The bare minimum on manners

Laura K. Silver is a trustee of the Jewish Light who writes a blog for the paper’s website (  She owns The Paper Trail of St. Louis, a financial and legal concierge service. She is the mother of two elementary school-age children.

By Laura K. Silver

I make no claims of being Miss Manners. I will answer the door in my bare feet and forget to light a powder room candle for company. I’m not perfect, I have no expectations that my children will be perfect, and I am okay with it.

I am not, however, okay with kids missing the fundamentals. I know that what happens in your house is subject to your rules. Keep in mind, though, that if you allow things to happen in your own home, you shouldn’t expect that your kids will alter their behavior at mine. Let me set some ground rules for when they come to my house.


Please and thank you are not optional. I don’t think it’s “cute” when other people’s children are rude and their parents make excuses for it. I had one child who refused to say goodbye and thank you at my house, despite his mother’s pleas. Do you think I wanted him back any time soon?

Climbing on my furniture — I’m not a big fan. I have yet to see an adult climb over the top of my sofa or on its arms to have a seat. I understand that three-year-olds may need to climb on the front to get on and I’m OK with that. But that’s the exception, not the rule. By six, they should be getting on it like a human being.

In my house, we hold our forks like pencils. Sure, my kids need reminders here and there, but let’s be clear — it’s not a shovel. I’ve watched enough kids still holding the fork improperly at age 11. Table manners are taught and if they are not practiced, they are not used.

Indoor voices — not optional. If your kid is ridiculously loud, ask yourself if you would want to be around him or her if you weren’t required. I’ll let you know where I stand — I don’t.

In my experience, rude is rude and it doesn’t get better over time. Obnoxious at five doesn’t magically become polite at 10. I want to like your kids — really, I do — and only you can make sure that I don’t involuntarily wince when they show up at my door.

And while we’re on the topic — please make sure they wipe their feet before entering.