Whether or not you are reading along with us, please enjoy this overview of Chapters 4-6 by Katy Keim of BookSnob and then jump on into the discussion, following the question prompts in the comments section.
In Chapters 4-6 this week, Raising Happiness moves us into action. Practicing gratitude, growing your kids’ emotional intelligence, and building happiness habits are all things that resonate in my household at the moment. I liked this section of the book a lot. It seemed grounded in practical, actionable advice. The downside? There’s no excuses now…
Chapter 4: Optimism is a Choice.
In Chapter 4, Carter tells us that feeling positive is a choice. She says the science suggests a full 40% of our outlook is determined by our day-to-day thinking rather than genetics or environment. That’s a lot under our control. We need to take the opportunity to replace bad feelings with good ones. This can be done with optimism, gratitude, and forgiving others.
Practicing gratitude is one of my newest habits and something that I have been trying to instill in my own family. In lieu of a religious grace before dinner, everyone around our table mentions one thing they are grateful for in their day. It can be as simple as the chocolate chip cookie or gratitude for their great education. (I am not joking. My son recently said that!)
I also bought this handy book to motivate myself and make my habit easier to practice. I am a sucker for the forced structure—it works for me. I don’t do it every day, but when one of my kids comes into my office, it is a great opportunity to share what I am thankful for. Practicing my own gratitude regularly has helped me to be a lot happier.
Chapter 4 A-ha Moment: Carter gives us an excellent description of a great apology and why forgiveness matters. “Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves.” It never really occurred to me that holding a grudge is hurting me or my kids rather than doing any damage to the other party. If we can let go sooner, we become stronger and happier. Reading this section, I realize I could use some work on my own apologizing and forgiveness before I could teach my kids effectively.
Chapter 5: Negative Emotions Have Their Place.
Carter talks about emotional literacy in this chapter. Simply put, she is asking us to be fully empathetic to what our children are experiencing emotionally, help them to describe and label their emotions, and then help them as “coaches” to move through them.
She gives us a dose of reality by stating the obvious: life is filled with disappointment and other negative feelings. Our job as parents isn’t to shield our children from these emotions, but to teach them how to identify them and then work through them. This helps them to become more resilient knowing they can overcome more challenging times.
Managing negative emotions well helps us to get back to positive emotions faster.
Thank God I read this chapter before a recently canceled family vacation. It was a God-send. Because the intensity of my children’s emotions cause me stress sometimes, I am prone to make my kids laugh or to downplay a situation or to insist they not over-dramatize something. I realize reading Christine’s chapter that validating how they feel is critically important.
When we told the kids that we weren’t going to Mexico, I simply said: “Mom & Dad are really disappointed.” But gave them a lot of space to talk about why they were disappointed or angry or frustrated. There were a lot of tears. But they also were able to contribute to a big sheet of paper on our fridge that had in big sharpie across the top: PLAN B. Here they deposited ideas like Six Flags, eat doughnuts, stay in our PJs all day, and a number of other thoughts. They moved through it quickly. They overcame.
Chapter 5 A-ha Moment: Christine suggests to “Narrate Your Emotions” so that kids can see your range of feelings and how you process them. I think my husband and I often shield our kids from our emotions. This was a good tip on how to model for your children how to identify what you are feeling and express it. It seemed like a far more productive way of responding to my daughter’s: “Mama? You seem frustrated…”
Chapter 6: Practice, Practice, Practice.
Chapter 6 is where the rubber meets the road. If happiness can be learned, well, no surprise, it needs to be practiced. Carter starts to shift us to the driver’s seat in Chapter 6.
She tackles the issue of rewards with children. For the short-term, they are good for getting children to do an unpleasant and boring tasks. But in the long-term, the only really lasting reward is intrinsic motivation.
So simply put, we need to reward our kids with the satisfaction and happiness they feel from changing a habit or doing something well. And, of course, that is easier said than done.
Carter makes this a little less daunting by breaking our new habits into big goals and little “turtle steps.” This section is worth a read and one that we tried when we were trying to get my daughter to sleep through the night more. (Yes, at 7, we have been having loads and loads of wake ups.) Our turtle steps were things like: No scary books before bed, at least 15 minutes of wind-down time before bed, and wearing pajamas that weren’t too hot.
Chapter 6 A-ha Moment: I have always heard that a good habit takes 21 days to form. Carter tells us we should expect more like 5-6 months to effectively change a habit. So I guess we all better get set our expectations correctly! It’s hard work to change a habit, and if you are interested in Carter’s worksheet to help you on your way, you can get it here Download it from the Habits link.
Questions for discussion:
1. What A-ha moments, if any, did you have in Chapters 4-6?
2. How do you get your kids to deliver a sincere apology and practice forgiveness?
3. How do you help coach your children through different feelings, particularly negative ones?
4. What’s the one habit or routine you would change in your family?