Pop quiz: You are about to be born. Who do you want for a mother, the woman whose mothering style has the aspiration of Raising Happiness or the woman who marches to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is Amy Chua's book about parenting, which was excerpted in the Wall Street Journal to much ado on the internet, including my furious response. Raising Happiness is a book by Christine Carter Ph.D., who gives an articulate rebuttal to Amy Chua's ideas here. Chua advocates a demanding form of parenting – expecting perfect grades, allowing no playdates, insisting the child master violin or piano, etc. – that she believes is the key to the child's future success. As I noted in my post, Chua is a "success" in the world – a law professor at an Ivy League school – but has no credentials in psychology, child development, or parenting. In contrast, Carter is a sociologist and parent educator, and her article shows a broader understanding of what constitutes "success" than mere outward achievement. Refreshingly, Carter speaks to happiness as the key component of success, noting that "three decades of research clearly suggests that such a narrow focus on achievement can produce wildly unhappy people." Validating what I mentioned in my post, where I commented on research presented in the book A General Theory of Love, Carter also articulates that "social connections are the foundation for happiness, health, and success in life."
Carter's book Raising Happiness is about "the science of raising happy kids," and part of her mission is to help parents be happier. On her blog, she has a pledge you can sign: "I understand that improving my own happiness is a way to make the world a better place. Over the next nine months, I will take steps to increase my happiness." I like this. While happiness is not something you can make happen in your life, we all know things that make us happy and we can create time to do those things and cherish those moments. Paradoxically, many of the things that make us happy can often be traced back to the qualities and things we most loved as children – another reason that it's important for kids to have fun and play.
For many of my clients, creating and enjoying freedom and movement in their bodies makes them happy –whether it's through yoga classes or exercise or bodywork. One of my Seattle clients, who did the 10-session Rolfing® series a couple of years ago, was in for a tune-up in November. We were talking about the upcoming Christmas holidays, and what she and her family would do, and she decided on the spot that what she wanted for Christmas was to gift herself an Advanced Rolfing Series. For her, the quality of life she experiences getting in touch with her body brings happiness, more than the various things she could buy.
I encourage you to find what it is that makes you happy, to enjoy it, and to make happiness contagious in your families and in the world.