Q: When I called a friend on a fairly urgent matter, I got her 4-year-old, who talked about her imaginary pony for five minutes and then hung up on me. At what age should a child be allowed to answer the phone?
A: Some 4-year-old children can be taught basic phone manners, but most youngsters aren’t ready until age 5 or 6. It depends on the child-if they freeze when handed a phone, it’s better to wait until they’re more comfortable. But even if they are chatters like your friend’s daughter, they need to know the rules: Answer “Hello,” and then, after saying, “Just a minute please,” hand off the phone to a parent. Similarly, don’t put your child’s voice on your answering machine unless you’re absolutely sure the message will be decipherable to callers.