Jennifer D’Angelo Friedman | July 18, 2013

Remember back in 2011, when Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother both infuriated and inspired American moms with its tough-love techniques for raising a successful child? Consider Dolphin Parenting the softer, fuzzier approach.

“A Tiger Parent believes if a child becomes successful, THEN the child will be happy. A Dolphin Parent does the opposite, and believes if you raise a child’s level of happiness first, then success rates rise,” Shawn Achor, the positive psychology guru who coined the term Dolphin Parent, tells

During eight of his 12 years at Harvard University, Achor counseled incoming freshmen and observed which approach to school led to the best results. He described the research on the “happiness-success formula” in his 2010 book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.

“I coined ‘Dolphin Parent’ to describe the Harvard parents who understood this research from positive psychology and knew that creating a positive child first was the smartest way to increase their long-term levels of both success and happiness later on,” he says.

In fact, you can start being a Dolphin Parent long before your little one is working on her Harvard application, Achor says.

“This research is valuable even during pregnancy. This is the time to start practicing being a Dolphin Parent by creating positive habits that buffer you against the negative and help you create positive inception (rippling your positive reality to your child),” he explains, suggesting techniques like writing a positive email to someone in your life once a day for 21 days in a row. “Dolphin Parents benefit as much as their kids do, and it creates a feedback loop of positive chemicals between you and your baby (by decreasing cortisol levels),” he adds. Achor also co-wrote a children’s book, Ripple’s Effect (Little Pickle Press, October 2012), in which a dolphin named Ripple is able to create a more positive tank and overcome bullying by a shark named Snark.

Read more, inculding a parenting style guide, at