Catherine Townsend | August 7, 2013

  • Harvard-educated researcher Shawn Achor is one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success
  • Says that the ‘tiger’ approach of working hard to achieve happiness is ‘scientifically backward’, and parents should focus on helping kids be positive instead

A leading happiness researcher has claimed that playful dolphins parents are a better model for parents than take-no-prisoners tigers.

Shawn Achor. who teaches at Wharton School of Business, believes that the dolphin’s combination of sociability and playfulness makes kids smarter and happier than criticism, the New York Daily News reports.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom author Amy Chan famously advocated no TV and no tolerance for grades below ‘A’ in her 2011 bestseller.

But Mr Achor believes that building a positive mental state is the real key to a child’s success.

‘Most companies and schools follow this formula: if you work harder, you will be more successful, and then you will be happy,’ he writes. ‘This formula is scientifically backward.’

Instead, he believes that parents should focus on first building positive psychology for their kids so that success will follow.

His research has been validated by a study in the Asian American Journal of Psychology, which showed that a tiger parenting profile was associated with lower GPA and less of a sense of family obligation that children who had supportive parents.

Happiness researcher: Mr Achor claims that parents should mimic the playful dolphin

Another study shows that tiger kids also face more academic pressure, more depressive symptoms, and a greater sense of alienation.

Mr Achor believes in making learning fun.

So rather than waiting to reward a kid for finishing his homework, for example, he recommends letting him wear his favorite pajamas while he studies.

He also suggests modeling optimism to children by aiming for a ratio of five positive interactions to every negative one.

Mr Achor says that being positive isn’t about being delusional.

He suggests using ‘rational optimism’ to examine multiple options and navigate among them to pick the best.

When facing challenges, he says that reminding them of past achievements – such as giving them a trophy before a competition –  can help them stay positive and focused.

And instead of being overly harsh, he recommends setting kids up for success.

So, he says, a parent who wants her child to exercise more should hide the remote and put  her in sneakers so she’s ready to get moving.

He believes that parents should consciously working at being happier.

‘While it takes more cognitive processing to be happier, the more that you do these positive habits, the more that you switch your default,’ he says.


  • A positive, rationally optimistic attitude will help you realistically assess the options for your child to achieve the best possible outcome.
  • Smile – it causes a mirroring reaction in others.
  • Remind your child of past achievements, for example by giving him a trophy, to help him face future challenges.
  • Try to maintain a ration of five positive interactions for every one negative one.
  • Model optimism every day by giving thanks at the dinner table.
  • Set your child up for success. If you want her to exercise more, try hiding the TV remote and putting her sneakers by the door.

Read at Daily Mail Online