-year-old will be thoughtful and responsible enough to tell them about calls. But for a number of reasons, kids often don’t remember. A child who’s distracted by TV or homework when the phone rings may not listen carefully. She may become absorbed in an activity after taking the call and quickly forget the message. She may not write the message down immediately, which usually means she won’t write it at all. Or, if the call doesn’t pertain to her, she may soon stop thinking about it.

She doesn’t forget on purpose. She usually feels bad when she lets her parents down, and she doesn’t intentionally disappoint or frustrate them. When confronted, however, she’ll defend herself because she also doesn’t want them to be angry with her: “I was going to tell you later.” “I started to write it down, but there wasn’t any paper.” “I thought I put her name somewhere.” “I forgot. I can’t help it. I’m not perfect.”

Try to be patient – this behavior is very common. Keep telling your child how important message-taking is. Then, to make it easier for her and likelier that you’ll get your messages, put pen and paper next to every phone. Create a central spot to leave messages. Tape a reminder note to the phone. Every time you come home, ask right away, “Any calls for me?” If you’re expecting an important call, consider leaving your answering machine on so you’ll be sure to get your message. If you don’t already have caller ID, think about adding this service.

You may be tempted to teach your child a lesson by ignoring phone messages for her, but don’t do this. When you say, “See how it feels?” or, “If you don’t give me my messages, I won’t give you yours,” you teach her to be spiteful. She’ll be upset by your intentional act and feel that you’ve deceived her. Your tactic won’t motivate her to remember messages. Instead it will show her that when she’s disappointed in people’s behavior, she can act without considering their feelings.

Focus on the times she does remember to give you a message: “Thanks for letting me know about Mr. Johnson’s call. I was waiting to hear from him.” And remember that most people who want to get in touch with you will call back—especially if they left their message with a child.

Picture Credit : Google