The Gift of Failure Book Summary - The Gift of Failure Book explained in key points
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The Gift of Failure summary

Jessica Lahey

How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed

4.6 (55 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

'The Gift of Failure' by Jessica Lahey is a parenting book that emphasizes the importance of allowing children to experience and learn from their mistakes. By providing opportunities for independence and autonomy, parents can guide their children towards becoming more resilient and self-sufficient adults.

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    The Gift of Failure
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    Our view on children and their education has changed throughout history.

    Today the predominant parenting style involves protecting and sheltering our children until they leave the family nest. But it wasn’t always like this.

    In the past, children’s education was geared toward early autonomy. In fact, in seventeenth century New England, work took precedence over children’s education. Due to poor health and mass poverty, many children died, and those who survived had to help their parents with the household or on the farm as soon as they were able.

    Around this time, philosopher John Locke advised parents to let their children make mistakes and face the consequences. Failing to do this would only weaken their minds and prevent them from getting back up and trying again when they fail.

    Over the next few hundred years, children’s life continued to be tough. In nineteenth century America, nearly one out of six children between the ages of 10 and 15 were employed, mostly in factories. Teenagers weren’t seen as sensitive, developing children, but as practical, cheap labor.

    Later, a change in working circumstances and family structures allowed parents to focus more on their child. Dangerous child labor practices in the early twentieth century gave rise to regulations which prohibited children under a certain age to work.

    From then on, children went from being “useful“ to “useless” in their families. Combined with growing divorce rates and couples having fewer children later in life, children’s education became more centered on caring for children as developing adults.

    Psychological books about children’s education also became popular, like Nathaniel Branden’s 1969 bestseller The Psychology of Self-Esteem. Branden argued that self-esteem played the most central part in a child’s behavior. According to psychologist Jean Twenge, the self-esteem movement reinforced self-esteem in American society but, at the same time, turned people into narcissists.

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    What is The Gift of Failure about?

    In The Gift of Failure (2015), Lahey offers compelling reasons for caregivers to relinquish control over their children and let them fail. By taking this approach, Lahey argues, it will give children an important opportunity to learn about their values and skills, while strengthening their confidence, autonomy and sense of responsibility.

    The Gift of Failure Review

    The Gift of Failure (2015) explores how letting kids learn from their mistakes is essential for their growth and success. Here's what sets this book apart:

    • It provides compelling evidence and real-life stories that highlight the importance of allowing children to face and overcome challenges on their own.
    • By emphasizing the value of autonomy and resilience in children, it offers practical strategies for parents and educators to foster independence and self-confidence.
    • The book challenges traditional notions of success and provides a refreshing perspective on the role failure plays in the learning process, keeping readers engaged from start to finish.

    Best quote from The Gift of Failure

    Put simply, if youd like your child to stop doing his schoolwork, pay him for good grades.

    —Jessica Lahey
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    Who should read The Gift of Failure?

    • Parents and caregivers
    • Teachers
    • Anyone working with children

    About the Author

    Jessica Lahey is an author, journalist and speaker. She writes a biweekly column for The New York Times and is a contributing writer at The Atlantic magazine.

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    The Gift of Failure FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Gift of Failure?

    The main message of The Gift of Failure is that failure is a valuable learning experience and essential for personal growth.

    How long does it take to read The Gift of Failure?

    The reading time for The Gift of Failure varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Gift of Failure a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Gift of Failure is worth reading because it provides insights into the importance of letting children experience and learn from failure.

    Who is the author of The Gift of Failure?

    The author of The Gift of Failure is Jessica Lahey.

    What to read after The Gift of Failure?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Gift of Failure, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
    • The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson
    • Good Inside by Becky Kennedy
    • Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields
    • The Strength Switch by Lea Waters
    • The Power of Showing Up by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
    • How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
    • No-Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
    • Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey C. Daniels
    • The Happy Kid Handbook by Katie Hurley