Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey

The Gift of Failure
by Jessica Lahey

Every once in a while I read a book that has me nodding my head and saying "yes!" My friends, this book is one of those books. As a parent and educator myself, this book truly resonated with me. I think we can collectively agree that this is a generation of parents who glorify achievement. By this I mean parents who insist that their children excel at everything, and I mean everything. It all starts with doctors visits, and measuring your child against others in the form of weight, height, BMI, and milestones. Oh my goodness, what is wrong with my baby? They aren't talking yet! Pressuring children starts pretty early. Parents encourage their children to become festooned with ribbons, trophies, accolades and awards. A "B" on a report card? I think not. In my world, this would often result in an angry email asking you why their child has a "B", and what they can do to make sure that the report card has an "A" on it. It has, quite literally, been driving teachers mad. They are leaving the profession at a steady rate, and I venture to guess many would cite "parent" issues at the top of their unhappiness list. Truth be told, when I was younger, a "B" was a good grade, and my parents were generally pretty proud if you at least maintained a 3.0. This is no longer the culture we live in, and this book was a hearty reminder of why grit, perseverance, and determination are much better factors in determining success than any trophy on your shelf. 

There was a section on intrinsic and extrinsic rewards systems, and why in the long run, extrinsic reward systems (the hallmark of educators) fail to inspire true behavioral change. I ran my classroom on a system of rewards, and most of the students benefiting from the rewards were motivated with or without the tickets. These are the children for whom the reward was "gravy". Oh, man I wish I could have a do-over. I can only set my sights on communicating better practices for the future generation. This is a book that every teacher, parent, and member of the education community should add to their shelf. Very insightful and thought-provoking in the best way possible. I, for one, will tell any and all who will listen about the power of this book. Please read the synopsis and go get yourself a copy!

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.

Happy reading!

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