The Gift of Failure
A book review and more…
I am thrilled to write a review of one of the best parenting books I’ve read in a long time – maybe the best one since the Gaulds wrote The Biggest Job!
The Gift of Failure: How the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed.
By Jessica Lahey
In a world where parents are taking hold of their children’s lives and helicoptering more than ever, Jessica Lahey has written an engaging book about the need for parents to let go. And, no surprise, the book parallels the 10 Priorities on almost every page.
Jessica’s philosophy could not be more in line with Parenting: The Biggest Job’s view of the need for parents to let go of their kids and let them struggle, beginning at a very early age. Even the cover of this book sends this message – a ladder made of pencils with the middle rung a broken pencil, signaling that the climb of life might come with some challenges…
This book is filled with many, many gems for parents on how and why to let go of our children. Here are just a few of those gems:
Intrinsic Motivation: The Holy Grail of Parenting
“The less we push our kids toward educational success, the more they will learn. The less we use external, or extrinsic, rewards on our children, the more they will engage in their education for the sake and love of learning.”
Step Away and Hold Your Tongue
“Once you’ve outlined your expectations for your children, explain that you will not be nagging them until they complete their responsibilities.”
Then Jessica shares exactly what to do, with a specific example, including the understanding that she knows how difficult it is.
“Nagging and pestering is the fastest way to destroy motivation as well as destroy your connection and relationship with your child.”
The author describes the skills that make up executive function, and how “the students whose parents bail them out, and don’t allow them to deal with the consequences of their failures, develop executive function skills more slowly.” This understanding alone should help us let go; who doesn’t want their kid to develop those skills of function that are so critical throughout life?
Jessica also shares her personal struggles to let go of her own children. She describes a time when one of her sons forgot his homework, and the internal dialogue she had that finally resulted in her understanding that her son needed to suffer the consequences of forgetting. “It’s the long vision in parenting,” she told me in person today on the phone,” that parents must adopt in order to do their job well.” When a friend challenged her on her decision about not taking the homework to school for her son, she thought about it, then writes:
“I had to admit that yes, I would go out of my way to deliver a friend’s forgotten wallet, or my husband’s forgotten power cord, so why would I treat my children any differently? Because I’m not raising those other people. I treat my children differently because I have a greater responsibility to them than to make them happy and grateful for my love and support. In order to raise competent, capable adults, I have to love them enough to put their learning before my happiness.”
I promise you’ll like this book; and after you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’m including the podcast episode here where I interview Jessica. Our Parenting Teens podcast is soon to debt on iTunes. Until then, you can stream this episode via this link: