Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
We are delighted to have with us today Teresa Porath, LPC, the Mom’s Choice Award-winning author of Morgan and the I CAN’T Monster: My Mindset Matters. This licensed child therapist puts to great use effective techniques that help children understand the value of believing in themselves and their abilities. She emphasizes the importance of trying, again and again, rather than listening to the voice of doubt within, which she dubs the “I CAN’T monster.” Keep reading to find out more about Teresa and her wonderful book that shows kids how a healthy mindset can turn stumbling blocks into successes—a winning strategy that can last a lifetime.
MCA: Hi Teresa, thank you so much for joining us today, and a huge congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! A book is such an effective method for getting our children to think about new ideas—and you address a topic that all kids can likely identify with. Can we start off the interview by you telling us a bit about yourself?
I’ve had a passion for helping others since childhood. That passion led me to pursue a degree in early childhood education and later, to a master’s degree in counseling. I’ve held a License in Professional Counseling since 2012. I am originally from California but have spent the majority of my adult life in Texas. I live with my husband and two children in Texas, where I’ve worked as a crisis counselor for Ector County Independent School District and currently work as a Licensed Professional Counselor for Midland Independent School District. We are active members of our church and local foster care community.
MCA: What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
Writing a book has been a dream since childhood. I wrote my first book in fourth grade and I still have a copy. It’s written in my 10-year-old chicken scratch handwriting on my babysitter’s club stationery. It has been really fun to share with students in our community and to encourage them to dream big! Kids today are growing up in such an amazing time! Technology has created so many opportunities.
I am dyslexic. Reading and writing have not always been easy. I didn’t have much growing up, but I knew early on that education would be key to helping me achieve my dreams. I wouldn’t say I was ever the best or smartest student, but I was probably one of the hardest workers. My efforts and community involvement helped to earn me many scholarships. I am the first person in my family to graduate from college. Sharing that with students and inspiring them to believe in themselves has been really rewarding.
MCA: What was your inspiration for writing Morgan and the I CAN’T Monster: My Mindset Matters?
I’ve been using the idea of an “I CAN’T” monster as a therapist for many years. Our thoughts impact the way we feel and our feelings impact the way we behave. When kids experience self-defeating thoughts, they feel discouraged, and as a result, they often stop trying (behavior). Once kids realize they have control over their thoughts, it makes a world of difference in their motivation to persevere. When kids learn to believe in themselves, anything is possible!
MCA: What are some of the key lessons children will grasp from your book?
No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something. I often see kids who measure their average skills against someone’s best skills and are then filled with self-defeating thoughts that give the “I CAN’T” Monster control. It’s important for kids to recognize that they are still learning and that it’s okay if there are things they would like to learn that they don’t know how to do yet. It’s important for kids to recognize that many things take time and practice to understand and that if mistakes are made, they haven’t failed—they’ve learned.
MCA: Can kids easily relate to the “I CAN’T” monster?
The “I CAN’T” Monster stems from basic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), my preferred therapeutic approach. CBT involves efforts to recognize and change harmful thinking patterns. Some of the brightest and most creative kids I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last few years have struggled with self-esteem issues and have battled with their own “I CAN’T” Monsters. As a result, these same kiddos have had difficulty with depression, low motivation, and test anxiety. One of my main goals as a child therapist has been to arm kids with self-esteem and to encourage them to overcome their own “I CAN’T” Monsters by believing in themselves.
MCA: The idea that thoughts have power—how do you relay this to children?
I use art in combination with books often to help strengthen student learning. When kids can draw out the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, they develop a greater understanding of the way things are connected. When one aspect of the picture changes, everything changes as a result. Even very young children benefit from using art in therapy. Children do not have the refined verbal skills that adults do. Using art helps kids to communicate more effectively than when they try to use words alone.
MCA: It’s inspiring to know that this message can be imparted even to young children. What kind of response from readers have you received?
I have been pleasantly surprised to have gotten reviews from people all around the world. To date, Morgan and the I CAN’T Monster: My Mindset Matters has made it to 15 countries in less than a year. My school district is big on supporting social-emotional education. Pairing my book with social-emotional lessons in the classroom for students has strengthened their understanding of what it means to persevere and have a growth mindset.
MCA: Clearly, your book has resonated with a lot of people in many different places. Is this a book you’d recommend that teachers use in the classroom?
Absolutely! Morgan and the I CAN’T Monster: My Mindset Matters gives kids tools to overcome challenges and strengthen their emotional intelligence. The goal of social and emotional learning is to help kids form healthy identities so they can thrive. Research has shown that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and ability to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life. Lessons taught in the book highlight the importance of practicing, trying again, learning from mistakes, and asking for help. These are very valuable skills to use in the classroom.
MCA: Speaking of imparting valuable skills—if you could ensure that readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Mindset matters! No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something. I had a student once say that she felt like she would be bragging if she focused on her strengths, but there is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Being proud of your accomplishments or excited to talk about your success is not being arrogant and it is not bragging. When people feel confident, they are proud of who they are and have a high level of self-esteem without putting anyone else down. When children feel good about who they are, they feel more confident to try new things and have the chance to conquer new tasks that are scary or different which impacts personal growth. By focusing on personal strengths, kids can learn to use their strengths to help overcome their challenges.
MCA: You say it was a longtime dream—writing a book and getting it published. Now that you have, are there more books in your future? Might you build upon Morgan and the I Can’t Monster?
Publishing a book has been a lifetime dream. Since writing the book, I’ve made awesome connections with others who have inspired me to write more. However, I have learned that I am not a great business person. Technology has opened many opportunities. Being able to print on demand allowed my book to come to life, which was amazing, but I’d like to try for a traditional publisher next time.
MCA: We’re delighted to hear that there will be a “next time”—and wish you the very best in all future endeavors. Thanks again for sharing your insights with us!
You can learn more about Teresa Porath, LPC, and her award-winning book, Morgan and the I Can’t Monster, by visiting her MCA Shop pages.