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.

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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.

A Secret Valentine Sent by The Girl in The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything)

Dear Diary,

Last year I wrote my secret entry about Paul on Valentine’s Day.  Do you remember?  I sent him a Valentine and I was so desperate to see if he sent me one.  I had to open Valentines from everyone in the class until I found his.  Do you remember what it said?  It said, “Be my Valentine.”38a  I was so happy.  I could hardly sleep that night.

This year I will of course be sending Paul a Valentine.  Even though I don’t feel quite the same about him.  I’m not sure why, but I know one reason is that he looks away a lot when I look at him.  I think he might think I’m staring at him.

Anyway, I decided to do something else this year.  I read about the idea in one of my mother’s magazines.  It was  in an article  called BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND.  There was a  long list of things you could do to be nice to yourself.

Some were stuff like skip the laundry this week ,  buy yourself a new nightgown and get a new hairstyle.   Some of  the list sounded stupid.   Anyway it was for women, not girls.  But the one thing I liked was Send a Valentine  to Yourself.  So I’m doing that this year.  I have almost finished it.  I made it out of construction paper and lace and it is very beautiful.  And you know what I’m saying?

“I love you very much and I’ll never forget you!”  I am very excited.  I’m even going to glue little candy hearts on it.

Don’t tell anyone.  They would think I was silly.   Remember, it’s a secret.

The Girl in The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) goes to Washington for Inauguration in Secret Diary Entry

Dear Diary,

I can’t believe I am actually in Washington. When my dad told us that he had a friend who invited us to stay with them for the inauguration 36aand that it wouldn’t cost too much to go and that we could go I thought I was in a dream!  No one else in my class is going. We were all going to watch in on TV together in the auditorium. Now, I don’t have to be with everyone else.

I’m here in Washington. The drive was awful though. It took at least 10 hours and my brother was soooo bad. He was crying and fussing and hungry and had to go to the bathroom.

But I was so excited I could just not think about the racket he was making. I was busy imagining if I was one of the girls that was goint to move into the White House. I designed in my head a lot of my clothes that I would wear as we were driving to D.C. Most of my clothes would be pink or have some pink on them, ’cause that is my favorite color.  And my hair would be real long, much longer than it is now. Like half way down my back. And my room would be all pink with ballet dancers in a border on the walls. Oh, I loved imagining living in the White House.

I’ll be back, Diary. I have to stop now. We just pulled up to my father’s friend’s apartment building. I can see the Washington Monument from here, just a little bit.

We have to go to sleep now so we can get up really early. Daddy said like 4:00 AM. I would never do that for any other reason, unless I got sick and hand to throw up at 4:00 in the morning. But to see the Inauguration I’ll do it! I’m so excited. I’m really having my very first adventure in my whole life and that’s the truth.

I CAN READ THE TRUTH (I’m girl, I’m smart and I know everything) AS A 22 YEAR-OLD,…

I found this excerpt from a review that Vanessa Van Patten did on anThe Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) yesterday.  “At the end of the book (I am not going to tell you what happens with Paul), there are a series of questions parents can ask kid readers to talk to their kids about the issues in the book. I LOVE this, the fact that I can read it as a 22 year-old, my mom could read it, my little sister can read it and we could all take away a great message and have something to talk about.”

Vanessa Van Patten

Review of The Truth (I'm a girl, I'm smart and I know everything) by a ten year old girl.

A Kid”s Review

“I thought the book and discussion really went deep into a girl”s life; boys, crushes and dealing with yourself. I learned that people should express what they feel inside and always be truthful.” 5th Grader (posted on Amazon)