But now that we're parents, we can't verbally abuse or rudely hang up on telemarketers. That wouldn't be good citizenship. It wouldn't set a good example for our children.

This creates a dilemma, though. Because while we don't want to be rude, we also don't want to buy a bunch of crud we don't need and can't afford. (Besides, we both tried "The Abdominizer" and we still don't have abs like Leonardo DiCaprio. Ours abs more closely resemble those of Leonardo DeNimoy-o.)

Thankfully, we discovered that the answer to the above dilemma was as plain as the tiny hands that are trying to pull the noses off our faces: That's right, our children. You see, as adults, we don't like talking on the phone to strangers. But our kids love it.

When Jedd's son Bryce turned two, he was designated Official Telemarketer Ambassador. Jedd would let a telemarketer start his spiel, then hand the phone to Bryce.

The system worked like this:
Telemarketer: So, Mr. Heffenmeyer, can I interest you in our money-saving blah blah blah ... with no cash down and blah blah blah ... no long-term obligation yammer yammer yammer ...

Jedd (covering mouthpiece with hand): Bryce, come talk on the phone. It's GRANDMA!

Bryce (into phone): Hi! I go on potty like big boy! I got new Batman toy. I love SpongeBob SquarePants! Do you love SpongeBob SquarePants? Wesley push me down at church! Wesley naughty....

When your children get older, you can still employ them as telemarketer troubleshooters. Especially when they are old enough to have attended Girl Scout camp, like Todd's daughter, Jami.

So beware, telemarketers of the world, because when you call the Todd Hafer household, the only response you're going to get to your questions is Jami's rousing rendition of camp-time favorites like this:

I KNOW A SONG THAT GETS ON EVERYBODY'S NERVES! EVERYBODY'S NERVES! EVERYBODY'S NERVES! I KNOW A SONG THAT GETS ON EVERYBODY'S NERVES, AND IT GOES JUST LIKE THIS ... I KNOW A SONG THAT GETS ON EVERYBODY'S NERVES ... [ad infinitum, ad nauseam]

We know that some of you out there might criticize us for employing our children in this manner. But please understand, they love it. They often have trouble getting adults to listen to them, so the concept that total strangers are calling us on the phone, eager to chat, is a real thrill.

Besides, the effective handling of phone solicitors is a skill that any good citizen should learn. We are teaching this crucial skill to our children today so that they might delegate it to their own offspring someday. You see, with us, citizenship has become a family tradition. A legacy. And couldn't your household use a little more legacy, fellow citizen?

Excerpted from Mischief from the Back Pew by Todd & Jedd Hafer. Copyright © 2003. Published by Bethany House Publishers. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
Todd Hafer is an award-winning writer with 19 published books. Jedd is a comedian and speaker who has appeared all over the country. They have coauthored three other books including Stranger in the Chat Room.