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Ask a Simple Question, Get an Earful of Unwanted Parenting Advice

In Saturday's Globe and Mail their interior design expert answered a reader question about style and kids' toys. In the "Ask a Designer" column, a parent asked whether there is a good way to organize and conceal kids toys that is both stylish and child-friendly.

Instead of design or organizational advice, what the reader got was an earful of unnecessary and probably unwanted parenting advice. Dee Dee Taylor Eustace's answer started out with:

I am a firm believer that people should make kids adapt to the rules, as opposed to childproofing a house.

Good that she at least got her adultist viewpoint out in the open right at the start of the article. She goes on to say [emphasis mine]:

It is unbelievable how many children today have the worst table etiquette and don’t know the difference between playrooms and formal rooms. This is more confusing if your formal room is also the playroom, so, to avoid therapy down the road for both you and them, enroll the kids in a manners class to teach them how to treat one’s surroundings and fellow playmates with respect.

Interestingly, in a recent column where she answered a question about soundproofing due to tenants who listened to music that was too loud, she didn't suggest schooling the tenants on their bad manners. Instead she gave soundproofing advice and then ended her column with a suggestion of sending in a few song requests, because "if you can't beat them, join them."

Back on the column about toys in the living room, she finishes her answer with another piece of advice:

Ultimately, lead by example: Instead of telling them how to play, show them how to play by playing with them, no cellphone allowed.

Ah, yes. Because parents with cellphones are the reason for ill-mannered children and messy living rooms, just as they are at the root of all problems in our society these days.

Image credit: mr. toaster on flickr
« Musical Beds: Helping Everyone Get a Good Night's Rest | Main | 3 Rs of Toddler Discipline: Repetition, Reaction, Reassurance »

Reader Comments (46)

Wow. That answer was terrible. The kicker in the judging she did her real response got lost (and that didn't really answer the question either).

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

OMG I just about spit when I read this in the paper yesterday. ENROLL the kid in manners class? How about TEACHING your kids manners yourself! Good grief!

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVoula Martin

Your awful advice on parenting seems like a great way to bungle raising your kids and send them on a sure path to needing therapy.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNew Yorker

Shame her parents didn't teach her any manners!

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Wow, she totally missed the point. I wonder if the designer has ever lived with a 2yr old, if she has, I feel very sorry for that child.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

I'm guessing she doesn't have any kids.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaranda

My advice? Or that of the design expert?

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I second that guess.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDionna @ Code Name: Mama

Wow, really? I wonder if people actually proofread what they write?

I never really child proofed either, but that's because I was lucky and they never showed interest in the dangerous stuff (outlets, stove knobs, etc.) or the inconvenient/messy stuff (pots & pans, toilet).

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa MH

She didn't answer the question at all !! :( I wonder I she has kids herself. I doubt it.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

I read this too and thought it was absolutely the strangest advice! I do not know any parents who would follow that. Kids ARE part of the household and manners should be learned in the household. A better and more realistic answer would have been "here's a few different storage options at different price ranges, don't forget to teach your kids to tidy up, good luck!"

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereva

Utter nonsense - any parent worth their salt will choose to childproof their home rather than put their unknowing toddler in danger. This advice reeks of someone who either has not had children, or has had a nanny raise them.
My advice, having raised three children who NOW know the difference between a playroom and our living room but certainly didn't when they were two, is to let it go: they're not toddlers forever.
My coffee table looked a lot like yours everyday, laden with the best form of entertainment: play. In fact, I prefer this to a sterile, picture-perfect home.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna

I hardly childproofed, but I DO have kids that are into EVERYTHING. My kitchen cupboards, outlets, knobs, whatever! It's normal and healthy for them to be curious. But that's beside the point.

I don't think the expert even answered the readers question. She offered parenting advice as opposed to decorating advice. Though I understand some of what she is saying, though she seems a bit extreme in her "kids must adapt" concept... My belief is that when you have kids you have to let go of the notion that some rooms are off-limits. Unless you're ready to be tyrannical about it... which I am not. We have some nice formal rooms (living room, dining room), but they're still at times used for play, but I also set limits. The rule is that whatever you play with much be stored away when you're done (or at least before bedtime). The kids have en entire playroom dedicated to them and they can make an unbelievable mess in it if they want to, but that doesn't mean they can't be in our more formal rooms. Again, as long as they understand that there are limits. It's all about balance in my opinion. Kids don't need manners class - they need good role models instead.

Let's HOPE she doesn't have any kids! Talk about Cruella De Ville! Yikes!

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentershirley

Oh my ... there is so much wrong with that advice ... I just want to add that on top of adultism this decorator is taking a very privileged and rich position ... I have 3 children and can only afford to rent a 2 bedroom home and only because I don't live in a city ... who the heck can afford "formal" rooms as well as playrooms and bedrooms?? Not the majority of people. Though I guess someone who works in the totally unnecessary and superfluous job of "decorator" is also clueless to their rich privilege, how the majority of people live and perhaps also see children as accessories instead of human beings. Thanks for writing this Annie.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRashel

That is just baloney....

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

I wish she had answered the question, because I'd love some advice on the same issue! My husband and I currently rent the finished basement apartment in my parent's home (while saving to purchase our own home next year). When we got pregnant we moved our bed to a bedroom in the main part of the house, and now use the basement as our living room and home office and play room and all-day-every-day living area. We barely managed to fit our lives into this small space before baby, and every day we have a more difficult time fitting our now 9 month old daughter's belongings in as well. While we would love the space to feel uncluttered, and I do try to put away all baby things when she goes to bed at night, it's nearly impossible to feel that we have enough space and that we're not living in a play room. If the design columnist had answered the reader's question, rather than berate her for her choice to be a parent, maybe I'd be redecorating today while my baby naps. Does anyone here have any advice for me and for the poor reader that just wanted her question answered?

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacki

Rashel, I totally agree with you on the privelege--I was thinking the same thing. 'Formal rooms'? My family has one living room that we all share, no separate play room & family room, no kid-free formal room.

Eustace *does* answer the question of how to store toys, in a really cursory way: shove the toys in boxes under your sofa, basically. How helpful is that though, really, unless you have a very high sofa or your child has no toys that don't pack flat?

& as for the childproofing, does she seriously mean that parents shouldn't do ANYTHING to make their homes safer? Every photo I've ever seen of a professionally decorated home has heavy vases or art pieces or tippy end tables or something that would either just get broken or potentially harm a child if they bumped into it. Besides the risk of injury, I am not interested in spending all my time keeping my kid away from something that's dangerous to them.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I was privileged enough not to need to childproof the house-- I did a ton of redirecting but I was a SAHM, so I had time :/

As for toys in the living room, I spent $80 at Target and bought a chest that can serve as coffee table-- it is stylish and all. That is Claudia's toy chest in the living room.

Even Ross has nice trunk ottoman benches, they dress up the living room, hide the toys and after you CAN put your feet up and relax ;)

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFlautaMom

The title says it all... anyone who asks a question regarding children or childhood seems to open themselves up to an Almanac of Advice - terrifying really!!! Wonder where she tells adults to put their stuff? That laptop, those magazines, the iPad, the remote controls... just so everything looks tasteful - maybe the adults should move into a museum!!!

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterse7en

I was shocked and annoyed by this column too. There is no way this lady has ever had toddlers in her house.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbea.

I would like to slap her!

Shes the type of awful person who makes first time moms feel inadequate. With a mother like that, your kids would def need therapy!

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWtf

I assume that Dee Dee Taylor Eustace will be leading this imaginary* manners class. She's clearly the most qualified person on the face of the earth. It's so nice there are experts like her to turn to, who can answer questions we haven't even asked.

* I say imaginary, because while I have seen many classes for preschool-aged children, I have yet to see one devoted specifically to manners. I'm sure lining a bunch of 3-year-olds up with salad forks would be a rip-roaring good time, though. There's no way THAT could end badly.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Check out information over the Montessori and Waldorf pedagogues. Both recommend simple, clean "lines." I'm no where near a decorator but I do know that in our home baskets with toys look nicer, allow them to find and use their toys, and it keeps things...simple...(I feel repetitive.)

Anyways! Check out blogs especially for visual ideas and even youtube has some nice videos. Also, the book Simple Parenting (? forget the exact title) is great. There's some nice blog post about little one's, toys, and storage by doing a google search for 'Montessori baby toy storage'.

Hope it helps!

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHoney

Thank you, Rashel! Good point - we don't have "formal rooms" either - lol!

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan M.

I hate to speak in generalities but this is what happens when you get a free service - the result is rarely good. I doubt this lady would lecture her actually paying customer

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOlga

Yikes. I'm dealing with a bit of this right now as our family is living with my parents for awhile. We have a four and one year old, and you can imagine how often their toys end up all over the house. The toys drive my parents crazy (and I don't blame them), but little kids just can't play neatly! Impossible! Clearly the author of that column has very little understanding of how children live in their environment, and while I get wanting some ordered space, who wants to waste their these years on worrying about clean-up? They are already growing too fast.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

Or how about making one witty comment about pregnancy discomforts, and getting a slew of unsolicited advice about how to deal with said discomfort, never mind that you already have discovered a solution that works for you.

I am so in for it when this baby comes.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura--The Sushi Snob

Cellphones are indeed the root of all evil! Now I finally know how to fix the chaos that's my life. But first I need to tweet, Facebook, Tumblr this on my phone. Hold please...

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterabsence of alternatives

No, no, don't 'childproof' your house when you have kids; they may get some weird kind of idea that (1) they're actual human beings who deserve consideration for their needs, and/or (2) think they live there.
Strangely, though, when I needed an office space at home, we re-arranged our entire living space to create one for me. Presumably by this advice, when our daughter was born we shouldn't have created a bedroom for her and acted like she had some importance in our home; we should have just shoved her in a drawer..?

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMistress of Boogie

She's right about the cellphone and actually playing with them, though.
I don't know about a manners "class" these are things parents can and should teach little kids (many don't) but at an age appropriate level.
Have you read advice columns before, though? They usually are written with a "voice" that tries to include humor, snark or some other superfluous "flair" beyond a straight answer. That's what this broad was doing.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Rochester

Wow, that was some sanctimonious assvice there! I also love how she presumes that families have houses big enough for a formal living space and a playroom.

Interestingly, we went on a long shopping trip this weekend to find a shelf to help organize our little one's books, in *gasp* the living room. The only living room we have, right where everyone can see it when they walk in the house.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

I think this is the first time I've heard anyone under 70 years old use the word "broad" in a long time.

With regards to the cell phones, I don't think it matters whether she was right or not. Putting your cell phone down and "showing them how to play" isn't going to "organize and conceal toys in a stylish way". Yes, we need to play with our children and give them our attention. We also need to give them space to develop their creativity by playing on their own and not always "telling" or "showing" them how to play. But neither of those things is going to solve a style problem.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I'm sure that having an office in your living space is probably "wrong" too according to this designer.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I know. I used the term for humor. Advice columns are relics of the past, who writes in to some person out there to find an answer to a question? Really? The word "Broad" is, too, a relic of the past. Hope you got a laugh.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Rochester

That may be the stupidest thing I've ever read. You'd think a decorating professional would recognize that any space, be it an office or a playroom, needs to have adequate storage for all the stuff in it! If not for aesthetic purposes, at least so it's easier to keep clean.

FWIW, I'm a fan of furniture/storage that can make the switch from baby/toddler stuff to older kids. Sturdy bookshelves can always be refinished or painted if they get dinged up. I love colorful baskets to keep stuff organized and hidden. My SIL went a step further and labeled hers with the name of what goes in it and a picture of the item, so my nephew can put his toys away easily. And also, if you're finding organizing is a problem, maybe there are too many toys. Stash some away and see how it goes.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

I actually read this on Saturday and thought it was a bit bizarre. Nobody asked for advice on child rearing.
And a manners class?
I'm wondering who needs the therapy......

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam @writewrds

Maybe that's not the kind of manners she meant. Perhaps there's a proper way for toddlers to eat glue or extend their pinky finger while drawing on the walls.

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

A manners class? Oh, please. I didn't realize how deeply prejudiced some people are against children. Sad.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia@MaMammalia

I agree with your point about the article Rashel, but take offense to your comment about decorators being "unnecessary and superfluous". Please understand that you are putting down an entire industry and not just this writer. My mother is an interior decorator and does a damn fine job.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Check out Play at Home Mom - great ideas there for play and playrooms


January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Pinterest has tons of Waldorf/Montessori storage ideas.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbhn

Her bio on her website says she has two children (no ages stated).

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbhn

I read this too on my rare reading of the Saturday paper and was appalled! Obviously in her view you have to have a playroom if you have children, and your children don't belong elsewhere only in the playroom. I really resent a general opinion in our society these days that kids should be in a kid-area only; if we don't integrate kids into our societies like the people they are, how will they learn how to be a functioning part of that society?

In our house our parenting motto has been: babies are people too.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarla

If we don’t integrate kids into our societies like the people they are, how will they learn how to be a functioning part of that society?

By sending them to manners courses, of course. :D

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I really thought we had moved past the old kids should be seen and not heard school of thought. Even before having my own child I always enjoyed spaces with children so much more than spaces without them.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

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