The Gift of Failure

The Gift of Failure

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

William Morrow, 2015 more...

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Many people believe that good parents manage their children’s lives, shield them from difficulties, intervene when things get tough at school or on the playing field, protect them from schoolyard bullies, and keep them from failing. But preventing kids from falling, smoothing over obstacles and rescuing them from the consequences of their mistakes denies them the experience they need to internalize lessons about resourcefulness, social competence and resilience. Parenting expert Jessica Lahey recommends “parenting for autonomy,” which means raising resilient children who grow into confident, competent adults. getAbstract recommends her insightful information to adolescents, parents and teachers.


Traditional Parenting

Parenting philosophies have undergone many reincarnations. The parenting expert emerged as a public figure in the 1920s. Child-rearing books, pamphlets and manuals filled the shelves, and mothers sought advice from pediatricians rather than from other women. Specialists touted nurturing your kids’ mental and physical well-being as a crucial parental responsibility. By the 1950s, children became the primary focus of American households. Dr. Benjamin Spock’s 1946 book, Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care – which sold 750,000 copies – advocated trusting one’s instincts, not experts. He wrote, “You know more than you think you do.”

The 1960s upset the traditional family structure. More women went to college, pursued independent careers and delayed marriage and childbearing. Divorce rates doubled, and couples lived together without getting married. Child care experts such as T. Berry Brazelton advocated “attachment parenting,” meaning creating strong parent-child bonds through constant contact. Instilling a sense of self-worth in their children became Mom and Dad’s top priority. Today, the image of this kind of nurturing evokes the traditional...

About the Author

Jessica Lahey is a teacher in New Hampshire, a columnist for The New York Times, and a speaker on parenting and education.

More on this topic

How to Raise Successful People
Raising Good Humans
Can’t Even

Related Channels