The Gift of Failure


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.

“An important, thoughtfully balanced book aimed at shifting thinking and providing concrete steps toward encouraging positive—and realistic—self-image development.”
— Kirkus Reviews

Reviews & Excerpts

"When Success Leads to Failure," The Atlantic
"The Gift of Failure," New York Times
”The ‘Overparenting’ Crisis In School and at Home,” NPR
"If Your Kid Left His Term Paper At Home, Don't Bring It To Him," New York Magazine
"Books That Changed My Mind This Year," Fortune 
”The Importance of Household Chores,” PBS
”16 Books that Inspire Real Change, According to Readers,” Bookbub
”I Complained About Helicopter Parents for Years. Then I Realized I Was One,” Vox
“Want to Raise Successful Kids?” Inc.
”How Schools are Handling an ‘Overparenting’ Crisis,” NPR
"New Book Suggests Parents Learn to Let Kids Fail," USA Today
"7 Rules for Raising Self-Reliant Children," Forbes
"Before You Let Your Child Fail, Read This," Huffington Post
"How Schools Are Handling an Overparenting Crisis," NPR
”How to Help with Homework Without Hovering,” PBS
"Why Failure Hits Girls So Hard," Time
"The Value of a Mess," Slate
"4 Reasons Why Every Educator Should Read 'The Gift of Failure,'" Inside Higher Ed
"Why We Should Let Our Children Fail," The Guardian 
”Review: The Gift of Failure,” Grown and Flown
"Why I Don't Want My Kids to be Lazy Like Me," Yahoo Parenting
"Jessica Lahey," The Telegraph
"How to To Give Your Child The Gift of Failure," Huffington Post
"The Gift of Failure," Radio West
"The Gift of Failure," The Good Life Project
”Jessica Lahey on The Gift of Failure,” Rich Roll Podcast
”The Gift of Failure,” The Dr. Drew Podcast

Available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound | Powells | Books-a-Million | HarperCollins

The ugly and wonderful truth about middle school,’ [Lahey] says, is that ‘failure is not an if proposition, it’s a matter of when.’ Or it used to be. Now that parents shelter their children every step of the way, we have ‘failure deprived’ college students (as administrators at Stanford and Harvard call them) and entitled, anxious 20-somethings who can’t function in a world that’s sometimes cold or cruel or indifferent. So how can teachers snatch back their critical role and give children the necessary space to fail? They could start by making parents read Lahey.
— The New York Times

Available as an audio edition,

narrated by the author

Praise for The Gift of Failure

"It’s hard to overstate the importance of this book. The Gift of Failure is beautifully written; it’s deeply researched; but most of all it’s the one book we all need to read if we want to instill the next generation with confidence and joy.” Susan Cain, author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

"'Failure-avoidant' parenting would seem, on the surface, to be synonymous with good parenting. Children stay safe, get into good colleges, and seem happier, at least in the moment. Debut author Lahey proposes, however, that parents will ultimately serve their children better by allowing them to stand on their own abilities and experience the occasional failure.[...]  Lahey has many wise and helpful words like these—ones that any parent can and should embrace." Publishers Weekly 

“This fascinating, thought-provoking book shows that to help children succeed, we must allow them to fail. Essential reading for parents, teachers, coaches, psychologists, and anyone else who wants to guide children towards lives of independence, creativity, and courage.” Gretchen Rubin, author ofThe Happiness Project

“Instead of lecturing us about what we’re doing wrong, Jessica Lahey reveals what she did wrong with her own children and students -- and how she systematically reformed her ways. A refreshing, practical book for parents who want to raise resilient kids but aren’t sure how to start.” Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way

“Lahey offers one of the most important parenting messages of our times: Unless we allow our children to learn how to take on challenges, they won’t thrive in school and in life. Her extremely helpful book tells her story, compiles research, and provides hundreds of doable suggestions.” Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs

“How can we help our children grow to be resourceful, happy adults? Lahey shows in practical terms how to know what your child is ready for and how to offer support even as you encourage autonomy. A wise, engaging book, steeped in scientific research and tempered with common sense.” Daniel T. Willinghamauthor of Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom

Simply put, I think it’s one the most important, thought-provoking, and helpful books about raising children that has been written in a long time. And because much of it has to with a family’s approach to how their child learns, I also consider it one of the most important books about education as well. Eric MessengerNew York Family magazine

"I have a son entering middle school this fall, soThe Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey was a gift to me. With common-sense advice on how to stand back and let your children learn through their mistakes—including an entire chapter on navigating the hormone-drenched middle school years—this book is one of my new favorite parenting manuals. Lahey is a warm, engaging writer who spent years in the trenches as a middle school Latin and English teacher. She advocates a lovingly hands-off approach that instills confidence from an early age." BookPage

"Finally, an antidote to the hysteria! Through an artful combination of anecdote and research, Jessica Lahey delivers a lesson that moms and dads badly need to learn and secretly wish to hear: That failure is vital to children's success. Any parent who pines for a saner, more informed approach to child-rearing—to say nothing of a sounder night's sleep—should read this book. A compassionate mother and dedicated educator, Jessica Lahey knows exactly, authentically, and authoritatively of what she speaks." Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

Lahey’s conversational tone, combined with research and narratives from both children and parents, delivers in-depth insight into the value of mistakes. With chapters on specific age groups (middle schoolers and high schoolers) and hot-button issues, such as household chores, homework, and friendships, any parent who needs assistance reining in the supermom tendencies will find sound advice here. Library Journal

Available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound | Powells | Books-a-Million | HarperCollins