New Book, "Raising Happiness": Are people born to be happy- or raised that way?
From first glance at those pink lines, we strive to give our kids every possible advantage and competitive edge. We take the vitamins, do the pre-natal Yoga, and hang those black and white mobiles over newborn cribs to fire up those little neurons.
After all, who doesn’t want their offspring well equipped to grab the world by the tail? But what if the most powerful arrow needed in a child’s quiver is a simple confidence that he or she can hit the bull’s eye?
And perhaps even more importantly, the knowledge that if they miss, taking another shot with the insight gained from the first wobbly attempt bears no shame.
That’s the premise of “Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for Raising More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents”, (Ballantine, Feb. 2010) by Christine Carter:, PhD; sociologist, Director and happiness expert at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center.
Oh, and she’s a mom to two girls, named in the book dedication as her muses and great loves of her life. Like most of us, Christine wants her kids to be happy, self-confident and resilient.
But unlike many, she clearly sees that happiness is not a fanciful emotion bestowed by the ides of fortune, but a state reached by consistent practice. Most of the elite-level success stories heard in her studies are told by people with a disciplined way of viewing the world- through a lens rife with possibilities.
You really can teach someone to be happy. (or at least, happi-ER.)
A passage from the book explains it well:
I spoke to Christine via phone about her research, center, and her own kids, and that last point emerged a key topic. “It’s the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset,” she explained.
For example, if my daughter beat me in a game of Scrabble and I said, “Ohhhh, you’re so smart,” I'm praising a zero-sum game of fixed mindset. Having been labeled smart, she'll now take care not to appear otherwise--even at the cost of depriving herself of opportunities to stretch and expand.
But if I said, "Hey, nice job putting that J on the triple letter score! JUST in time to block my 132 point word!!!" - then the focus is on actions, not self image. And she can still feel her way in the world.
“Raising Happiness” draws on findings from sociology, psychology and neuroscience to discern ways for parents to teach skills for developing happiness, resilience and emotional intelligence.
Through her consulting practice, Dr. Carter has helped families and schools structure children's lives for success by finding happiness and meaning. In the book, she shares science- based tips in a humorous “parent to parent” tone, that succeeds in endearing and informing.
A Dartmouth grad and Senior Fellow, Christine worked in marketing management and school administration prior to receiving her PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley.
And her girls are definitely benefiting from her research.
The night prior to our call, a raccoon entered her house via the dog door. A lively chase ensued, and her children were understandably fascinated.
Once the crisis passed, one of her kids noted how lucky it was that they had a dog to help chase the rodent out. Of course, without that dog door, the raccoon couldn’t have entered in the first place, Christine noted.
But she got a philanthropic shrug- the positive presence of the dog outweighs the potential risk of raccoon home invasions, apparently.
That’s so glass half full, walking the walk. I love it. :)