The Gift of Failure

I don’t often read non-fiction, but when I do, it usually has something to do with teaching and kids. This book is no exception.  I first saw it recommended on Modern Mrs. Darcy (no surprise there) and was immediately intrigued because I had been reading a good bit about creativity and fear of failure, and it really resonated. Thinking about it in terms of how I parent seemed like a good next step.

The Gift of Failure is written by a mom and middle school teacher.  She begins by talking about seeing her students paralyzed by a fear of failure and thus, unmotivated to try new or hard things they can’t immediately master.  She also talks a good bit about having agrowth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset concerning intelligence and learning.  She goes on to say how she gradually saw that what she did in the classroom to promote learning through failure was very different than how she handled parenting her own kids.  I’ve definitely been there.

I loved her discussion of how we approach learning and how we so often try to motivate kids in all the wrong ways.  Her anecdotes about allowing her children to fail were both encouraging and convicting.  I have to admit that the hardest part for me was her discussion of allowing our kids to fail socially.  I’m good with letting my kid miss math problems or leaving them on their own with a presentation, but letting them navigate the tricky waters of friendship and social interaction as they get older is going to be much harder for me.  Still, I was encouraged by what I read and took it to heart in a way that works for my own kids and our family.

I started to check out a little when she began talking about the high school and college years.  I’m not there yet (though I will be before I know it) but I will definitely give this a read again when those years approach.

Overall, I really liked the book.  I think what Lahey has to say about allowing our kids to learn through their mistakes is a message all of us parents need to hear.  We make the mistakes of both putting crazy unrealistic expectations on our kids AND acting as their savior and rescuer anytime those expectations might not be met. Giving our kids the gift of failure will be good for them and us in the long run.

Quotidian Mysteries: The Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work"

The Armand Gamache (or Three Pines) Mysteries