By Sarah Smith, REDBOOK.
Now don't they look happy?The problem with the whole Tiger Mom thing awhile back was that there didn't seem to be a good alternative. Kittycat Mom who doesn't care at all about her child's success? Now I've heard about a better animal antidote: Dolphin Parents. They're proof you don't have to be a tiger to give your child a real advantage. You may just have to smile more.
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"Dolphin Parents" is a new term coined by Shawn Achor, a Harvard-trained psychologist and author of The Happiness Advantage and the upcoming BeforeHappiness. (Watch his super popular TED talk about looking at the world more positively: You will feel happy about being happy.) His point: We think that success will make us happy or at least fulfilled, but it's really the other way around. By being happy, we're far more likely to find success: Research has shown that it makes people more intelligent, creative, and energetic. Dolphin Parents are the ones who raise positive kids by taking things in stride, talking about things they're grateful for, and being kind. And those are the kids who are going to make a difference in the world.
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Before my son was born, when we talked about what he might be like, my husband would always say, "I want him to be happy." It might sound obvious, but he meant it, deeply. He didn't mean, "If he isn't athletic or smart or musical, I'll mind less as long as he's happy." He didn't mean, "I want him to have an easy life with no worries." He'd given it a lot of thought: He wanted our son to be happy. He wanted him to look at the world with joy, not suspicion or fear. Because that's a better way to live.
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As it turns out, we have a remarkably happy baby. I get stopped by perfect strangers on the subway who say, "That's a happy baby you've got there!" I think he was born that way-my husband's wishes come true?-but I also think that we have a task before us now: To encourage that joy and show him that it's something we value. If that means we want to be Dolphin Parents, great. Where he takes his positive energy is up to him. As long as he's happy, we'll all be all right.
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