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The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed Hardcover – August 11, 2015
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“Instead of lecturing us about what we’re doing wrong, Jessica Lahey reveals what she did wrong with her own children and students―and how she systematically reformed her ways. A refreshing, practical book for parents who want to raise resilient kids but aren’t sure how to start.” (Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World)
“This fascinating, thought-provoking book shows that to help children succeed, we must allow them to fail. Essential reading for parents, teachers, coaches, psychologists, and anyone else who wants to guide children towards lives of independence, creativity, and courage.” (Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project)
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of this book. The Gift of Failure is beautifully written; it’s deeply researched; but most of all it’s the one book we all need to read if we want to instill the next generation with confidence and joy.” (Susan Cain, author of Quiet)
“Lahey offers one of the most important parenting messages of our times: Unless we allow our children to learn how to take on challenges, they won’t thrive in school and in life. Her extremely helpful book tells her story, compiles research, and provides hundreds of doable suggestions.” (Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making)
“How can we help our children grow to be resourceful, happy adults? Lahey shows in practical terms how to know what your child is ready for and how to offer support even as you encourage autonomy. A wise, engaging book, steeped in scientific research and tempered with common sense.” (Daniel T. Willingham, PhD, author of Why Don't Students Like School?)
“Through an artful combination of anecdote and research, Lahey delivers a lesson that moms and dads badly need to learn: that failure is vital to children’s success. Any parent who pines for a saner, more informed approach to child-rearing should read this book.” (Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun)
“Lahey has many wise and helpful words...ones that any parent can and should embrace.” (Publishers Weekly)
From the Back Cover
Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents now rush to school to deliver forgotten assignments, challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere on the playing field. As teacher, journalist, and parent Jessica Lahey explains, even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their children’s well-being, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure—or the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.Everywhere she turned, Lahey saw an obvious and startling fear of failure—in both her students and her own children. This fear has the potential to undermine children’s autonomy, competence, motivation, and their relationships with the adults in their lives. Providing a clear path toward solutions, Lahey lays out a blueprint with targeted advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, and sports. Most important, she sets forth a plan to help parents learn to step back and embrace their children’s setbacks along with their success.
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I read a lot of psychology and social science books because the research just plain fascinates me. While this book offers a lot of anecdotes, it's also infused with an excellent grasp of research. Lahey's background in education shines through, and her suggestions are grounded in the same evidence-based research that I've read. If kids seem different today, it's because they are, and it's not just technology that's driving this change, it's the way parents treat their children and how they view them. We want them to be successful, but in our test-driven, high achieving culture, we are sometimes guilty of emphasizing the wrong things. After reading a great deal about helpless college students, children suffering from stress-related ills, and the mental health problems plaguing universities, this book helped me form an idea as to why this may be: rather than teaching our children to work for the things they want, we're setting them on a prescribed path and sending them the message that they're only okay as long as they follow that prescribed path. Reading this book makes the mystifying question of why children don't want to take risks quite clear: because we've taught them that there's nothing worse than failure.
Yet this book doesn't just discuss research, it also offers a lot of practical solutions for parents. Fair warning, though: not all of these suggestions are easy to swallow. This is where some of the pain came in for me, because I saw myself reflected in some of the behaviors Lahey suggests parents need to break. Giving her suggestions a try isn't going to be easy from a parenting standpoint, and it will require me to retrain myself as well.
I also think there's a lot of value in how this book offers some very good insight into the educational system, which I think is a big benefit to parents who don't come from a teaching background. Lahey proposes that parents and teachers work as partners, and she offers suggestions for how parents can open up dialog with their kids' teachers. Considering how adversarial our current culture and politics paint the relationship between educators and parents, there is a great deal of value in this aspect of the book. It doesn't serve anyone for parents and teachers to be at one another's throats, not when both sides want the same thing. This book offers constructive ways parents can form that partnership with teachers, so that everyone can work together toward the same goal.
I highly recommend this book to both parents and educators.
I wish there were more anecdotes or perhaps several role playing scenarios added to help offer more suggestions on how to handle more situations but the book was extremely helpful and insightful regardless. Most of the anecdotes I saw play out in our family or with other students from my son's school within hours or days of reading the book. It was amazing.
Top international reviews
If you are interested in reading a book about parenting in American fashion, then you will possibly enjoy this book, otherwise I strongly advise you look elsewhere because there are so many references to one persons experiences and points of view that is entirely limited to a small area of the US, it'll be bad advice to the rest of us.