Parents, if you have been waiting for a positive psychology book that is results-oriented but easy to digest, Dr. Timothy J. Sharp’s new book, 100 Ways to Happy Children: A Guide for Busy Parents, may be just what you are looking for. Light on researcher names and discussion of empirical constructs but heavier on simple activities, this little book reads like 100 days of practical homework for the parent who only has a few moments at bedtime to reflect on the day and just needs to try some things that will work.
There is not a program to follow nor is the book scholarly or deep. Instead, the research is there in the form of Dr. Sharp’s years of private practice, in short narratives which show positive parental skills in action, and in the clear but subtle use of words like strengths, resilience, optimism, and gratitude. You won’t necessarily know why something is likely to work, but the upbeat examples, most of which fit on a single page, are nicely peppered with before and after stories of parents and children who use Dr. Sharp’s approaches.The book is divided into five sections, each of which has twenty entries. You don’t have to read any of the book in order, and Sharp has nicely pointed the reader to other pages with related information, so if you missed something earlier in the book, you can relax and read up on it later.
The first section is for parents who, Sharp rightly identifies, won’t be much use at helping their children identify strengths if the adults can’t do this for themselves. For that reason I believe it would be worth beginning there. There are also sections on character building, setting positive boundaries, making learning safe and fun, and ensuring well-being. Both a great table of contents and the index can help you find the next topic, or you can open to a random entry. While Sharp suggests keeping a diary, since some entries take up only half a page, the reader might add visuals or notes, or even treat the book as a place to journal results.
Another Book for Parents
Tamar Chansky’s book, Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias, looks deeply at the underlying causes and interventions for treating negative thinking and draws directly, with attribution, on therapeutic approaches and research from the worlds of cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology.
For a person with more academic interests and a need for or enjoyment of further explication, Chansky offers a nice marriage between readability and evidence, and her activities for parents are clearly scripted and explained. Excellent charts, graphs and drawings support the text, and bulleted summaries reprise the high points within chapters. Drawings such as “The Negative Think Hole” and “Brain Nets” illustrate what might otherwise seem to be complex ideas, and approaches are explained with clear, developmentally appropriate activities for following up with your child. The book reads as though Chansky is anticipating reader questions; she clearly takes the audience’s needs for explanation and example into consideration.
Back to school is right around the corner. During this natural transition time, either one of these books can help you get started applying positive psychology with your (or someone else’s) children. I’d love to hear what you think works best!
Sharp, T. (2009). 100 Ways to Happy Children: A Guide for Busy Parents. Penguin Books.
Chansky, T. (2008). Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias. Da Capo Lifelong Books.
Image from office.microsoft.com.