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Monster Defense: Helping Kids Combat Their Fears

It's an idea that is so simple, yet so effective. Arming kids with tools to combat that most dreaded of childhood terrors: the monster under their bed! Whitney and Matt Hardesty of Lincoln, NE, have done just that with a delightful smelling monster spray, an adorable how-to book and a website with tips and resources for parents to help their children sleep peacefully through the night.

The Hardesty's created their Monster Defense products after witnessing their young nephew and his parents going through a rough night, all because of a pesky monster. "Our nephew, who was 3 or 4 years old at the time, was telling us that a monster was scaring him," says Whitney. "It kept him up at night, so we made him a makeshift spray to keep that monster away." Their nephews parents told Whitney and Matt how they had struggled at night and often the frightened boy would end up sleeping in their bed, but after that night and the monster spray; he stayed in his own bed. That got Whitney thinking.

Whitney and Matt were relatively newly married at the time and had not yet started their own family, but the idea of helping children as they had helped their young nephew was one Whitney could not ignore. "Matt and I thought about it and wondered if anything like this was on the shelves. We talked to friends with kids and one suggested that we write a book to go with the monster spray."

Whitney asked Matt what he thought about writing the book. "Well," Matt laughs, "I couldn't say no to Whitney so I said sure, I'll write a book without knowing what I was getting myself into." Matt researched childhood fears and ended up writing the book in one night. The young couple found illustrator Jason Hawkins who created a colorful world with precious illustrations, and they were on their way.

The book; entitled Monsters Beware! is a clever, fun rhyming book that is wonderfully illustrated. Monsters Beware! takes young readers into the bedroom of a child who is having monster problems with a comically menacing creature. But with the help of his mother and a bottle of Brave Spray, the brave boy faces his monster fear and away goes the creature that is called a "creeper, grim reaper, a sneaky trespasser".

With Monsters Beware! ready to go, it was now time to work on the Monster Defense Brave Spray. After working with a test group made of up children, an appealing scent made up of oranges and Daddy's French toast won the consensus.

"What we learned from our test group is that monsters love bad smells," says Matt. "If it was a bad smelling spray then monsters would like it and if it was a good smelling spray monsters would hate it."

In addition to the spray and book, the Hardesty's have created a website that is also a great resource for parents. "We reached out to and consulted with professionals who specialize in children and adolescents for endorsements and use their advice as a resource," says Matt. "We have a Bedtime Tips, Fun + Resources link on our website for parents and projects, arts and crafts for kids." The website also has a great blog, Monsters Registry and how to find Monster Defense products as well as purchase them online.

For more information, visit the official Monster Defense website:

Q&A with Matt Hardesty

Omaha Family: How does it feel to be a first time author with such a successful book and spray?
Matt Hardesty: I never thought I would be writing children's books. Especially having self published, I feel like it's a huge accomplishment…not just from the writing standpoint, but all the other work that went with it. I've learned so much, and it's been a wonderful experience that I can carry with me the rest of my life.

Omaha Family: What was your favorite illustration from Monsters Beware!?
Matt Hardesty: That's easy! The one where the boy is inside his toy box finding his Brave Spray. There are cool toys flying every which way and I just love the composition. There's so much going on that you can stare at it forever and never get bored.

Omaha Family: What did your parents teach you about monsters when you were little?
Matt Hardesty: Honestly, I don't remember…probably that they didn't exist. That's the standard go-to for parents, it seems, and most specialists say it's the wrong approach because it creates a barrier to trust. When children believe that they've seen a monster in person and you tell them it doesn't exist, they think you just don't believe them or that they're crazy.

Omaha Family: What have you learned as a parent about dealing with monster fears that affect your own children?
Matt Hardesty: We've had a lot of fun with it. Trust me, Finn went through some rough patches, but with the tools and confidence we've given him, he has no problem fighting off his monsters on his own now. Ellie isn't at that age yet, but I'm confident we'll have the same success with her.

Omaha Family: What tips do you have for parents dealing with their children's fears?
Matt Hardesty: Visit our bedtime tips section on the Monster Defense website. We have compiled a lot of information/resources for both parents and kids to help with bedtime routines and dealing with the "monster in the closet."

Omaha Family: You lived on the west coast when first married, what drew you back to the Heartland?
Matt Hardesty: I was born in Southern California, moved to Lincoln in elementary school, lived here until after high school, then moved back and lived there for about 12 years. I swore I'd never move back to Lincoln, but I never expected I'd marry a girl from Lincoln…and they all move back eventually, don't they? After we got married, it just made sense. We wanted to buy a house, be closer to our moms and to my sister. Lincoln is a wonderful place to raise kids. Just don't ask me how I feel about it in February :)

Omaha Family: What is the one family activity you cannot do without?
Matt Hardesty: We have dinner together as a family every night and I hope that will continue at least until the kids are out of the house. No devices, no distractions, just together time.

Omaha Family: If you could meet one person, living or not, who would that be and why?
Matt Hardesty: As a little kid, it was Jacques Cousteau. Then Hemingway. Now, I'd say I'd like to meet myself in 50 years. What advice would I give? What opportunities did I ignore & what might have happened had I not? What were my biggest accomplishments and my biggest mistakes, and what could I have done to make life better for my family and friends?

Omaha Family: If you could travel to one place on earth where would you go?
Matt Hardesty: There is so much traveling I want to do, but Paris has recently made its way to the top of my list. I love cheese, wine, French cooking and old architecture, so it just seems like a logical choice.

Omaha Family: If you could have one super power what would that be?
Matt Hardesty: Time travel…and flight…oops, that's two.

Lauren Hathaway

Omaha Family Magazine

Omaha Family is a free monthly publication that targets expectant and experienced parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers of children from infancy through adolescence. Readers depend on Omaha Family as a local resource to educate and inform them about new products, entertainment, goods and services. Features and columns focus on issues such as childcare, family life, private and public education, health and fitness, summer camps, and birthday parties. Founder/Publisher for Omaha Family ...

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