December 12, 2018

Teaching Kids How To Regulate Their Emotions Is Important

Disclosure: I received a copy of the "The Emotionally Healthy Child" by Maureen Healy for free, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links are also used in this post. You can read my full disclosure here.

I personally feel our society would really benefit from having required child psychology classes in high school and maybe a refresher course before having kids, like how they have birth classes, they should have parenting classes. However, as adults, most of us know how to read, and so we can and should educate ourselves, ideally before having children, and continue to learn along the way. One book I highly recommend reading is "The Emotionally Healthy Child" by Maureen Healy.

My Own Struggle With Emotions

I grew up in a house with a parent who did not know healthy ways to express their anger. I was screamed at, yelled at, and even physically assaulted (spanking).

Because of this, I grew up without knowing how to express my anger in a healthy way and actually feared to feel the emotion because of how I have seen it play out. When I felt mad, I often chose the silent treatment, or would keep things bottled up until I was shaken so much, it all came out and not very pretty. I never yelled as I did not want to be like my parent, but I often resorted to slamming doors, cabinets, etc. Basically, I let other things do the yelling for me.

My husband threw me for a loop when he said back when we were dating: "I wish you would have just told me." You see, my upbringing made me afraid to say when I was upset because I wasn't allowed to be upset, or if I was upset and expressed it, I was treated wrongly so. Plus when my parent was mad, it was very scary and so I feared the emotion altogether and did my best to hide my anger.

With my partner's help, I got better at communicating when I felt upset before things would spiral out of control. It helped that he was always so calm. He had a gentler upbringing than I did, so I definitely think that's why he handles his anger so much better.

Flash forward a few years. 

I started seeing a therapist shortly after our daughter was born because I was experiencing anger inside of me, probably a combination of being tired and first a time mom with no idea what to do, and I was afraid of unleashing it on her, which lead to me keeping things bottled up again. I was diagnosed with anxiety, which I likely had since I was a kid due to my upbringing.

My therapist helped me learn ways to calm my anxiety, which in turn, calmed my anger. I slipped up every now and then and raised my voice, and I would apologize to my daughter, often in tears.

It was a hard first few months as I had to learn how to safely express my feelings and also had to realize that as humans, we all make mistakes, and there is no way I will ever be 100% on top of my emotions, but I can at least aim for 99%.

The cool thing I realized while writing this is that I haven't yelled at my daughter in months! Of course, I shout her name, to try to get her to come to me, but I haven't yelled at her out of anger.

I actually hardly ever feel angry with her because I have also educated myself in child psychology (which is why I wish classes where required before becoming parents because I feel so many adults go into parenting without the proper knowledge on how a child's mind works). Sure there are moments she frustrates me, like when she throws her food on the floor, but I instantly remind myself "she's just a child, she doesn't know better, she's only acting on impulses" and boom! Suddenly I'm calm again and hey we have a dog, so I don't really have to clean anything!

Being mindful is so important when it comes to emotions as if you can feel them happening, you can prevent them from escalating. Healy dedicates a whole chapter to mindfulness (Chapter 5: Insight) in her book, "The Emotionally Healthy Child." She provides excellent tips and activities to help develop and practice mindfulness.

"The Emotionally Healthy Child" Book Review

Reading "The Emotionally Healthy Child," by Maureen Healy brought me back to my childhood, to a time where feelings weren't encouraged as much as they are today. She even mentions in her introductory chapter that the tools in her book were ones she wished she had access to as a child, and I feel very much the same way. 

So many of us were raised in settings where we weren't allowed to have emotions, which is why I believe we have so many aggressive and angry adults in the world today, especially men. We grew up without the tools to manage those emotions, and that's how you end up with adult tantrums (I've seen my share working retail. The elderly women are the worst!).

We aren't born knowing how to regulate our emotions. It's something we have to learn. Healy provides many great activities/tools in her book to help you and your child recognize their emotions and find safer and more productive ways to release those feelings.

Her final chapter is actually a "toolbox" with tips on how to handle almost every emotion from anger to sadness.

Though this book is geared towards parents and kids, I feel all adults could benefit from it. Many of these techniques were ones that my therapist recommended to me for helping with my anxiety, such as a deep breathing (called bubble breathing in the book) or making a checklist of smarter choices.

You can find her book on Amazon

December 6, 2018

The Best $20 & Under Gifts for a One Year Old

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used in this post. All opinions and thoughts are my own. You can read my full disclosure here.

These were all toys that my daughter loved when she was 1, so I believe they would make great gift ideas for other 1-year-olds as well!

1. SoapSox

These lovable plush buddies can be taken into the bathtub and work as washcloths! Our daughter has the turtle and hippo that she received from her grandma as a gift. She loves playing with them in the tub and outside in her pool too! I currently have a giveaway running for a Mickey themed one (pictured below) which you can enter here or buy your own here

You can find other SoapSox characters on the SoapSox website:

2. Mega Blocks

Mega Blocks are a great STEM toy! We actually got a bag for our daughter's first birthday. She didn't really get into them till closer to 18 months when she figured out how to put them together herself. Before then she mostly just smacked them together or handed them to us to show her how to make something.

3. Toy Cars

One of our daughter's first words was "car" and she loves playing with them! She learned how to "vroom vroom" quickly, so it's a great way to teach them how to make sounds too! Her favorite one is the Oball car (pictured below), but she also has a Mega Blocks train set she likes and a few other random cars.

4. Bead Maze

We got one of these from a family member and our daughter loved it. It's another great STEM toy. There are quite a few on Amazon in various price ranges, but here is one that is similar to ours for under $20:

5. Balls

We got these before our daughter was one, but she mostly chewed on them as a baby. It wasn't until a little after turning one she actually began to roll them and practice throwing them. The Infantino balls are great as they also have fun textures.

6. Shape Sorter

I can't find the one we got anywhere so I'm thinking it's no longer available. It's a cute barn with animals that have shapes. I believe it was Infantino brand. Our daughter loved chewing on the animals a baby. She still does now as well at 23 months, but she has shown more interest in trying to push them through the shape holes in the top of the barn. There are many different ones available now, but here is what a simple one looks like:

7. Phone

My mom actually got our daughter both of her phones as presents. She has the classic rotary telephone and a cell phone one that makes noises when you press buttons. Luckily it's not very loud and it does have an off switch! She was more into the noisy cell phone at first, but around 20 months or so, she really started loving the telephone. We think it's because she figured out how to pull it using the string and now she loves to drag it around everywhere!

8. Wooden Blocks

I originally got a bunch of these from Target's dollar spot for our daughter's newborn photos as I wanted to spell out her name. We let her have them to play with when she turned one as it was a great way to get her to practice stacking! Her favorite game now is to build a tower as tall as she can before it falls over. Such a great STEM toy.

9. Puzzles

My mother in law got our daughter this farm animal puzzle. It's suggested age is 2 and up, but our daughter still liked playing with the little wooden animals. She even started trying to put them back in their place around 18 months. She's gotten even better now at 23 months. However, they do make puzzles geared for 1-year-olds like this one:

10. Rain Maker

We got this for our Disney trip as a way to distract our daughter on the plane. She was 14 months at the time, so she mostly stared at it as we rotated it. Once she a got a little older, she loved shaking it around. It's a great first instrument!

11. Ring Stacker 

We have the Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stack (pictured below), and our daughter loves it! It's a great STEM toy, teaching your baby how things fit together.

We had it before she was 1, but it wasn't until she had turned 1, that she began to show more interest in taking the rings off and stacking them herself. 

12. Indestructible Books

These books truly are indestructible, so perfect for little ones! Our daughter still has hers and she's almost 2! They are still holding up, but have become quite wrinkly. I love that they can be washed, so you don't have to worry about your baby drooling all over them. They're so easy to just cram into a diaper bag and travel with. The best part is they are under $6 a piece on Amazon!

You can find most of these items in my Amazon shop as well.

November 19, 2018

5 Reasons Why We Don't Do Santa Claus

Background Info: My Negative Experience With Santa

When I was little, my parents would deny that Santa Claus wasn't real, even when I began to question it. This hurt and obviously had a lasting impression on me.

Also, Santa never brought what I asked for, which as a kid, your kind of told he would, but then he doesn't because well your parents don't want you to have a cat, and so they pretend Santa has "run out" or "knows your mom has allergies," or whatever excuse "he" can come up to write you each year. It kind of makes you hate "Santa," especially when another kid in your class gets a puppy.

Reading that, I probably sound like a spoiled brat, but those were my true feelings as a kid, and a result of all the lies I was told.

I, however, have no problem with fictional Santa Claus. I intend to share the movies and the stories with my own daughter, but my main problem is with how personified he is.

You can write letters to "Santa." You can sit on "Santa's" lap (which I will never understand why parents force their poor babies to do this when they are obviously terrified of the strange man!). You can see and talk to "Santa", and so on. It's like our whole society revolves around this lie that Santa Claus is a real person and somehow this is okay? To me this lie can be harmful as David Kyle Johnson Ph.D. wrote on Psychology Today:
"I'm simply saying that we should treat the Santa Claus story just like we treat all other stories—as a story. To do otherwise would be to cruelly take advantage of the child's naïveté and possibly hinder his/her intellectual development." (source)
I'm sure we will get a lot of backlash from others, claiming we are robbing our children of their childhood or that our children will ruin it for everyone else, but those are really lame excuses to make our daughter believe Santa is real.

As for the fear of my daughter telling everyone Santa isn't real, well that could be any kid! I remember being told Santa wasn't real in elementary school by other children. Some kids agreed, but others were not ready to accept the truth. It's like telling your kid there is no such thing as monsters, but yet they still think there is one under the bed, even though you have told them they don't exist for the 100th time. They will believe what they want to believe until they are ready to let it go or their parents finally tell them the truth.

Or what about religion? What about a kid telling your child God isn't real? It's never okay to force your beliefs on others, whether it be God or Santa Claus, just to spare you from the difficult conversation.

It is not like we are the only family that won't be visited by "Santa Claus." America is a melting pot, with many religions and cultures, and many of them don't celebrate Christmas or have Santa. It is not the end of the world if we choose to take Santa out of Christmas.

Here are some reasons why Santa Claus isn't a part of our Christmas:

1. Santa Claus Takes Away The True Meaning of Christmas

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. It is about God giving us his only child, and yes I know it's not accurate. Jesus was probably born in the summer; Christmas has pagan roots, but let's just let that go for now. Christians have decided to celebrate his birth on Christmas and so that's when we celebrate.

I want the holiday to be more centered around our religion and not around some holly jolly guy in a red suit.

2. Santa's Gifts Don't Add Up

Why did Susie get a Barbie Dream House, while Tommy only got a pair of socks? Sound familiar? Kids are going to compare their presents from Santa and they obviously aren't going to be fair as it would be far too difficult for all the parents in the world to be on the same page when it comes to gifts from "Santa."

Instead of our child thinking, Santa isn't fair, we want her to realize that the gifts come from mommy and daddy and that's what makes them special. I also don't want her thinking that Christmas is only about gifts, so taking Santa out of the picture will help with that as she won't be expecting a sleigh full of presents from a strange man with a cookie addiction.

3. Santa Himself Doesn't Add Up

I remember the first time I realized Santa wasn't real was when we were at my grandparents with family. Our parents told us Santa would still come, and sure enough, he did. However, my present and my sister's present was wrapped, but our cousin's presents weren't wrapped (obviously the parents didn't do a very good job of communicating beforehand). Apparently, in my cousins' family, Santa didn't wrap the presents he brought, but in our family, he always did.

Like presents, there are just too many different versions of Santa and when kids start talking there are going to be some questions.

4. Santa Doesn't Make A Happy Childhood

Santa was a negative part of my childhood, but I have heard people claim that by not doing Santa Claus, you are taking away from your child's childhood. Here's the thing, if your kid needs Santa to have a happy childhood, then you are doing something wrong.

Our daughter will know of Santa. He will be a fun story, so it's not like we are removing him entirely from the picture. We just aren't going to lie and tell her he is a real man that can travel the world in one night to deliver toys to thousands of girls and boys. No, he will be a fun fictional character and if she wants to pretend, that's great! I will not mislead her though.

5. It's a Lie

Santa Claus is a lie and I am not comfortable with lying to my child. Kids are supposed to be able to trust us and each time you lie, a little bit of that trust is broken. Some may argue that some lies are okay and aren't harmful to children, but as someone who was lied to repeatedly, I find it hard to draw the line between okay lies and not okay ones. Personally, I don't think it is ever okay to lie, Santa included.


There are many other good reasons to not have Santa Claus, but the ones I mentioned are more important to us.

I want to emphasize that these are reasons we choose not to do Santa. I am not saying you or that anyone else shouldn't. Santa may work for your family, but I believe it is wrong for others to force us and others to participate because they are afraid our child would ruin the fun. I don't force your children to believe in God, so don't force mine to believe in Santa.

We will do our best to teach our daughter to respect others traditions, cultures, religions, beliefs, etc, and to not ruin the "magic" for others.

If you need more convincing, need arguments to defend your choice, or are undecided about Santa Claus, you can read these articles for more reasons to skip Santa this holiday season: