The Truth (I'm a girl, I'm smart and I know everything) comes to the Manasquan School Book Clubs for Fifth and Sixth Grade Girls

I had such a marvelous time with both groups of girls. These are great Book Clubs that meet at lunchtime. The guidance counselor opens each meeting with the following: The Truth is….and then she and the girls go around and fill in what is the truth for them over the last few weeks. This time Ms. Sanders was talking about the truth being how great she felt being away on vacation. The girls also had many truths about vacation, some good, some a bit disappointing. But that is the nature of vacations. Not all of them live up to our hopes and dreams. And that is the truth!

Then we went on to talk about The Truth (I”m a girl, I”m smart and I know everything). In each group a page was read aloud and discussed. In one group we discussed the Book Club that the girl and her friends start in the book.

What was really fun for me as a psychologist and an educator was what the girls would like to see in the next book-the sequel to The Truth and what they would like changed. Come back tomorrow for that information.

“The highlight of our book club meeting was a visit by the author of our book selection, The Truth, by Dr. Barbara Holstein. The girls were able to share and discuss areas of the book that inspired them most. They told her how and why certain parts of the book impacted them. The author invited the girls to ask her questions about her writing experience and whether or not the book was autobiographical. She then asked the girls for suggestions for her next book. They recommended many issues that they felt needed to be addressed for their age group.

What a great experience for our girls! I am sure we have several future writers among them!”

Millie Sollecito Ed.D.
Student Assistance Counselor
Manasquan Elementary School

Dr. Holstein Talks to Kids from Stanton High School in Stanton, Iowa about The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything)

Yesterday was such a treat for me as a psychologist and an author. I talked via conference phone to Tonya, Lake and Emily at the Stanton High School. They are all students of Mrs. Whigham and they read my The Truth! All enjoyed the book. Some reactions and points made: Mrs. Whignam said that it was important for the girls to see that there are ways to cope with one’s problems outside of just leaning on other people. This is so important as girls often think they need a boyfriend or even a best friend to be able to cope. Reading about how the girl coped with a crush that led to frustration and other issues such as moving were very helpful. The kids commented that it was cool that ‘she’, the girl, figured out a way to remember the best of herself as she grew up. (That involves a mystery in The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything), so I can’t give it away.

The girls felt sorry for the girl and saw her mom as ‘rude’ in that she didn’t always listen to her. We discussed how important it is for adults to listen to kids!

As far as the next book, they wanted to know the title in the series. I told them but also that it is a secret. So…..I’m afraid I can’t tell you yet. But they loved it and want to see the girl continue with the ‘drama’ of growing up as they put it. They discussed how they see their lives as involving conflicts between friends -good friends one minute and enemies the next. Also issues with parents, school, crushes, problems and they want to see the ‘girl’ go through those things also. We talked about her having some weight issues in the next book and all agreed that is a good subject to have her deal with.

It was great to ‘be’ with these girls in Iowa. I hope they will write to me on the blog and stay in touch. They were great!

When Your Daughter is on the Brink of Womanhood

30aI enjoy the company of my two nieces; while one is just two, the other is almost 9 now, an age that has made her mom a bundle of nerves. The “tweens” as these years between 8 and 13 are called, has replaced the teens of a few decades ago. Parents of teenagers were in a constant state of anxiety, wondering how to get them through these troubled years without too big a problem. Today, parents have to begin to worry a few years earlier, when their kids are in their tweens.

As far as I can judge, my niece is a well-adjusted child, even though she does throw the occasional tantrum that has mom and daughter up in arms against each other. But in a year or so, the tiffs between the two are going to get worse, over issues like makeup, clothes, and yes, boys. It’s one of life’s pleasures when you’re blessed with a baby girl, but someone ought to ask God to help the moms magically get through the rough tween and teen years.

Television and shows like Hannah Montana and High School Musical are not doing too much to help either. In fact, they’re in a way responsible for inducing young girls to go in for spray tans, facials, highlights, massages and other beauty treatments at beauty salons. Besides this, there’s the pressure from peers that makes all young girls want to look as grownup as possible (little do they realize that in a decade or so, they’re going to be spending all their time trying to look as young as possible).

The problems parents face as their little girls grow up have a lot to do with the way a woman’s body and physiology are designed. They undergo both physical and emotional changes, and combined with the plethora of “cool” things that are suddenly accessible (like makeup, grownup clothes, boys, and in worst cases, drugs and alcohol), they pack quite a punch for a young mind. It’s hard to remain rational and mature when all your friends are doing it. It’s hard not to succumb to peer pressure and refuse to go along with your friends, not when you’re trying to fit in and be popular.

Parents have to deal with these sensitive issues in a way that’s mature and patient. Very often, they have to draw the line somewhere and put down some ground rules, something that’s extremely hard to do when your daughter is in a rebellious phase. They also have to talk about sex with their daughters – it’s best they learn about it from you because they’ll be able to come to you with any questions they may have as the years go by.

It’s tough, but close-knit families with a sense of values manage to make it through these turbulent times. And they do it by being there for their daughters even if things go horribly wrong; they do it being supportive and not saying “I told you so”; they do it by understanding their children even when they err.

That is the key to getting through the “growing up” years, especially when you have a daughter – understanding and patience.


This article is written by Kat Sanders. She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address:

Martha Trowbridge, inspirational writer, and I discuss some of the basic issues around these formative years

I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my audio shows about kids, tweens and teens. Let’s start of with the first podcast from Kids, Tweens and Teens, A Positive Psychologist Looks at all Three! In this show, Martha Trowbridge, inspirational writer, and I discuss some of the basic issues around these formative

June 30, 2008 – Dr. Holstein and Martha Trowbridge, inspirational writer for women, discuss Happiness as it relates to girls, tween, teens and women.

A RECIPE for a Happy Child must include some very special Ingredients

You wouldn’t back a special wedding cake without a recipe.  So way think you can bring up a child and have her flourish without a good recipe that really works?  As a psychologist, I can say the surest RECIPE that I have found is passed on the Seven Gateways to Happiness.  Here are some of the special INGREDIENTS that you will need as you help you daughter walk through the Gateways of Happiness.

The first ingredient is:

1: Lots of reinforcement for the kid’s talents, interests and potential. Without reinforcement from you, probably the most important adult in her life, she cannot validate her talents, strengths, interests and potential just on her own.  Kids are developed enough emotionally or intellectually to sort through all of their feelings and reactions to their own experiences.  They need the parent, grandparent, and/or teacher to help them in this sorting.  The girl may enjoy a ten week course in playing the flute.  But recognizing whether she loves the flute enough to now take expensive lessons maybe be something you have to help her with.  Maybe she like variety and to try a lot of new things.  That is just as valid an interest as a willingness and need to focus on one thing and master it.

I’ll be back with the SECOND INGREDIENT in RAISING A HAPPY CHILD  soon.

Another Book Club is Reading The Truth

I’m so excited. I just sent a batch of The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) down south to a group of girls in a self-esteem group run by Amy Stachler. The girls go to various schools but the club is Club G2G and all the girls are participating in Relay for Life (cancer walk). I think that is wonderful! Amy already wrote to me that the girls were really excited with the book. I wonder how they will react as they read the book. Will they identify with the girl and her feelings? Do they ever feel that a teacher or a parent is not really listening to them? Do they promise themselves about how they will be when they grow up? Do they have crushes? How do they feel the girl handled her crush with Paul? I can’t wait to hear from them. This is so exciting.

Book club encourages parent-child discourse

When seven Manasquan mothers and their sixth-grade daughters discuss a book they”ve all been reading, the conversation is about far more than the story. They share their feelings and thoughts about the issues in the book and about life.

Encouraging such communication was a goal when founding the Manasquan Mother Daughter Book Club in 2006, says Maribeth Pelly, 42, whose daughter Zoe, 12, is a member. The club has achieved that and helped the girls become more confident when expressing themselves, she says.

Download the PDF

Here”s another article

Listen to My Interview on Book Bites

Book Bites for Kids interviews me!

Description: Host Suzanne Lieurance talks with Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein about her book, The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything)

Listen to the Interview Here

Download the Mp3



29aAnd now a brief look at The Third Gateway to Happiness for Girls

The Third Gateway to Happiness for Girls is getting your needs met. For this 10 year old, in the best of all circumstances, she gets help with she needs, in school by a teacher who understands her, by her parents who help her learn how to negotiate hundreds of tasks and who reinforce her capacities, and by other people in her world who love or care for her and help her learn all sorts of things that she needs to learn at this age.

In other words she is thriving as she lives in an atmosphere that clearly helps her grow. For example, let’s say she wants to take piano lessons. Don’t forget, she loves art and music. Her parents find a way help her take lessons. That may mean  getting a  second-hand piano and enrolling her in group lessons if money is tight. It may mean a beautiful new piano and the best teacher in town. But whatever the circumstances, at least her needs are met minimally, if not to the max. This is important with kids, as kids don’t always have an endless window for a particular activity, interest or talent. If parents and schools fail to reinforce the child when she is ‘hot’ for dance or science or even  becoming a girl scout, the moment may pass and never come around again.

Looking at the consequences of not providing The Three Gatways to Happiness to Our Girls

What if the child doesn’t get enough of what she needs? What if she isn’t helped to feel good about herself? What if she isn’t bolstered in the ways that encourage her building a positive sense of her own life? What if she isn’t taught how to meet her needs? What if no one helps her meet her needs at the age appropriate times?

She might, for example,  be told things like, “You’re stupid,” or “You don’t have any talent,”  or “You didn’t inherit any of the good traits that Aunt Belinda has.”

And in terms of the narrative of her life, she might be given messages such as, “You’ll never make it.”  She might be told, “Don’t even try out for cheerleading.  You’re too clumsy.”  Or, “Don’t ever ask for those dance lessons again.  We can’t pay for them.”  And, of course, things could be even worse than that in terms of negative language.

Crippling can happen in the Third Gateway to Happiness also. “Play the piano? That’s for Sissies. Everyone in this family does sports.”

What does all this mean? Basically the message is simple. To thrive we need to be loved, cared for and listened as we grow up. Time is relevant as kids are always leaving one developmental stage and entering another. Each stage has a window of opportunity. Some windows come back, even if we miss them. Some don’t. So there are some basic rules of thumb when it comes to raising kids, that can be generalized from looking at ten year old girls:

  1. Teach them what they need to know without criticizing, belittling or namecalling.
  2. Listen to what they need to tell us about themselves, their interests, theirpassions, their wishes, their hopes. Hurt feelings are relevant, just as a teacher who may ignore a child’s efforts to be called on in class.
  3. Make sure their interests, talents, and potential are recognized in positiveways at home and beyond.
  4. Remember they are evolving. Piano lessons at 10 isn’t a clear indication of a future at Carnegie Hall. Still, treat all their positive interests with respect and hopefulness.



In The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m Smart and I Know Everything) the girl is 10. She is 10 for many psychological reasons. One is the importance of28a understanding the critical development of girls around that age. One of the ways that I teach this critical stage of development for girls is through the lens of THE SEVEN GATEWAYS TO HAPPINESS. Let’s jump right in and examine the first three Gateways to Happiness in terms of the 10 year old girl.

The First Gateway to Happiness is around self-esteem and appreciating one’s own talents, strengths and potential.

This Gateway is similar for a woman of fifty, a man of 23 or for a girl of 10. She like all of us, needs a sense of well-being and to also feel good about who she is. She needs to feel that she has knows right from wrong, and that her life is purposeful. For adults this might mean a very deep understanding of one’s place in the world. For her it could be as simple as going to her fourth or fifth grade class, knowing what is expected of her, and knowing that she is capable of the work. It may also mean feeling good about herself in relationship to her friends. It may mean knowing she has a family that supports her, and a teacher that likes her. Also recognizing her interests and talents. For example, she may love art and music, and feel talented playing the flute, but not like basketball or hockey. She’s clear as to who she is.

She will also have some dreams. She may feel she has potential to become a writer or a skier or an Olympic champion in something, or that she wants to discover a way to stop global warming. Inside of her are dreams, hopes, aspirations.

Let’s see how the above ties into The Second Gateway to Happiness for Girls.

In this gateway, one is aware of the narrative of her life. We begin to see how our attributes all come together in who we are and how we behave. So, for example, for a girl of 10, she may have been told many time that she is very similar to Aunt Belinda. She knows that Aunt Belinda is a wonderful woman interests in art and music, just like she has. She also knows that Aunt Belinda always remembers her with beautiful presents and is absolutely so much fun to be with.

And so, for that little girl, she now has a story-line around her life. It is not set in stone but it works wonders for her at age 10. She is loved by a woman she adores and that woman is said to be like her. So she feels great about Aunt Belinda and she also feels great about herself.

As she grows, she may change the story line a bit. She might even drop Aunt Belinda and decide she’s more like Uncle Sylvester for X reasons when she’s 11 or 12. But the point is, she’s being given a strong messages that she is a special person with lots of talents and potential and that can always serve as the underpinnings of her own story line about who she is.

Tomorrow we will talk about The Third Gateway to Happiness for Girls.