To listen, scroll down to the bottom of this post and press the triangular “play” button.
About this episode:
Several years ago, today’s guest wrote what was for me an earth-shattering piece in the Atlantic Monthly (read it here). Jessica Lahey’s article discusses an experience she had as a middle school teacher, where she realized a student had plagiarized, called the student’s mom to discuss the failing grade the student would be getting – and the mom said “you can’t fail her… I wrote that paper for her, she has too much on her plate and couldn’t do it herself.”
My guest’s article talks about how, when your mom writes your papers, you are robbed of the experience. It’s one way in which you are not learning how to fall down – by writing a bad paper – and get back up again.
Fast forward to summer 2015, when I heard Jess on the wonderful podcast The Good Life Project, discussing both the article and her new book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. Last December, I attended Jessica’s live presentation about The Gift of Failure, and she graciously offered to come on the podcast; today’s episode is the conversation we had a week or so later, and it’s a great one!
To read more about our conversation, click here to this episode’s notes page at weturnedoutokay.com.
I ask Jess: why do we parents do this? She laughs – the sympathetic laugh of a woman who has been in my shoes – and talks about how we want what’s best for them, and we also want that jolt of oxytocin that comes with being depended upon… And then shares about how she moved from encouraging this kind of dependence to seeing her relationship with her kids blossom when she started encouraging their autonomy rather than their dependence upon her.
Highlights from our conversation include:
1) the work of Carol Dweck, a researcher who focuses on the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset; believe me, we want to encourage a growth mindset, the one in which our kids look upon challenges as fun and setbacks as learning experiences instead of a reason to give up
2) the relationship between these three words: autonomy, competence, and connection; one of the major themes in The Gift of Failure, Jess illustrates that as parents, our job is to foster these three traits in our children, they are the key to a good life
3) how to give our kids the gift of failure, without feeling like failures ourselves; there’s a real mind shift that must take place to go from “oh – let me do that for you” to “hey, great job – you worked really hard and did that for yourself!”
Overall, I love our conversation because it’s clear that Jessica Lahey sees both sides of this coin, understands this from the perspective of a parent who doesn’t let her children fall down and figure out how to get back up. In her book, her live presentations, and in this interview she provides a roadmap to give our kids the gift of failure – and understand what a true gift it is.
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