Parenting speaker in Bend

Christine Carter focuses on developing grit

By Alandra Johnson / The Bulletin

Published May 2, 2014 at 12:11AM

If you go

What: Christine Carter, sociologist and author of “Raising Happiness”

When: 6:30 p.m. tonight, doors at 6 p.m.

Where: Summit High School, 2855 N.W. Clearwater Drive, Bend

Cost: $15 at the door, $10 in advance at COCC Box Office, $5 students

Contact: ahowell@cocc.edu or www.raisinghappiness.com

Want happier children? Let them encounter difficulty.

That’s one of the many messages Christine Carter, a sociologist and author of “Raising Happiness,” will share during her talk tonight at Summit High School (see “If you go”). She is the keynote speaker for the Conference for Early Childhood Educators and Professionals at Central Oregon Community College.

She says many parents today, in an effort to help children be happy, end up trying to remove all forms of pain and challenge from a child’s life. She calls this “snowplow” parenting, in which parents “clear the way” for the kids. But while parents are trying to help children, the approach doesn’t make kids happier.

“You can’t develop the skills you need to deal with difficulty unless you actually deal with difficulty,” said Carter.

At the beginning of her talk tonight, she will focus on many trends that she sees that show kids are not doing well. Depression, anxiety, suicide and prescription drug use are all on the rise and the rates are worse among children who come from affluent and well-educated families, according to Carter.

Carter’s goal is to help parents and teachers find ways to counter those trends. She will focus, in particular, on “building grit, so (children) are not so brittle.”

Grit is a characteristic that “fosters resilience and longer term motivation and persistence in the face of difficulty,” said Carter. And this trait is closely linked with happiness, she says.

Some people assume happiness is a set trait. Carter believes it should be thought of as a skill that should be built and practiced.

And this is where grit comes in: “Life is difficult, no matter how privileged you are … no matter how lucky, life is full of challenges,” said Carter. If you lack resilience, that means “you will never rise to your potential and will never develop mastery of the things you care about.”

Further, Carter says, children who do not encounter adversity or difficulty grow into adults who “believe they are entitled to live a life free from discomfort or pain.”

But while these messages deal with tough subjects, Carter’s overall goal is to help people “find more joy in our lives.”

Carter says her message often resonates with parents.

“I often hear people say, ‘As you were talking, it all seemed so obvious, but I’d honestly never thought of it that way.’”

She hopes to help parents learn practical things they can do to make a difference in developing tougher and, ultimately, happier kids. Making “subtle shifts in the way we interact with kids … can have huge difference in kids’ overall happiness,” she said.

Carter also hopes the messages she imparts will help parents. “It’s always a buy-one, get one free special. My goal is that parents who come to try to raise happier children will leave happier as parents … they pick up tips that apply to their own lives and happiness, too.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, ajohnson@bendbulletin.com