The K-12 independent school in Huntsville, Alabama
PARENTS+: “Raising Happiness”
Notes on raising happy children and developing a healthier mindset.
By Shawna Schmitz, RPA Kindergarten Representative
Assistant Head of Lower School Laurel Shockley and Lower School Technology Integration Specialist Melissa Tucker lead a thought-provoking discussion on Raising Happiness: Ten Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents by Christine Carter. In her book, Carter covers a wide array of topics, including expressing gratitude, developing and maintaining meaningful relationships and building healthy habits in daily life.
Opening the discussion, the group watched a short clip of a young girl affirming her life and gratitude in the mirror.
This led to a deeper discussion about parents taking time for themselves, dealing with failure and having a fixed or growth mindset, as discussed in the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, which all faculty are encouraged to read. Do we expect effort and the enjoyment that comes from achieving that goal or are we focused on achievements and end-results?
The group viewed a small clip on how to praise children and encourage a growth mindset where effort is praised rather than a label being assigned (smart, artistic).
It’s important to use words that focus on effort to help others not rely on given talents. If a child is praised repeatedly for being smart, studies have shown that this discourages seeking challenge for fear of compromising one’s sense of intellectual competence, whereas those praised for effort are more likely to seek new and harder accomplishments. The effect of words and praise is incredibly powerful. This turned the conversation to how praise and give constructive criticism. Praise should not be generalized and criticism is more carefully considered when given in concrete terms alongside helpful suggestions. For example, “I like the way you hustled on the field, but let’s remember to tag the runner down low next time.”
Towards the end of the session, the group watched an incredibly moving and comedic TED talk by Shawn Achor about being in the moment.
The group discussed how to be present in our daily lives as well as the importance of recognizing that failures are not necessarily failures but chances to improve and regroup on what worked and what needed additional adjustments. We also did an exercise of expressing gratitude by writing it out and placing it in a visible space as a daily reminder.