150 episodes

Simple Families offers solutions for living well with children. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness and decreasing the mental load. As a Mama with a doctorate in Child Development, Denaye’s perspectives are grounded in research, but more importantly real life.

Simple Families Denaye Barahona Ph.D.

    • Parenting
    • 4.8, 731 Ratings

Simple Families offers solutions for living well with children. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness and decreasing the mental load. As a Mama with a doctorate in Child Development, Denaye’s perspectives are grounded in research, but more importantly real life.

    Educating Your Child in a Pandemic

    Educating Your Child in a Pandemic

    Right now, many of us are thinking about back to school decisions. Educating your child in a pandemic is no easy task. Homeschooling? Distancing Learning? In-person school? Even if we are privileged to have a choice, making hard decisions for our families can feel agonizing.

    You may even lose sleep over it.

    That's why I'm sharing the 9 things you need to know about educating your child in a pandemic.


    You can also listen to this here:

    Know Your Role

    The year was 1992 and I was nervous. It was August and I was entering the third grade. I was anxiously waiting to find out who my assigned teacher was for the year. There were four teachers in the third grade, and two of them were ‘yellers’. You know what I mean by the “yellers”—the teachers you could hear shouting at their students from all the way down the hall. 

    My odds weren’t good. I waited with bated breath. Finally the news came, I got a yeller. 

    And I cried. And cried.

    Fast forward 28 years. I can reflect back on those childhood tears. I now have an understanding that education is far more than rote memorization and the acquisition of knowledge. All effective education is grounded in a warm and loving relationship between an adult and child. While at the surface level we equate education with cognitive development, the roots run much deeper than that. To teach a child on intellectual ideas, you must first connect with the child on an emotional level. 

    Many of you will be playing the role of educator this year. Maybe as a support person for distance learning or perhaps as a homeschool parent. If that is you, then know this: 

    You can’t scream an education into a child. But trust me…you are going to be tempted to try. 

    Know You are Capable

    When it comes to educating your child in a pandemic, you may be plagued with the imposter syndrome. There’s a good chance you feel unqualified and/or unmotivated. 

    Personally, I am trained across disciplines. I’m a Clinical Social Worker with years of experience practicing child & family therapy. I also have a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education and Development. Basically, if psychology, human development, and education had a baby—that baby would sort of be me. 

    And I want to tell you, even with all the qualifications in hand—being an educator to my own children is just. plain. hard. There’s no easy way around that. I will not sugarcoat it.  [Listen to my episode on Homeschool Reflections]

    Because most importantly, I’m a mom. I’m a mom who has taught my own children. I’m a mom who has gritted her teeth through the hard moments of parenting (in fact, there was some teeth gritting happening just this morning…). I am a mom who has worked intensely to avoid being a “yeller”.

    I want you to know that there is a good chance you may feel the same. But if you are choosing to be an educator for your children this year, you are capable. If you are doing it because you have no other choice, you are still capable. 

    Because you can do hard things. 

    I will be the first one to tell you that it’s a heckuvalotta work to make sure my kids are just fed...

    • 27 min
    Benefits of Fewer Toys

    Benefits of Fewer Toys

    The Benefits of Fewer Toys

    “You are always teaching your kids, and sometimes you even use words.” -Rob Bell

    As many of you know, I've a true believer in the benefits of fewer toys. Not only does this benefit the development of the child, but also the well-being of the parents. The above quote inspired our new series, “The 9 Things You are Teaching Your Kids Through Toy Moderation”. Because the way we buy for our children teaches them. 

    We teach them through our actions even more than our words. 


    You can also listen to this here:

    Just Say No to Crap

    When we tell our children “no” to new toys and we limit the number of trinkets that they acquire—we are not being mean. We are teaching. We are teaching our children that what comes into our house must eventually leave our house. And did you know that most plastic toys end up in the landfill for up to 500 years? That life-size plastic Sven Reindeer and Barbie Dream House [sorry Barbie, I’m going there...] are going to outlive your grandchildren’s great-great-great grandchildren.⁣⁣So let’s say no to plastic crap. Let’s say no to the stuff that’s going to lose their interest quickly. Let’s say no to the flashy stuff the marketers dump billions into selling to our kids. Because when we say no to junk, we are sending our kids a message. The way we buy MATTERS. We have a choice. We have an impact on the world that is greater than we know. ⁣⁣PS-if you already have the Sven and/or the Barbie Dream House, no shame. Just make sure it finds a good home after it leaves your house and starting today: Say no to crap. If you are a new believer in the benefits of fewer toys for kids, give yourself some grace.

    Stand Up For What Matters

    I know what you are thinking—“I don’t buy all these toys, it’s the GRANDPARENTS!” I hear this all.the.time. I get it. It’s super awkward to have the conversation with your family members about buying less for your kids. You don’t want to sound unappreciative and/or ungrateful. ⁣⁣Instead, maybe you just take the “Smile, say thank you, and donate later approach.” But to me, that never feels right either. There is guilt that sticks around. Who wants to live in fear of being “found out”?⁣⁣I’m here to say, we must be brave. We need to talk to our family members. We need to tell them that simplicity is a core family value that we are teaching our kids and we need their help. ⁣As parents, we have to stand up for the family values we are instilling in our children. Because one day…the time will come that our children are tested and need to stand up for the family values too. And it's our job to show them how to do it. ⁣

    Try this:“Our kids love spending time with you and I have enjoyed seeing your relationship grow. But I worry that too many packages may distract them from appreciating all the wonderful gifts that you bring as a person. I want them to look forward to special time with you MORE than they do the gifts. How can we work together to keep them focused on the important stuff?”Simple Happy Parenting by Denaye Barahona Ph.D.

    Then after you have this conversation, be patient. It’s not going to happen overnight. You’ll need to repeat some form of this talk on multiple occasions. It will take time, tact, and repetition. But it’s worth it. Your loved ones can learn the benefits of fewer toys for kids, too.

    Innovation Over Regurgitation

    • 24 min
    Caffeine + Crisis Habits [Quick Wins]

    Caffeine + Crisis Habits [Quick Wins]

    We've all picked up on a few habits during this crisis--and some of those habits might not be serving us. Today I'm sharing more about my attempts to moderate caffeine, a habit that I've leaned on hard the past few months. I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any habits you are trying to moderate right now?


    • 8 min
    Simple Things I Say to My Kids

    Simple Things I Say to My Kids

    When we speak to our kids, words do matter. We don't have to get it right all.the.time, but I like to use the same phrases repeatedly to help drive home important lessons. Therefore, I’m sharing the 10 exact expressions my kids hear on a regular basis. Sometimes the simplest things can be the most impactful. You can either listen along or read--in today's episode, I'm sharing how I use these and why they are important.


    1. “Sometimes we get angry with each other, but we still love each other”⁣⁣

    Why does this matter? Because children tend to think in black + white…all or nothing. It is developmentally normal for kids to think in absolutes—but it can be hurtful. For little ones, it can be hard to understand that we can still love each other AND be angry with one another—those feelings can coexist.⁣I love you/I hate you. You are my best friend/You are my worst enemy. ⁣⁣It’s not easy for children to see the gray area in between. When we get upset with each other and angry feelings are exchanged, it’s not uncommon for our kids to fear that your love might be turned off like a light switch. So in our house, we end every dispute with this phrase, “Sometimes we get angry with each other, but we still love each other”. Because even if the default is for my kids to think in black and white, I’m going to make darn sure they know that my love is absolute and unconditional.

    2. “It sounds like you don’t prefer this…”⁣

    Our kids are allowed to say no. They are allowed to opt out. But sometimes they express themselves in words that we don’t love. “This food is gross. I don’t like him. I hate this toy. I won’t play that game."⁣⁣We could spend all day telling them the words we do not want to hear. “Don’t say that” or “Don’t be mean”. Or instead of criticizing their criticisms, we could lead by example. We can respond with the words that we want to hear instead. As their language is developing, they will adapt to the words that we use (but it takes time!). ⁣⁣That’s why I respond to complaints and negativity with, “It sounds like you don’t prefer this”. This allows me to acknowledge their choice and reflect back some new (more desirable) language to be filed away in their brains and used in the future. ⁣

    3. “As your Mama, it’s my job to keep your brain and body healthy”⁣

    ⁣Can I have candy? I need more iPad time. I don’t want to go outside. I want whipped cream for breakfast. ⁣⁣Our kids are persistent. And often they want things we don’t want to give them. Full disclosure, this phrase is as much for ME as it is for them. This saying gives me strength and helps me stay rooted in my principles. It also helps my kids to recognize that I’m not just “being mean”, I’m actually just doing my job. ⁣⁣Here’s a specific example of how I used this recently:⁣⁣“I know, I know. You don’t want to go on a hike. You just want to stay home and watch TV. But as your Mom, it’s my job to keep your brain and body healthy. That means I have to feed you good food and make sure you move your body a lot. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but I’m just doing my job."

    4. "I feel like I’m about to get angry.”⁣

    ⁣(In many ways, this feels like a threat. But these sayings aren’t about being perfect, they are about being real.) So here’s why I use it. Anger has the tendency to simmer quietly inside of our minds and then explode. When you are trying to hold in your agitation,

    • 24 min
    Rules [Quick wins]

    Rules [Quick wins]

    In our house, we have three primary rules that guide the way we parent our kids. Today, I’m sharing the three rules and how we talk to our young children about them. 

    Here they are:

    * Respect the rights of other people,  * Protect and care for the environment (both inside the house and out), * Take only reasonable risks. 

    It can be really easy to fall into the trap of creating a lot of little rules, often based on annoying behaviors. Don’t throw sand. Don’t touch the exercise bike. 

    You are allowed to change your rules. If you have too many, you might need to reevaluate and decide which ones to keep after this episode. Because the truth is, they may cost you more time and energy than they are worth. Thanks again for tuning in to today's episode!

    • 8 min
    Mental Clutter 101

    Mental Clutter 101

    Many of us have been decluttering our homes for some time. But what about our brains? Mental clutter is real. Parenthood can feel heavy. We are tackling the 10 reasons that parenthood feels cluttered and overwhelming.

    1. Mindless Social Media

    Spending mindless time scrolling on social media feels a lot like eating marshmallows. They taste good in the moment, but make you feel like crap afterwards. Marshmallows are so easy to pop right in your mouth. Just one. Maybe two. Okay, perhaps another handful. 

    Oof. Why did I do that? Why do things that taste so good in the moment make me feel miserable after the fact?

    As parents, we don’t have a lot of free time. One thing is for sure:Spending idle time scrolling social media does not help us recharge our batteries. In fact, it may add to our mental clutter. 

    2. Idealizations of Family Life

    A family trip to the beach for sunset:

    * Idealized Reality: The sun is setting with minimal cloud covering. The family is frolicking in breezy white linen attire. The smiles and laughs are light and natural. Everyone is barefoot. 

    * Actual Reality: It’s too cloudy to see the sunset. The toddler is wearing a Batman t-shirt. The children repeatedly attempt to run into the water. Mom is stressed out and gritting her teeth. At least one child can’t stand the feeling of being barefoot in the sand. 

    The truth is...When we are chasing idealized images of family life, actual reality looks ugly. Are you getting caught up in how things are “supposed to be”? This is mental clutter. 

    3. Pinterest

    On a casual Tuesday while the Glazed and Lacquered Roast Turkey is in the oven developing that burnished mahogany skin, you can use your free hand to crank out a homemade unicorn kaleidoscope craft with your enthusiastic kiddos while simultaneously knitting a new hat with your toes. 

    Let’s talk about self-imposed pressure. Pinterest (and the interweb) offers us no shortage of picture perfect meals, crafts, and hobbies that can quickly leave us feeling like we aren’t doing enough. 

    Do what delights you, but don’t let Pinterest plant seeds of self-doubt. You are enough just the way you are. 

    4. Performance Reviews

    Each year, annual performance reviews at your job might make you nervous. They leave you thinking: Am I doing things right? Am I good enough? How can I improve? Even if you aren't performing perfectly, the feedback from the evaluator is generally constructive and positive. That is, until you take on the job title “Parent". 

    As a Parent, it can feel like you get hourly performance reviews. The evaluator (your child) rarely holds back. She’s a stream on nonsensical emotions with expectations that make your head spin. Despite best efforts, it appears she's never satisfied with your hard work. 

    5. Recognizing Seasons of Life

    There’s something so inviting about gardening. I crave the ability to grow my own food to provide for my family. The slow, intentional nature of taking it day-by-day as the seeds I have sown sprout from the Earth…the whole idea is so attractive for me. 

    But right now, with young children, I suck at gardening. It doesn't feel relaxing to me, it feels like mental clutter. My lettuce bolts. The birds eat every last blueberry. And most days I don’t have the energy to water it. 

    • 16 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
731 Ratings

731 Ratings

DaphnePE ,

Such relevant topics

I love Denaye’s way of explaining things and keeping it relatable, light and even funny. She is a delight to listen to and her advice is easy to follow. I highly recommend it.

agreeingwithyoy ,

Forever sharing this podcast

Each time I listen, i am encouraged and feel led to share it with someone else. These podcasts are relevant, honest, researched and practical. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate Simple Families.

apawarren ,

Relevant & helpful

This podcast takes an insightful and balanced approach to family life. I always leave feeling like I’ve learned and been pushed to think more deeply. I love the variety of formats and topics.

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