Success is a word you can interpret in many ways. Failure too. Your definition or ideals about these two words tells a lot about you and your values. For this reason, I am always careful of using these two words (I rarely use it at all) about anything. This particular quirk of mine leads me to seek out non-mainstream ideas of success and failure - a reason why I picked out The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. In a short snap, I’ll say The Gift of Failure is a parenting book about failure - its impacts and benefits to children.

Jessica Lahey explores the hidden damage we inflict on our children when we charge in front of them, deflecting every arrow of difficulties designed to discourage them. She says of today’s parents,
“We have taught our kids to fear failure, and in doing so, we have blocked the surest and clearest path to their success. That’s certainly not what we meant to do, and we did it for all the best and well-intentioned reasons, but it’s what we have wrought nevertheless. Out of love and desire to protect our children’s self-esteem, we have bulldozed every uncomfortable bump and obstacle out of their way, clearing the manicured path we hoped would lead to success and happiness.

“Unfortunately, in doing so we have deprived out children of the most important lessons of childhood. The setbacks, mistakes, miscalculations, and failures we have shoved out of our children’s way are the very experiences that teach them how to be resourceful, persistent, innovative, and resilient citizens of this world.”

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0062299239/fragrancy-21The author follows by saying that our desire to be a good parent sometimes shows itself in us magnifying our children’s achievements and minimizing or hiding their struggles so one would see them and judge us; so we “… whip ourselves up into a frenzy of anxiety and paranoia. Our Facebook posts and soccer tournaments sideline chat is jam-packed with passive-aggressive tales of academic honors and athletic glory... As our kids get older, we spin tales of coast-to-coast college tours, SAT prep and AP tutoring…”

The book also explores the change from the culture of parents trusting in their abilities and the help of extended family to raise a child to the rise of experts in the early twentieth century, who told us that “mothers had no business raising a child without the advice of doctors.” The book laments that parenting had become a field of study and experts(have) little faith that mothers (or fathers) could ace it on their own.”

Jessica Lahey says the rise of experts and the lack of confidence in ourselves as parents manifests itself in giving lots of unsolicited advice and direction to our children. She says our propensity to always solve our kids’ problems for them interferes with their sense of autonomy and convey a lack of faith in their competence.

The Gift of Failure is an unusual parenting book that advocates parents to hands-off the wheel and let our children make mistakes in their quest to find answers to life puzzles. The book is full of examples of real-life situations that highlights the benefits of allowing our children to figure things out and the disadvantages of over-protective parenting.

The Gift of Failure is a non-expert book on parenting and encourages parents to stop overthinking and stressing about doing the wrong things. Instead, it advocates parents to take a deep breath, lean back and learn to direct circumstances from behind the scenes.

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed is written by Jessica Lahey and published by HarperCollins (August 11, 2015)

Many thanks to HarperCollins for review copy. All images are © to their respective owners.