Monday, November 9, 2015

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go so Their Children Can Succeed -- Jessica Lahey ----------------------- 3 Stars

I've spent a lot of time thinking about Jessica Lahey's new book, The Gift of Failure. I've read it cover to cover, created questions for two different book club meetings, and will be hearing her speak at a work event next week. Her book has a very clear and overarching premise: parents are not letting kids fail often enough and that is badly  undermining their future successes in life.  Is this true? Well, you should read it to make your own opinion, but I'll pass on a few tidbits below.

Lahey's book makes a fairly convincing argument for why the pendulum in our society has swung "too far" in one direction and why it's critical to move it back to the middle. Oddly, I find the book started off incredibly interesting and each passing chapter was slightly less exciting. To begin, she talks about the history of parenting in America and how we got to where we are today. As I mentioned above, she makes the case that the pendulum is too far in one direction and must move back. This well researched opening chapter was a good lead in to the rest of the book as she then stakes out her claims. Unfortunately, by the final chapters, the book turned very "self-helpy" while she also flip-flopped a few times with a couple of views.

On a positive, the book is a very easy read, and she has interesting and easily connectable anecdotes from her own time as a teacher and parent. Perhaps most noteworthy, she does make a very strong case for why parents (and teachers) need to allow students to have more independence and opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. The first half of the book is a strong vindication of many of the educational and parenting ideas that I have seen been effective.

However, and I can't tell if she truly believes this, or is just making an argument to push the envelope, but she REALLY espouses letting kids fail.  In some case, perhaps to the detriment to the child. Again, I am not sure if she really believes it or is pushing it because it gets good press and being "in the middle" doesn't sell books.  Regardless, you should take a read and see what you think. Other concerns? I'm not sure how well referenced the book is. She certainly has a lot of anecdotes and personal "facts" but I'm not sure if they are researched.  And, as I mentioned earlier, the book turns a lot into a self-help book about parenting near the end.

I do suggest that each of you check out the book and read it for yourself. Even if you are not a parent, you were a child once (I think) and her suggestions for how one should raise kids is certainly interesting and probably has some nugget of truth in it.  The big question is: how much truth? 

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