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The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed
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The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,708 ratings  ·  715 reviews
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-r ...more
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published August 11th 2015 by Harper (first published August 5th 2014)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  4,708 ratings  ·  715 reviews

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Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sure, this book is for teachers in a way, but it's for parents in a bigger way. The title says it all, and if you live in a competitive district where grades and sports and status are the be-all, end-all, you've come to the right book. Too bad you're probably a teacher like Lahey. Too bad you're the choir being preached to. What we need, then, are willing parents. "Willing" as in "to listen." If we can get parents that far (at least the ones who need this), I expect Lahey's arguments and researc ...more
Ali M
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I started reading this book at the beginning of the week, two days later I got an email from my sixth grader's math teacher to let me know that he was failing. My child was failing mostly because of lack of effort, laziness and poor organizational skills. We have offered help and tutors to no avail. So when the email popped into my inbox it was the perfect time to make a stand. This book helped reinforce our very firm belief that it is up to our children to do the work. We can offer help and sup ...more
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Children whose parents don’t allow them to fail are less engaged, less enthusiastic about their education, less motivated and ultimately less successful than children whose parents support their autonomy.”

The bottom line of this book written by parent and educator, Jessica Lahey, is don’t bail your children out. They need to learn from their mistakes. They need to learn how to organize themselves, regulate themselves and deal with mishaps in the world they live in now so that they can become hi
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Hmmm.....I liked the first half of this book. The author, an educator, detailed the problems kids develop when they have parents who hover and who are overly protective (even protecting them from any consequences, absolving them from any wrong doing.) She also talked about not sending mixed messages to the kids and how easy it was for parents to fine tune their dialogue when talking with children. This sounded very positive, well and good.

So, what was the problem? In the last half, the angry tea
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
The thesis of the book is spot-on and this is a much-needed message for many parents who, out of love, seek to "protect" their children from any disappointment, frustration, or failure. Lahey argues, correctly, that such "protection" robs children of opportunities to learn, grow, and become more competent and confident.

I thought the book was worthwhile overall, though if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have read the entire thing but rested content with what I got out of the first few chapt
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Thesis: kids learn more from having room to fail. Protecting them from failure is not a long-term solution to learning how to become an adult.

I just wish this book acknowledged that the "crisis" of overparenting is limited to certain incomes and cultural outlooks, just like college admissions frenzy books are limited to students applying to ivies. in a sense, if you are worried about over parenting, you're in a darn fortunate position to begin with and you are well in America's minority.
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is a synthesis of the ideas of many good recent books on growth mindset, motivation, over parenting, etc. Because it's not as narrowly focused or research-driven, it's easy for parents to read and has many great reminders. Whether these ideas are new to readers or not, going against the cultural flow takes encouragement and reinforcement, which The Gift of Failure provides. ...more
Oct 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: parenting
This book was disappointing in a lot of ways. I agree with her overall idea, that parents today largely overindulge their children and shield them from every possible negative outcome, and this is a big problem. My parenting philosophy is that I (generally) refuse to do something for my child that he/she can do for themselves. This, of course, requires that the child has been taught and given adequate preparation/training for that particular task. Lahey sadly seems to believe that after giving b ...more
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Read this book while your kids are young if possible! I've read articles about this topic but an entire book devoted to the subject was more helpful than just an article. This is something I struggle with daily and have been working on for a couple of years. It is NOT easy! I sincerely hope I haven't completely ruined my children and can continue to change my ways before it's too late! The book offers some ideas and insight into how to let go and makes some great points about letting kids set th ...more
Ms Mac
Sep 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I basically enjoyed this book, I think some of the advice, particularly about how we undermine children's intrinsic motivation in the pursuit of "performance" is very good, and something a lot of parents and educators need to hear. Lahey is a friendly, engaging writer and pleasant to spend time with. And as a teacher, I found her descriptions of difficult parent/teacher interactions hilarious.

Unfortunately, I don't know that she's always aware how circumstances can differ. Lahey is very comforta
Rita Shaffer
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am not sure that there was really anything in this book that I didn't already know, but it was really good to feel validated in my thinking. I think as parents we will forever question if we are doing the right things to raise independent, self confidant children who will be happy, productive adults - this book shares some great thinking about this.

This is also a good read for teachers. I have to admit that I started reading as teacher, but read most of the book as the mom of an amazing, alth
Kimberly Simpson
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very helpful book. I love the quote, "Out of love and desire to protect our children's self-esteem, we have bulldozed every uncomfortable bump and obstacle out of the way, clearing the manicured path we hoped would lead to success and happiness. Unfortunately, in doing so we have deprived our children of the most important lessons of childhood. The setbacks, mistakes, miscalculations, and failures we have shoved out of our children's way are the very experiences that teach them how to be resou ...more
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.25 stars

A very interesting read about the importance of intrinsic motivation and how we need to give kids more responsibility and let them learn through the experience of failure. Lots of great ideas. I'd recommend for any of my GR friends who happen to be parents too.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommends
One of the most personally challenging parenting books I've read. Until reading this I hadn't even realized how much I tend to take control of tasks instead of letting the kids learn and try.

The first half was especially good as a general history/philosophy, and the last half I will need to read again once we get out of the younger years. Lots of good thoughts on trying, failing, motivation, and praise. Good for parents AND educators.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a great and interesting read, and I was amen-ing it ALL up and down until she got to the part about applying her theory to recess time or children's free play time. She cites one study from New Zealand that found that when teachers stopped interfering in children's free play time at recess, there was less bullying and other positive benefits, but that's pretty much the only scientific data in that chapter. The rest seems anecdotal, from rearing her own children and observations at the pl ...more
Erin Schwane
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a parent and as a teacher, I greatly appreciated this book.
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Yeah, I'm not convinced. I'm surprised how highly this book is rated. But, I guess it does give a lot of parenting advice so it could be seen as valuable that way. I'd say half of this book is on helping your child be okay with failure, the other half is just a teacher giving clear, thought-out advice about parenting, particularly as it concerns school.

The problem I have with the whole failure-is-good argument is that it doesn't cover all the consequences of parenting that way. It is a very hea
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. I am determined to let my kids fail!!

The ability to attend to a task and stick to long-term goals is the greatest predictor of success, greater than academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, test scores, and IQ . . . . Gritty students succeed, and failure strengthens grit like no other crucible. p xxi

Every time we rescue, hover, or otherwise save our children from a challenge, we send a very clear message: that we believe they are incompetent, incapable, and unworthy of
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rated as a parenting book, I give this one 5 stars. I loved it. I wish I had read it years ago. I would have done some things differently. But it's not too late, I will start those things now. I listened to the audiobook and it's the first time I felt that I couldn't wait to only listen in the car, and actually listened to it at home as well. I really loved it and I will read it again in the future as a refresher. ...more
Katie Tatton
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's easy to like a book that goes along nicely with what you already think, and The Gift of Failure fit the bill for me. The idea that parents protecting their children from failure is actually a disservice in the long run resonated with me. We've seen the 5th grade science fair projects that were hatched and completed by parents and that type of hovering is easy to dismiss as helicoptering, but it's harder to let my kids stretch and grow when high school grades are on the line. We are currentl ...more
Nancy J Broten
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
I read this book a couple weeks ago, and I think I have thought about an idea from it every day since then. The author speaks from a great combination of humility, experience and humanity, steeped in research. (Both a middle school teacher and mother who recognized where she was failing on her expectations for kids) She includes so many positive ideas, and truths. One thing that’s stuck with me is that there’s so many ways to love kids, but robbing them from getting used to failing and learning ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wish I would have read this book ten years ago. One of the best books for parents to stop and think about how we are raising our children so that they are successful as adults.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! A must read for parents and educators.
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this authors perspective. I agree with much of what she says and how she says it. As I read this book, I felt like these were concepts that I could easily implement and grasp. I felt like there were many lessons that would improve relationships with my kids.

Once the book is closed though, It feels like I can't remember what was said and I feel like I need a whole class on this book.

That may be a slight exaggeration, but its true this is a book that should probably be re-read by the s
Kim Fullton
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Game changer. Must not leave these ideas on the shelf.
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents, teachers
Recommended to Dave by: Zachary
A book well worth reading for every parent, at ANY stage of parenthood. This book not only gives solid, well-based information, it gives practical tips for following through with its very difficult charge - To help our children succeed, we must let them fail. Speaking from the point of view of both a teacher and a parent who is going through this turmoil herself, the author provides an insightful point of view. Her basis and conclusions are based not only in her experiences, but backed up by st ...more
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every parent should read this book. And the highlight it. And return it at different stages.
May 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Important reminder for parents to get the heck out of their kids way. Don't give school grades too much weight, don't ruin youth sports. Let kids fail. Focus more on the fact that they work hard at something or are driven by their curiosity rather than what the outcome or grade is. I heard this author on a podcast for her new book, she reads the audio and has a great voice for it. ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don’t agree with all of the approaches in this book but it’s still worth reading because the overall point about trusting our kids and allowing them to make mistakes and learn is really good.
One of the best books I have read on parenting and teaching which was recommended by a colleague who was a former principal/now guidance counselor. I strongly recommend parents, teachers and coaches read this book! Lahey shares a variety of trends observed by teachers like herself (from N.H) where the wave of overparenting has resulted in students who are inflexible thinkers that memorize and regurgitate information they are unable to manipulate in innovative ways. Worse, there is a rise in stud ...more
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overparenting 1 15 Jul 21, 2015 08:19AM  

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Jessica Lahey is a teacher, writer, and mom. She writes about education, parenting, and child welfare for The Atlantic, Vermont Public Radio, and the New York Times and is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. She is a member of the Amazon Studios Thought Leader Board and wrote the educational cur ...more

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“If parents back off the pressure and anxiety over grades and achievement and focus on the bigger picture—a love of learning and independent inquiry—grades will improve and test scores will go up.” 7 likes
“In order to help children make the most of their education, parents must begin to relinquish control and focus on three goals: embracing opportunities to fail, finding ways to learn from that failure, and creating positive home-school relationships.” 4 likes
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