How Families Can Respectfully Communicate Over Text

My wife and I started texting when we were dating, and it’s become more essential now that we’re married and managing our schedules and household … not to mention the life and schedule of our 5-year-old son.

For all of its conveniences and instantaneous connecting, texting can present some challenges because of its clipped nature. A simple two-word answer can be taken as rude, or thanks to auto-correct misfires, either hilarity or major confusion can ensue. Add to the mix your tweens or teens who have grown up with texting, and your family might be wise to create some respectful rules of the road for text communication.

I reviewed tips from leading resources that offer communication tips for families such as Common Sense Media, The Respect Institute and WebMD. Here’s what I learned when it comes to respectful texting:

1. Create an agreement.

Co-design this agreement with your family to include a few simple guidelines (three to five bullet points) that you’ll all follow when communicating via text. For example, in our family our pact says it’s OK to make amends or say sorry, via text, for something that happened offline. But it’s not OK to argue over text. We also don’t use curse words in texts — it’s not just rude, but you also never know who might be within eyeshot.

2. Don’t text while “hangry.”

When super hungry or angry—aka “hangry”— put the phone down. Emotions can be high and patience can be short. To keep communication respectful, set up a time to talk later (in person or via a phone call) when you’re well fed and more at peace.

3. Be clear.

Slow down a bit before you text — especially when texting about scheduling or meeting up. Try to send one text with all the details and slow down a bit so auto-correct doesn’t add confusion.

4. Call instead.

If a conversation requires some collaboration, negotiation, or confusion has ensued, call your family member to sort out the details. It’s faster and will help you be more empathetic and patient with each other if you can reason things out or explain a miscommunication.

When in doubt, remember courteousness above all else. After all, you love these people!


Jeremy Cleland has been a spokesperson for several Silicon Valley startups, like Tesla Motors, and spearheaded global stories about technology featured in media like Vice, Time magazine, Forbes and He’s also the dad to a 5-year-old who is already more tech-savvy than him.