In the tradition of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed and Wendy Mogel’s The Blessings of a Skinned Knee comes a manifesto and action plan that further explores Jessica Lahey’s article in the Atlantic, “Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail,” about why parents must learn to refrain from stepping in anytime children experience disappointments and frustrations so they can learn from life’s inevitable mistakes and setbacks and grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults.
Although teachers and coaches have long been aware of the detrimental effects overprotective and over-involved parents have on children, the stories teachers exchange these days reveal a whole new level of overprotectiveness: parents who rush to school at the whim of a phone call from their child to deliver items such as forgotten lunches, forgotten assignments, forgotten uniforms, and who demand better grades on the final semester reports. As teacher and writer Jessica Lahey explains, even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to the needs and issues of their children, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure and learn to solve their own problems.
Indeed, this level of overparenting has the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine their education. As Lahey points out, teachers don’t just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. They teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight. These skills may not get assessed on standardized testing, but as children plot their journey into adulthood, they are by far the most important life skills they learn in the classroom. Children make mistakes and the educational benefit of suffering consequences is a gift.
The Gift of Failure is a manifesto, an outlet, and a resource for the hundreds of thousands of parents, educators, and psychologists who work to help children succeed. Providing a path toward solutions, Lahey lays out a blueprint with targeted advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, and sports—but more importantly, she sets forth a plan for what doesn’t come naturally to most of us: stepping back and embracing our children’s failures. Lahey argues that year after year her “best” students—the ones who are happiest and successful in their lives—are the students who were held responsible for missteps and challenged to be the best people they could be in the face of their failures. Students need the room to roll with the punches, find their way through the gauntlet of adolescence, and stand firm in the face of the challenges—challenges that have the power to transform today’s children into resourceful, competent, and confident adults. Download and start listening now!