By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: February 24, 2010
Dr. Molly Barrow holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is the author of Malia and Teacup Awesome African Adventure and Malia and Teacup Out on a Limb—an adventure series for ages 9 and up.
Bianca Schulze: You have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and have worked in a private practice for over 20 years as a licensed mental health counselor and educator, at what point did you decide to add “writer” to your resume?
Dr. Molly Barrow: I have always enjoyed writing poetry and keeping a journal, but it was working on my doctoral dissertation that gave me the discipline to become a serious storyteller. I began by writing screenplays because I have the ability to see a film plot unfold in my mind. I wrote the Malia & Teacup books in screenplay form initially. As I am writing, I am laughing aloud and delighting in the awkward situations that I place my characters. Sometimes as I am writing, the plot shifts because the characters seem to take me in a new direction, a phenomenon that I do not completely understand, but enjoy immensely when it happens.
Bianca: What do you think has influenced your writing the most—personal experiences or your work as a psychologist?
Dr. Molly: I think my personal experiences have influenced me the most, although I have gained great insight from the lives and stories that my patients have shared with me. Each of my characters embodies pieces of my own thoughts, deeds and idiosyncrasies. Sometimes I like to throw in exaggerated parts of my friends and family for my own amusement.
Bianca: Raising children’s self-esteem is a very important issue—and one that you advocate for—was this the catalyst behind the Malia and Teacup series?
Dr. Molly: Self-esteem is the single most important factor for the safety of a child. Parents and educators would serve children better by concentrating their efforts on inspiring children to value their self-worth rather than over-disciplining them into compliance. High self-esteem is psychological armor for children. How a child values themselves is the first line of defense in dangerous situations against school bullies, predators, and abuse. Prevention psychology is what we need now. Children must believe they deserve to be treated well. Experts link low self-esteem with drug and alcohol use, rebellion, suicide and school dropouts.
During the past twenty years counseling families, I have used humorous storytelling to explain complicated therapy concepts to young children and troubled teenagers. Children responded so well to the stories that I created the Malia and Teacup books to reach more children with the Barrow Empowerment Theory. L. A. psychologist and author Gerald Amada says, “Exciting books with social and moral themes, like Malia and Teacup and Harry Potter do have the effect of improving self-esteem in children…and will become a part of the large corpus of children’s literature that fosters their emotional well-being.”
Bianca: What do you think is the most important lesson that a young reader can take away from this series?
Dr. Molly: The most important lesson in Malia and Teacup is kindness, including self-love and self-appreciation of life, kindness to other people without sacrificing your own well-being, and kindness toward animals.
Cruelty to animals by bullying children is the first indication of abusive behavior as adults. Empathy and compassion are elements of high self-esteem, demonstrated by kindness to animals, people and self, and proven to reduce violence, suicide, drug and alcohol use and cruelty. Frustration and anger from low self-esteem is often transferred to animals. The Malia & Teacup series helps to build self-esteem and teaches that kindness to animals is an essential value of a healthy personality.
Bianca: You also have a wonderful selection of relationship advice books, including: Matchlines for Singles, Matchlines for Couples, Matchlines: How to Survive Step Parenting. How does writing for adults differ from writing for children?
Dr. Molly: Writing for children is so much more fun. I can be lost in a world of make believe and literally take my characters anywhere in the world or beyond. The books for adults are about having healthy relationships that can stop the tragedy of divorce, abuse and frustration from conflicted relationships. The adult books are more serious. However, all my books are designed to help people in different ways.
I am proud of my Matchlines relationship theory developed from my work in clinical psychology that has helped so many people find love. My latest book, Matchlines for Singles is different from any self-help book on the market, empowering readers to understand their past, balance their present and future relationships, reduce conflict, and select new partners more wisely. Before a Single accepts the next date, takes a relationship to the next level or gives up on a partner, Matchlines for Singles is a must-read to avoid painful heartbreak and before one ever commits their life, body, finances, or future children’s well-being to a new partner. Almost all relationships can improve and some can have a complete turnaround. My original Matchline Theory successfully mends troubled relationships and helps lonely Singles find true love and happiness. The book has a companion Matchlines Relationship Capacity Quiz that graphs relationship strengths and weaknesses at http://wwwdrmollybarrow.com.
Bianca: What would be your number one message to share with parents who are dealing with children who suffer from low self-esteem?
Dr. Molly: We learn to like ourselves through achievement. Parents make the mistake of trying to give a child outside praise. Outside praise is giving children parental judgments, as teachers give students grades and coaches give athletes trophies. These exterior reinforcements do little to develop esteem in a person. What builds self-esteem are personal achievements that you regard as important to you.
Your choices either value and respect you or disdain and sabotage you. When we indulge ourselves with an immediate gratification, we justify our actions with “I am so tired,” “Just one more time,” or “No one cares for me” therefore, I deserve this little treat, indiscretion or revengeful act, our ability to maintain a positive and healthy self gets a little chip in it. Afterwards, we may throw on a feeling of guilt or remorse. If someone criticizes us for a wrong choice, like selecting a chocolate sundae or more bad behavior, we subtract more small pieces of our self in the form of embarrassment, frustration or defensive anger at ourselves and at the one who points out that we are taking the wrong direction again.
These little chips begin to accumulate. Each choice that you make begins to carve a well–worn path in you memory. Each time we repeat a behavior or a thought, we carve the path in our brain a little deeper and soon we create a habit out of those little indulgences. Soon we may behave grouchy, eat junk food and do self-destructive behaviors every day instead of the random treat we once enjoyed. That is how perfect children end up with addictions, obese and friendless – all so gradually that no one seems to notice before the problem becomes major. The loss of self-esteem is often slow, with repetitive small behaviors rather than an attention-grabbing event that puts everyone on notice.
If we make the error of dismissing a small choice as insignificant, we may lose an opportunity to change direction of a downward spiral. Each time we choose in a certain direction that particular behavior gains strength, the brain path is deeper and all other good positive behaviors begin to shrink.
If you want to stop a negative behavior, you simply throw all your energy and effort into a new positive behavior and through a process of attrition, the offensive behavior will fade away. Substitute positive for negative and you will begin to respect your choices. Just a little at first. The choices begin to have a synergistic effect to the good when you begin to choose health, exercise, kindness and happiness regardless of what other people do, say or expect of you. That is when your self-esteem begins to climb. Remember, the first few choices are going to be the most difficult as you change direction.
As your self-esteem climbs, the decisions that are self-enhancing rather than self-destructive begin to dominate your life. So remember each time that you choose a negative behavior, you allow your bad habits to build and gain power and influence, and conversely, each positive behavior choice gains power and influence in a self-enhancing direction. If you learn this concept and prepare to make a positive self-enhancing choice in place of negative habits, you will know that with every choice made in the better direction you will gain joy, energy, beauty and quality of life. The movement is imperceptible at first, you may fail many times but now you can see why even the smallest positive choice can be life changing.
Bianca: You have a very strong media presence. You have a blog, multiple websites, have been seen on, quoted in, or written articles for many prestigious publications and television shows—NBC, PBS, O Magazine, etc… Can you tell us which of these experiences has been the most rewarding?
Dr. Molly: A challenging, yet exciting opportunity has been The Dr. Molly Barrow Show, streaming from New York City every Tuesday morning on Progressive Radio Network owned by Gary Null. The show is live for an hour and I have guests who are leaders in their fields. I have to be prepared, be able to handle unexpected events and keep the show interesting and professional. Also, I played myself in the independent teen film, My Suicide, that is sweeping film festival awards. I love acting and I am a long-standing member of AFTRA and SAG acting unions.
Bianca: Which books do you think influenced you the most during your childhood years?
Dr. Molly: I relished Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Black Beauty, Old Yeller and my big brother’s college textbook on psychology. My favorite summer day was a walk to the library and then climbing the large apple tree to settle in and read my new book in the treetops. I love Arabian horses and read everything I could about horses.
Bianca: What can we expect to see from you next?
Dr. Molly: The next book in the Malia & Teacup series is Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon set in faraway Bhutan. Tahir and Teacup cause trouble, Grandpa is deported for bad behavior, and Malia finds herself lost in a terrible snowstorm only to be rescued by a Yeti Snow Monster.
Bianca: Any last words?
Dr. Molly: I deeply appreciate this opportunity to share Malia and Teacup with children. I hope everyone learns to love each other, show great kindness to his or her family and behave compassionately toward all animals, our communities, other nations and our planet.
Bio: Dr. Molly Barrow holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is the author of Malia and Teacup Awesome African Adventure and Malia and Teacup Out on a Limb. An authority on relationship and psychological topics, Dr. Barrow is a member of the American Psychological Association, Screen Actors Guild, and Authors Guild and is a licensed mental health counselor. Dr. Molly has appeared as an expert in the film, My Suicide, documentaries Ready to Explode and KTLA Impact, NBC news, PBS In Focus, WBZT talk radio, Walden University, and in O Magazine, Psychology Today, Newsday, New York Times, CNN, The Nest, MSN.com, Yahoo, Match.com, Women’s Health, Harvard Business School, Women’s World, has a radio show on Gary Null’s progressiveradionetwork.com and blogtalkradio.com, and is a columnist for Menstuff.org.
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Read: Psychological Armor for Kids: How can an adventure book empower children and make them safer?