The Gift of Failure

The Gift of Failure A couple of years ago I was talking with a young college professor who worked mainly with freshmen in college. We were discussing ways to ensure that college freshmen are successful. In preparation for that fall, she had been told that almost one-third of all college freshmen come to college so ill-prepared that they do not survive their first year. I immediately thought, “High schools are not preparing students for the academic rigor of college.” But, she went on to explain that they are coming to college so unprepared emotionally that they cannot cope with the adjustment to living on their own in a college setting. They do not understand how to handle problems which may arise with their roommates; they do not know how to advocate for themselves if they are having difficulty in a class; they do not know how to strategize and find solutions to the many issues which come up that first year.

I was reminded of this conversation recently when Mrs. Orenstien recommended a book to me that she had purchased. If I had the money, I would give every TBCA family a copy! The book is The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. As a parent, my first reaction was, “Failure! How can that be a gift?” But as I read the book, I was struck over and over by the wisdom of her words and observations. We live in a society where everyone wants the best for their children. But the best is not always a Disney World childhood! Where everything is clean and sanitized. Where there is no waiting in line. Where every person is continually entertained, and every wish can be granted immediately. That is not the real world our children will face when they leave our homes.

There are many wonderful passages in The Gift of Failure, but I will share just a couple. Studies have found that “the ability to attend to a task and stick to long-term goals is the greatest predictor of success, greater than academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, test scores, and IQ.” Ms. Duckwork, a former middle school teacher who conducted the study, called this grit, and her conclusion was “Gritty students succeed, and failure strengthens grit like no other crucible.” Other studies have proven that “if parents back off the pressure and anxiety over grades and achievement (emphasis is mine), and focus on the bigger picture—a love of learning and independent inquiry—grades will improve and test scores will go up.”

Does this mean that I think parents should be uninvolved in their child’s education? Absolutely not! But the involvement should be providing a place to study, materials which are needed and natural consequences when appropriate. Reading this book will give you many ideas of how to be an involved parent, but not one who is crippling your child for future endeavors.

Although this book is not written from a Christian perspective, I think there are many examples in Scripture where God the Father or Christ had to allow the people to learn by doing. Look at how many times the apostles failed while walking with Jesus during his three years of ministry! But in the end, Christ had prepared them for great happenings when He left them.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book through Amazon or a local bookstore. Your time and money will be a great investment in your child’s future!