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Jessica Lahey On The Gift of Failure

By April 2, 2017January 26th, 2024No Comments

If parents back off the pressure and anxiety over grades and achievement and focus on the bigger picture—a love of learning and independent inquiry—grades will improve and test scores will go up.

Jessica Lahey

We all want what’s best for our kids.

So we roll up our sleeves and insert ourselves in their education, pitching in on homework and managing school projects. We stimulate them with an endless revolving door of activities. We do what we can to foster good grades, college application-worthy experiences and self-esteem. Along the way, we celebrate victories as if they were our own. And swoop in to protect when things go south.

The instinct is laudable: set up our children for success, by any means necessary.

But what if we have it all wrong? What if all this hyper-competitive, overly-protective micro-management is doing more harm than good?

As a parent of young girls, I desperately want to do everything I can to serve their long-term interests. To learn more, I sat down with educator, writer and speaker Jessica Lahey (@jesslahey). A graduate of the University of Massachusetts with a J.D. concentrating on juvenile and education law from the University of North Carolina School of Law, Jessica is an an English and writing teacher, correspondent for the Atlantic, commentator for Vermont Public Radio, and writes the “Parent-Teacher Conference” column for the New York Times.

She is also the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed* (highly recommend for parents) and if that’s not enough, she also explores writing and creativity on #AmWriting, a podcast she co-hosts with KJ Dell’Antonia, a columnist and contributing editor for the New York Times’ Well Family.


Specific topics discussed include:

  • the critical difference between grades and learning
  • differentiating between confidence vs. competence
  • the perils of “fixed mindsets”
  • the nature of what motivates true learning
  • the negative implications of over-parenting, rescuing, enmeshment & hovering; and
  • effective strategies to cultivate your child’s long-term interests
  • ultimately its about how to best parent your child to maximize their learning and set them up for long term success.

If you are a parent, this episode is a must listen. If you don’t have kids, you will nonetheless find Jessica’s powerful insights on the psychology of motivation and the mechanisms that promote learning absolutely invaluable and applicable to each and every one of us.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,


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Check out Jessica’s New York Times Bestseller: The Gift of Failure: How The Best Parents Learn To Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed*

Background, Context & Reference

Books Mentioned

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast

 Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy

Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering, show notes and interstitial music; Shawn Patterson for graphics. Theme music by Ana Leimma.

*Disclosure:Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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