An Easy Guide to CBT for A Better Life at Home

You’re irritated. You feel unacknowledged by your spouse. Your child is fussy. Bills are unpaid. Your home is messy. In laws (enough said). School tuition.

You’ve likely experienced the above mentioned. And when it boils over, you erupt on the ones you love. Are you blushing yet?

This is normal. Not polite, but its normal. Many people find turbulence in their relationships as a result of environmental triggers. It effects the whole family, kids included.

For this, Therapists have turned to a method of personal thought control called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

What is it?

Simply put, your thoughts translate to behaviors. Did you know this? For example, if your spouse didn’t clean the kitchen, your thought is that he/she was lazy or didn’t care.

You might react by confronting them without having additional information to go on. What now?

You continue berating them. They defend themselves providing you with their excuses. Damn, they sound like they’re telling the truth! But you can’t back down, you’re already engaged.

You continue. They fire back, and things get nasty. The next 48 hours of your lives will be spent in silence or apart from one another.

This situation was caused initially by a pattern of thinking that many of us are guilty of. Another way of looking at it, you jumped to conclusions. CBT aims at changing the way you think by training you to become more aware of your thoughts.

Did you know…

That we experience over 60,000 thoughts a day and 90 percent of them are identical to day before? A study will confirm that we are terribly habit forming in the way we think, and the impact our thoughts may have on us.

Another great resource is Psychology Today and their methods of avoiding negative thoughts.

Dealing with the stress of life and family can feel endless. But the methods below outline my personal experience of alleviating said stress and bringing you back to a state of peace.

Try them out.

  1. Meditate

I’ve harped on this in the past, but meditation is a great way to observe your thoughts. By counting your breaths and body scanning (being aware of the physical sensations you experience) you become more aware of how you’re feeling in any given moment. Here are some methods of meditations worth your while.

If you’re able to identify the moment you’re feeling triggered, you’ll develop the ability to control your anger and other impulsive reactions.

2. Keep a Journal

You’ve probably heard keeping a journal benefits those experiencing triggers such as a frustrating friend or spouse. Tracking your thoughts can significantly help when you’re overwrought.

Each day, write down the date and times when you experience anger, frustration etc.

Document the way you reacted. This will assist you in developing patterns of behavior and predict under what circumstances you’ll react. Having this insight will allow you to prevent an unwanted argument.

3. Work Out

No doctor would recommend poor nutrition and a sloth existence. Get up, get out, and move your ass. Hit the gym, take hikes, ride a bike, box, play basketball, whatever.

Placing your body under physical stress prepares you for emotional and psychological stress.

In short, CBT is a trial and error thing – you’ll need to work at it for a while, try what works and what doesn’t to find your sweet spot. Keep at it. Don’t quit, and use your family as motivation.

Top 4 Kid’s Books for Your Little One AND You

It’s a challenge finding a book ( or several ) that your child likes. “How about A bears year?”

“No!” and they reach for the brightest colored cover with zero learning value.

Sound familiar?

It’s even harder discovering children’s books that won’t drive you insane after the 80th time reading it.  Isn’t it time you settled on a set of books suitable for you and your little one?

Try the four below this evening- they’re must-haves for your bookshelf.

  1.  A Bears Year

Written by Kathy Duval, this story follows a bear family as they wake from hibernation. The book spans across spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Each season, the mother bear prepares her cubs for the approaching winter by passing vital skills of climbing for honey and catching fish to her cubs.

The story emphasizes preparation for oncoming adversity and illustrates beautifully the natural world.

The color motifs stand out – patterns of green, gold, yellow, red, and snowy white and gray. It’s a perfect arch following the rise and fall of temperature, of plants and trees, and forest life.

As an adult, I can appreciate the inherent message. The story is sweet and genuine, and for a kid’s book, very impactful!

2. Good Night Moon

Some books stand the test of time. Goodnight moon has got to be the ultimate go to sleep story for my son.

It was even my favorite book when I was his age. If you’re unfamiliar, the story is simple – a little rabbit is winding down for bed and the narrator gently says goodnight to several objects in and out of the room.

It’s soft, gentle, and leads your child to the pillow after a long day of learning.

3.  Never Touch a Dragon

This fun short book explores the alternatives to touching a dragon. The kicker is, each illustration of a dragon has a tactile element. For example, a bumpy rubber piece that kids can run their fingers over, covering the dragon’s body.

The book gives kids the experience of interacting with the story by touch, and the illustration is done in a funny way that’ll keep you ( the adult) entertained. Try it out tonight!

4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Kind of like Good Night Moon, the Very Hungry Caterpillar has been around for decades and has the same charm it had at its conception.

A little caterpillar hatches from his egg in the light of the moon. He explores the world hungry and eats his way through a wad of ice cream, pickles, cheese, and salami.

There’s a message about overindulgence and the consequences of it. He later eats a leaf and feels much better, and then, spoiler alert, he becomes a butterfly!

The illustrations, I think, are one component that holds your child’s attention. With bright greens, oranges, reds, and yellows, all done like a cute finger painting, your child will relate.

The moral of the story doesn’t go unnoticed that we all over do it some times, and there are often repercussions. Try reading this story at bedtime and after a nice bath for an easier, calmer evening.

These are just my suggestions, but they seem to work well with my boy. Based on the reviews of these books, others seem to agree. But it’s a trial and error kind of thing, you may spend time on Amazon, a lot of time, trying to select the right story, so patience is key!

4 Ways to Make Your Baby Laugh at Home.

One reason parenting can wear you out is your child’s need for constant entertainment. There’re moments when I fall flat and he remains straight-faced, others result in an eruption of acute laughter. Most often, I run dry of comedic material; there are only so many funny faces, weird dances, and puppet shows I can do before my will gives out. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, try some of the ideas below and you might have your little one laughing up a storm!

Use the mirror 

Our little guy loves the mirror- staring at it, making faces, pointing out people. Try asking “where is daddy?” (or mommy)

Make faces and funny hand gestures. Use puppets, toy cars etc. I pay the guitar, so I’ll plug in and play a song and he loves watching for some reason as I stand behind him.

Peek-a-boo 3.0 

Most kids like to play peekaboo, but you can upgrade if you’d like, to a full-blown hide and seek. Try hiding around the corner or in a dark room and call your kid in (make sure you have them engaged and that they understand you’re playing a game).

When they come looking for you, leap out and surprise him/her, then go run to the next room and let them chase you.


Pull out your phone and start filming everything. My son has a fascination with seeing himself on camera and seeing daddy there too. In fact, there is an old video of him as a baby laughing on his back that he still finds hilarious.

Baby in the Box 

Get a box that he/she can crouch down into and hide. This also serves as a form of peek-a-boo. You can surprise them as they pop up. Try putting the box on his/her head and see how they react. Our son is intrigued by random objects, despite his mountain of electronic toys.







An Easy Guide to Learning Second Language Home.

I met my wife Julia while teaching English in Saint Petersburg, Russia. We married and soon learned she was pregnant with our son Jack, and upon my in-law’s request, he was delivered in Sayanagorsk, Siberia – my wife’s home city. Two years later, now living in California, our little guy is halfway through his English alphabet, pointing out and saying words like apple and airplane, egg and juice, and he has a selective appetite; hence, we have boxes of Costco Spanish rice, peanut butter, and blueberries stalked like a Soviet armory in our pantry.


Jack, however, is developing his language at a slower pace than other kids. His cousin Declan, with lighting moves of some agile, jungle primate has managed full sentences like here you go, catch! before hurling a whiffle ball at your head. Jack watches in subtle amusement, and we can see in his eyes the desire to communicate well. We’ve been told this is due to processing both Russian and Engish. For us, it was important that he spoke both languages and be able to communicate with his family on both sides of the world. There’s also a richness in the inflection of Slavic languages: it suggests an old and enduring culter. This, in turn, will give him not only a fascinating backstory but two languages to tell it in. Watching him absorb and process and go on to repeat language has intrigued me. Children seem to learn a language much better, much faster, like little computers.

Don’t feel bad, they’re just smarter than us

In the midst of sippy cups, tickle-me-Elmo,  Tayo the friendly bus, and discovering the inherent power in the word no, we’ve begun to interpret his delay in speech as a friendly reminder that an amazing process is occurring in our little boy’s brain due to both languages swiveling his attention from mommy’s voice to daddy’s. The process of learning language is best suited for children. As we age, we lose this characteristic. We also become self-conscious and less proud to open our mouths and make a mistake.

I myself have taken stabs ( too many) at learning Russian, listening, speaking, cramming in the grammar, and even living Russia itself. But for children, absorbing language is a subconscious act. Their little brains are built in the early years for corralling information, much the way we retain rhymes and rhythms without wanting to. According to Be Brain Fit, “children can easily learn additional languages due to their heightened neuroplasticity, the brain’s capacity to form new neural connections and new brain cells throughout life.” If only I was aware of this at age 2!

There are benefits 

If you’re raising your child bilingual or considering it, understand that it benefits them in ways other than remaining close to their cultural background. According to a study, there are social benefits including a strong sense of empathy. This allows children to put themselves in other’s shoes and communicate more effectively. Additionally, learning a language early will allow for an easier experience in the future. The process involves memorization of vocabulary, internalizing grammar, listening for hundreds of hours to dialogues, and constant setbacks.

Knowing the process ahead of time is like traveling a road you once viewed as unfamiliar, but manageable the second go-around, as children will detect reemerging patterns during their subsequent experience. Cognitively, there’s much to gain. “Research on executive functions such as working memory, perception, and attentional and inhibitory control, has suggested that bilinguals can benefit from significant cognitive advantages over monolingual peers in various settings.” Other strengths include, but are not limited to, better discipline, focus, and logical reasoning.

How do we put this into play?

As I mentioned above, my wife speaks Russian in simple, persuasive terms. I speak  English with him, and so far, he responds to both languages. In an article produced by Cornell University Its best to surround a kid with “more than one language through conversations and social groups using different languages; the earlier the better.” When at home, try to speak with your main heritage language if a second language is being learned outside of the house.  “Expose children to multilingual settings and give them plenty of opportunities to play with children who speak the second language.”

The basics of learning language that apply to us apply to children. Begin with vocabulary- cat, dog, mommy, and daddy. Point them out to your child and ask what is this? Avoid giving commands like say orange! Instead, incorporate he/she in conversation. Talk to them instead of at them. Remember, “one parent, one language,” according to Raising Bilingual Kids. Each parent should stick to their own language. This is hardly a problem for me, as my Russian is limited to mere babble.

Keep your child’s miraculous capability in mind when searching for the right method to introduce a second language: they absorb in more information than we can imagine. Much of the tedious work, as it is for us anyway, of learning to speak a second language comes naturally to them, and they develop a sense of pride even upon making mistakes as they learn. Having bilingual skills will not only benefit them cognitively but socially, instilling a sense of pride in a rich cultural heritage.











The Top 6 Pieces of Survival Gear For The Home.

By Jason Kaefer


Let’s face it, none of us are REALLY prepared for an emergency. Whether you live here in California with the earthquakes, or in Florida with gale-force winds, we all live in a dream world where nothing bad happens. Well, take a moment to consider what you would do to protect your family in a time of crisis. Do you have the necessary things to last hours, if not days? If you answered no, don’t worry, you’re not alone! I began thinking about these things after experiencing the earthquake simulator at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences, where they bring you back in time to both the 1989 and 1906 earthquake.

First, understand that the threat of disaster isn’t necessarily impending, but you should still consider the possibility. Where do you live? Know the threats in your area ie tornado, floods, earthquakes. Plan for specific events. Also, consider your plan for either escape or shelter in place. Basically, if you shelter in place, you stay in your home and ride out the problem. Escape…. well…… let’s not slide too deep into that scenario!

But there are a few essentials that every family should have in their home, as well as in the car. Consider storing them in a pack in an easy to access place. Those apply to every family in every country.

  1. Water 

One gallon a day per-person is essential for hydration and bathing. Use containers of the size pictured below and store it away from light and any pesticides. Try to avoid plastics that will contaminate the water.


2. Food 

In the aftermath of an emergency, power could be out for days. Store non-perishable food up to three-day supply. Consider canned food that your family will eat. Examples of this would include canned fruit, peanut butter, dried cranberries, granola, food for infants, and high energy foods. Remeber to keep an eye on the shape of the can; swollen or dented cans should be discarded. Also, remember to keep a trusty can opener in the house.

3. Medication 

It’s the last thing you would think of! But if you’re sheltering in place for days, you should have an extra supply of prescription medication.  There is no telling when you’ll  visit a pharmacy again. Have at least 1-2 extra bottles stored in your home.


4. Flashlights 

Keep at least four flashlights in the house. Our home is 2-bedroom 2-bath with an office. I like to keep a flashlight in each room, as I might be in one of the rooms during an outage. Its also good to have a flashlight handy for simple outages. And to be on the safe side, know where your breaker box is.  It may seem tempting to light candles during an outage, but trust me, you’re better off using artificial light from a flashlight. Candles up the risk of fire, and for us, our little 2-year-old Jack adds to that risk, being that he hasn’t entirely learned the dangers of fire.

5. A first aid kit 

Keep a first aid kit in an accessible part of the house. This may seem like common sense, but a lot of families don’t have them, and those who do likely don’t know what it consists of. You should have a kit stocked with bandages for scrapes and cuts, antiseptic spray or lotion, 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch), 1 instant cold compress, Scissors, 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches), and Tylenol. This is just to name a few items. Visit your local fire police station for more information on emergency preparedness.

6. Dust Masks 

One over-looked piece of survival gear is the dust mask. Damage from your home or building could stir up clouds of unknown particles. Visit a Home Depot or hardware store near you and pick up a box of these things, their cheap and come in large quantities. These are good to have for reasons other than emergencies.


As I’ve said, the last thing we want to imagine is the thought of a catastrophe at our home, but once you’ve acquired the above listed, you’ll feel more comfortable knowing you have a plan in place. Also, you can use these items in your car.




Humiliation; the catylist of violence


Humiliation,  Steven Kotkins writes in his historical biography Stalin, does often serve as the wellspring of savagery. Here, we see the young Stalin, whose real name was Josef Jugashvili, as a boy oppressed by the orthodox seminary who lived constantly at the receiving end of a drunk, abusive father. Raised on the outskirts of the Russian Empire in the small town of Gori Georgia, Jugashvili seemed torn by an unusual family dynamic of an exalting mother, an aloof father, and several childhood accidents, as well as illnesses, that lead him to become rather effortlessly, despite his peculiarly small stature, tougher than the average boys of the region. This would serve as history’s best reflection of the future dictator’s ruthless seedbed, leading to the violence that would later ensue upon Russia.

However, accurate or not, it does speak to a greater truth, particularly in our way of raising children that rings with me as a father, and should force any morally serious person to question the effect of humiliation on others, that the effect may remain potent with the individual years after the fact. Linda Hartling, Ph.D. shows us in her Humiliation Inventory ((Hartling, 1996; Hartling & Luchetta, 1999) “ I found that those with high scores on the scale described their experiences of humiliation as if it had happened yesterday, even though the experience may have occurred many, many years in the past. Their experiences remained painfully fresh and vivid in their minds. Since then, I have wondered what mechanisms contribute to the potency of humiliation. What keeps humiliation present in our lives?”

The grim nature of humiliation on the brain is more startling. The way you feel derives from the way you think, according to the cognitive theories of emotion. When one is lowered in status in front of others, he/she is likely to feel humiliated and, according to Linda Hartling’s study, they will clutch these feelings for years as though it had happened the day before. This causes one to be susceptible to triggers, as it will remain so fresh in the mind if the pattern of thinking isn’t changed. But could humiliation lead to the same spring of vengeance and violence seen under Stalin’s reign? It would appear the answer rests in the chemistry of the brain. Hartling goes on to cite other studies which observe that “ social pain triggers some of the same mechanisms and responses in the brain as physical pain.”  Additionally, a study was conducted which involved participants who were under the belief that they were playing a virtual ball-tossing game. “In actuality, there were no other players involved. To create the illusion of an interactive game, a computer generated the actions of the other players to include the participant in one round and to exclude the participant in another round.

Excluded participants showed increased activity in the dorsal ACC, which was strongly correlated with the participants’ self-reports of social distress—“how rejected, excluded, meaningless they felt.” ACC refers to the Agenesis of the corpus callosum, which also seems to activate in response to physical pain. These studies indicate a direct correlation in the brain, a lingering presence humiliation has in one’s recollection, and the profound effect exclusion may have on humans socially. Imagining for a moment, the numerous childhood incidents when you were excluded from a group, and these feelings of degradation, justifiable as they are, have remained with you your whole life. Are they linked to lack of self-awareness, leading to violence? Hartling explains, “Based on these studies of social exclusion and the brain research on social pain, we can hypothesize a pathway along which humiliation progresses toward aggression. In theory, humiliation may trigger social pain activating the alarm system of the brain leading to decreased self-awareness in the form of a deconstructed state, which includes emotional numbness.”

She goes on to reflect the experience of the individual by referencing the alienation of Muslim immigrants in France, leading to riots and racial lash-outs. It’s sobering to imagine the circumstances in schools and communities, and the social pain absorbed by adolescence. These circumstances aren’t left without a solution, as Hartling hypothesizes “Humiliation is a relational violation that profoundly damages one’s sense of connection and triggers social pain,” and that violence is a direct result of the loss of self-awareness, and this occurs through social pain caused by exclusion. The human connection seems to be the key to breaking the cycles of social pain. So although violence isn’t the inevitable end for the individual experiencing humiliation, it does inflict damage to he/she and should be understood by today’s leaders, teachers, and parents that social connection and inclusion are key to disrupting the patterns of social pain, especially in youth.

Discover 3 ways to Achieve Family Balance For Better Homelife.

By Jason Kaefer


Part of being a parent is finding quality time together as a family and simultaneously making a marriage work. In other words, how do you find the balance? My wife and I have our little boy of two years, and he requires most of our energy being that my wife is a stay at home mom and he hasn’t begun preschool yet. We couldn’t be happier with what we have, but it’s difficult finding the balance for ourselves. There are steps I’ve noticed that benefit our family. Consider the following:

1. Do things together

The ocean is nearby for us. For my wife especially, collecting shells on the beach is therapeutic. We bring our little guy so he can play in the tide pools ( the safe, shallow part). Both my wife and I both have reported feeling less tension after spending time in the sand. Even our little guy appears happier on these days. If you’re not located near the beach, consider an activity you all would enjoy. Try getting outside. Hiking is a great way to get exercise and generate happiness. The time will reinforce confidence in your kids that you are there as a support, together.

Additionally, having dinner together strengthens family relationships. Try to set at least 3-4 nights per week for dinner together.

2.  Date Nights

Set time aside, whether it’s once a month or once a week, and spend time together on a date without the kid(s). The time together will serve as a subtle reminder that you’re both in it together and allows you both to appreciate one another’s effort. Keep it light. Somewhere local and quiet that allows you both to talk freely and just relax.

3. Glass of wine and a movie 

When the kid(s) are asleep, make it a point to spend time together watching a movie or just simply talking. By doing this, you will not only go to bed with a positive, fresh start for the following day, but it helps to summarize your thoughts and feelings for the week. My wife and I are movie fanatics, so we’ll discuss the details of a film with a glass of wine. But as I’ve said, find a balance that is right for you. 

The balance of work, marriage, and family is a complicated one that takes a while to find. The above suggestions work for us but don’t have to apply to everyone. Find your own balance in a similar routine!