Over her twenty years as a middle and high school teacher, Lahey began to suspect that the way we parent children has a direct impact on their motivation, learning, resilience, and the development of obsessive perfectionism and performance anxiety. A deep dive into the research bore this hypothesis out, and resulted in the New York Times bestselling book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed and over five years helping students, teachers, and parents understand that directive parenting and teaching undermines kids' motivation, makes them more likely to give up when tasks get difficult, and ultimately, renders them less able to learn and become more intelligent. 

Jessica offers practical advice for fostering deep, meaningful learning by offering kids more autonomy at home and in school, helping them feel more competent, and strengthening parent-child and teacher-student relationships. 

Presentation Options →

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Presentation Options


Contact Michele Fee Smith at American Program Bureau (617-614-1606) to review presentation options, including keynotes, parent workshops, teacher professional development and community reads. 


List of Past Engagements

Community Reads

Closing keynote, SXSWEDU 2018


You guys don’t help me since you went to that stupid talk!
— David Saibel's 8 year-old, Marin, California
I cannot begin to overstate how powerful and timely her message was for our community. Since her talk, dozens of parents have approached me noting that Jessica was the “best speaker the school has ever had,” or “is there a way we could have her speak on an annual basis?” Having hosted many major national speakers during the last few years, I can say without equivocation that this praise is spot on. Jessica is personable, incredibly easy to work with, and relates beautifully to a wide ranging audience. We were blessed to have her speak to our community, and I would highly recommend her!
— John Boyer, Director of Development, Oak Hill School
The very best speakers don’t lecture. They draw you in, through personal stories, the stories of others, points in history, relevant research, and connect with you on many levels. Jessica achieved this and more, by reaching us as youth development professionals, parents, educators, members of our communities, aunts, siblings, etc. Jessica provided great insight into the psyche of anxious parents, pressured children, and beleaguered teachers, paired with language and triggers we can use to help describe the “off-transcript” learning experience we know as camp. Jessica managed to have a conversation with us – no easy task with 1000+ people in the room - and helped us successfully kick off our national conference.
— Chief Program Officer, American Camp Association
Jessica gets middle school! At our recent parent event, Jessica did a wonderful job of connecting the realities of parenting a middle school child with the larger topic of resilience. The audience left with both specific strategies to try at home as well as a framework for understanding the true needs of adolescents. As a parent and an educator, I was impressed and grateful.
— Adrew Davis, Head of Middle School, Crystal Springs Uplands School
It was a perfect evening. Jessica’s talk was engaging and spot-on, and the kind of thought-provoking content with which we are hoping to engage our parent and teacher audience. She was generous with her time both before and after the talk, answering questions for folks. She made it a special night for all!
— Neil Gordon, CEO, Discovery Museums
Jessica Lahey delivered a captivating keynote talk at LearnFest’17 about the importance of intrinsic motivation and its connection to student success. Jessica is an energetic storyteller who delivers powerful advice for teaching and raising resilient children. Her humorous delivery coupled with her experience as a classroom teacher delighted a diverse audience of teachers and parents.
— Tracie Catlett, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs, Louisville Collegiate School
Jessica spoke to a rapt audience of parents and teachers from our school as well as from the surrounding community. She explained pertinent research in clear and easily understood terms, and dispensed guidance and advice in a supportive and friendly manner. Everyone left with at least one new skill to apply in their classrooms or around the dinner table at homework time. Jessica’s anecdotes about her own experiences as a mother and teacher were not only entertaining; they made us feel that we were benefiting from the wisdom of a trusted friend. I highly recommend her for your school community, and am looking forward to reading her book!
— Matthew Bradley, Head of School, East Woods School
Jessica presented to both the parent community at Severn School as well as the Middle School and Upper School students. The information she presented to parents was spot-on and very well received. Her discussion on the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was a great foundation in which to understand ways parents could support their children to become more independent. She had a very nice way of giving parents ‘permission’ and reasons grounded in research to ‘back off’ as their children learn and grow with new responsibilities. Jessica is a speaker who is very relatable and connects easily with her audiences! We were honored to have her speak to our community this fall!
— Karin Mitchell, Lower School counselor, Severn School
Jessica’s presentation focused on teaching children the intrinsic value of resilience, perseverance and learning from a growth-oriented mindset. In essence, how to foster and promote their success within a supportive framework that discourages parents from over scheduling and hovering. It was a good reminder to us all that it’s okay for a child to experience small and reasonable failures. It’s all about “the getting up” when you’re knocked down. Jess is very articulate and persuasive and she was a joy to work with. I highly recommend her.
— Linda Holden-Bryant, former PA president, Hackley School

Community Reads

Photo Credit Fernando Ramos

The Gift of Failure can change the way an entire community approaches learning, competence, and school-home relationships. Jessica Lahey offers teachers and administrators ways to communicate a message of autonomy and competence to parents, gives parents practical advice for how to step back and allow kids more opportunities to fail, rebound, and become more resilient, and helps students take ownership of their lives and develop growth mindset around learning.

Many schools and organizations are opting to use The Gift of Failure as a "community read," which means the school or organization announces a community-wide book selection, partners with a local, independent book store, so when Jess arrives for her scheduled talk and signing, the audience is familiar with the ideas and research she references in her presentation.

For information on setting up a community read and book talk with Jessica, contact Michele Fee Smith of American Program Bureau  at 617-614-1606 or 

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Jessica is represented by Michele Fee Smith of American Program Bureau. Give Michele a call at 617-614-1606 or email to get the ball rolling! 

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