Here’s how things will work: Each Monday, Katy will post a review of our selection for the week, followed by a series of discussion questions. In the comments section, please offer your thoughts in response to the discussion prompts – or chime in with another topic that came to mind while reading. And please feel free to join our conversation even if you haven’t been reading along with us!
Each Thursday, I will post on an issue that I found particularly resonant in that week’s reading, hopefully sparking further discussion.
We encourage you to subscribe to the comments thread for each book club post by checking the box underneath the form when leaving a comment. That way you can get other readers’ thoughts delivered right to your in-box and you can respond just as you would in an in-person book club.
As a reminder, we will be discussing:
Chapters 1-3 the week of April 12th
Chatper 4-6 the week of April 19th
Chapter 7-9 the week of April 26th and
Chapter 10 + Q&A with Christine the week of May 3rd
And now I’m pleased to bring you Katy’s thoughts on chapters 1-3 of Raising Happiness.
Chapters 1-3 of Raising Happiness is an easy 65 pages, right?
Well, yes and no.
It’s dense. If you are like me, your mind wanders constantly to less-than-ideal-parenting examples and great real-life situations of what Carter is talking about.
For those of you who haven’t yet joined us, or are hoping to catch up, here are some of the key themes netted out. I also have added my “A-ha Moments.” I’m sure you had some of those too and it will make good fodder for our conversation.
Chapter 1: You Want Your Kids to Be Happy? You Go First.
Carter, thank God, gives us permission to take care of ourselves. First. This isn’t just a selfish act. It’s critical to the success of raising happy kids.
“Do as I say, not as I do.” That was a favorite phrase of my own parents, but the research tells us humans are built for mimicry. If we act anxious or dissatisfied, our kids will sense that and imitate it, no matter what we tell them. So those of you who have been reading books like The Happiness Project or going to that well deserved yoga class or meeting friends for cocktails, good for you. You are modeling for your kids what makes you happy and showing them that you are committed to it.
Chapter 1 A-ha Moment: Fighting fair. Carter tells us that how we have conflict and eventually resolve it is critical behavior to model for our kids.
Now, I have a pretty darn good marriage, but all I could think of is the handful of times hubby and I have had a disagreement which created a chilly atmosphere, only to let it “blow over” in a day or so. There is rarely a public apology or making up. We often just wear it out rather than work it out.
Chapter 1 describes how kids often think they are responsible for the conflict and it causes them stress. Showing them how you make up relieves them of this anxiety AND shows them how to fight fair. Good stuff. Score that in the column of things to improve.
Chapter 2: You Can’t Do Happiness Alone.
This entire chapter was, for me, a no-brainer. If I start to feel blue, one of the first things I know I need to do (besides exercise!) is connect with someone that is important to me—make a phone call, have coffee, see a neighbor. It’s reflexive.
Carter tells us in Chapter 2 that the strength of our social relationships will make us happier people. We can encourage our kids to be happy by helping them build social rapport with others and teaching them how to resolve conflict. Plus, we need to cultivate a sense of kindness in our kids. This basically adds up to ensuring that we are raising socially intelligent little creatures.
I don’t know about you, but I did get a bit bugged in this section as she outlined ways for “Dad to be more involved.” In my house, Dad is very involved and I somehow felt protective of him—like it belittled him and/or was insulting. Did any of you feel that way?
Chapter 2 A-ha Moment: Don’t over-reward helping behavior.
In our house, we are sometimes caught in the infinite, annoying loop of rewarding desired behavior (clean your room and you can have dessert!). Carter reminds us that it’s simply okay to expect certain behaviors. I want to start setting an expectation that kindness is a default setting that our family operates by. No surprise, they need to see me acting on this myself.
Chapter 3: Perfectionism is Outdated.
Darn. This one was a bit painful. I got lost a little bit—are we talking about my kids or, whoops, do I need to fix some of the things about myself?
If you hear Carter speak, the discussion about fixed mind-set (talents are innate and God given) and growth mind-set (you can achieve great things through effort, practice and passion) is the key plank in her happiness platform. If you don’t get through a single other chapter in the entire book, read this one. (If you have read Nurture Shock by Po Bronson, this concept will be very familiar.) Carter shares research that those kids that are praised for being smart or talented—they become addicted to the praise, they refine this specific skill over and over and they fail to take risks in new areas. This is in big contrast to kids that are praised in their effort—how they approach their task—which motivates them to keep engaging in the process.
But praising our kids for the effort and not just the achievement, well, this takes practice. Our gut instinct is to tell them that they are smart, athletic, funny. It takes a momentary delay to say: “I really like the way you approached your homework. You put a lot of effort into your handwriting.”
My daughter is in season two of Little League, a girl in a sea of boys. This is her choice, not mine. But last week she cried briefly and said: “I stink at baseball!” It would be so easy to just let her quit. But instead, I explained to her that those boys (her own brother included) practiced a lot to get to where they are. We fielded about 200 grounders last week and you should have seen her beaming smile when she fielded 3 balls in a row at the game last night. She is proving to herself that success comes from hard work and practice.
Chapter 3 A-ha Moment: Carter describes that perfectionists are decision maximizers. They go through every potential option to ensure they are making perfect decisions. Satisficers are those that get to a reasonable outcome or option and take it.
Those of us who are perfectionists could potentially see that as bailing, or settling. But, in fact, the research shows that the satisficers are plain happier. And Carter tells us we can help our kids make good decisions by restricting the number of options they consider. Hmm, that’s new thinking for me.
- What A-ha moments, if any, did you have while reading Chapters 1-3?
- What new approaches may you try this week because of your reading?
- Can you share any examples of how you’ve tried to use a growth mindset approach instead of a fixed mindset one?
- How have you learned to keep your own perfectionism in check while raising your children?