NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In the tradition of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed and Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, this groundbreaking manifesto focuses on the critical school years when parents must learn to allow their children to experience the disappointment and frustration that occur from life’s inevitable problems so that they can grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults.
Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents who rush to school at the whim of a phone call to deliver forgotten assignments, who challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere on the playing field. As teacher and writer 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.
Overparenting has the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine their education, Lahey reminds us. Teachers don’t just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. They teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight—important life skills children carry with them long after they leave the classroom.
Providing a path toward solutions, Lahey lays out a blueprint with targeted advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, and sports. Most importantly, she sets forth a plan to help parents learn to step back and embrace their children’s failures. Hard-hitting yet warm and wise, The Gift of Failure is essential reading for parents, educators, and psychologists nationwide who want to help children succeed.
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About the Author
Jessica Lahey is an educator, speaker, and writer. She has been an English, Latin, and writing teacher in middle and high school for over a decade, writes the biweekly Parent-Teacher Conference advice column for the New York Times, is a contributing writer at the Atlantic, and appears as a commentator on Vermont Public Radio. Jessica earned a JD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a concentration in juvenile and education law. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two sons.
Table of Contents
Introduction: How I Learned to Let Go xi
Part I Failure: A Most Valuable Parenting Tool
1 How Failure Became a Dirty Word: A Brief History of American Parenting 3
2 Why Parenting for Dependence Doesn't Work: The Power of Intrinsic Motivation 19
3 Less Really Is More: Parenting for Autonomy and Competence 43
4 Encouragement from the Sidelines: The Real Connection Between Praise and Self-Esteem 61
Part II Learning from Failure: Teaching Kids to Turn Mistakes into Success
5 Household Duties: Laundry as an Opportunity for Competence 75
6 Friends: Accomplices to Failure and the Formation of Identity 95
7 Spores: Losing as an Essential Childhood Experience 119
8 Middle School: Prime Time for Failure 135
9 High School and Beyond: Toward Real Independence 157
Part III Succeeding at School: Learning from Failure is a Team Effort
10 Parent-Teacher Partnerships: How Our Fear of Failure Undermines Education 181
11 Homework: How to Help Without Taking Over 205
12 Grades: The Real Value of a Low Score 223
Conclusion: What I've Learned from Letting Go 241