Welcome to our third summer book club meeting, a discussion of Raising Happiness prompted by Katy Keim of BookSnob.  We are posting Katy’s review of Raising Happiness chapter by chapter each Thursday. This book club first ran on Motherese, so you might want to check out the comments there, too, or Motherese blogger Kristen’s related posts.

Even if you aren’t reading along, we hope you’ll join the conversation.  What came to mind as you read the chapter being discussed, or Katy’s review?  You can subscribe to the comments thread for each posting and jump in.

Chapter 3: Perfectionism is Outdated.

By Katy Keim

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?

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Well, both.

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.

Discussion questions:

▪ Can you share any examples on 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?


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