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Parenting Hacks

Delivering Happiness at Home

By Jake BronsteinMar 16, 2017

Fact: Business books can offer great advice for building culture, cooperation, performance and productivity in the workplace. Could the same advice work at home?

We put Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness to the test vs an unruly 2-year-old named Hudson.

At about two and a half, my typically sunny son Hudson seemed to discover free will, the power of saying “no” and the joy of pushing boundaries all at once.

Our mornings often start with my saying the outfit he picked out looks great.

“It does NOT look great,” he’ll reply.

I'll say it's time to go downstairs for breakfast.

“It is NOT time to go downstairs for breakfast,” he’ll snap.

Then, after much back and forth, and more than a few threats, I'll send him to time out.

“I am NOT going to do a time out,” he might say.

Ready to try anything, I turned to one of my favorite books, Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness. Could the same principles that built a billion-dollar business wipe the scowl off this kids face while keeping the morning moving?

“Happiness is really just about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness (number and depth of your relationships), and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself).” ― Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Let the experiment begin.

Happiness Principal: Perceived Control

Thesis: By turning everything into an option I could disarm his urge to want control through disruption.

Example: “Hudson, should we grab breakfast now… or pack lunch first then eat breakfast?”

Outcome: Generally he takes the bait. In fact, as long as the options seem feasible, they don’t even need to be realistic. Even offering the choice of warm vs cold bath made bath time easier.

Happiness Principal: Perceived Progress

Thesis: By making the things he doesn’t like seem like steps towards a goal, he’d be more apt to comply.

Example: Hudson never eats veggies. I started telling him that veggies make you grow faster, and big people get to pick what they eat.

Outcome: He seems amused the first time he hears each of these (example the growth veggies relationship). But without being able to see himself growing… the effect wears off quick. On day one, the veggies trick might have seemed like a game. By day two he was again against greens.

Happiness Principal: Vision & Meaning

Thesis: Helping him to see how his actions tie into a worthwhile bigger picture will help him say “yes.”

Example: Hudson hates driving. I’d promised him a father-son weekend in Philadelphia with his cousins. After 3 hours in the car, my wife called, she had hurt herself and was on her way to the hospital. I wanted to be with her and tried to tie Hudson into the narrative before forcing him back in the car seat.

Outcome: Amazingly, all it took was a brief back and forth about how mom takes care of him and mom needs taking care of and that’s why we have to get back in the car, and he was happy to go. It would be hard to tie every argument into the big picture, but the times it makes sense, he’s always receptive.


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Written by

Jake Bronstein

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