Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Gift of Failure

the gift of failure
I had heard very good things about this book, so I was excited when it popped up in my library holds (One of life’s greatest joys, no?). Jessica Lahey is a parent and middle school teacher. A lot of her book is geared specifically at middle-schoolers and above, but the concepts are applicable to children of all ages.

While I took away a lot from the entire book, there were two portions that really stood out. She talked about helicopter parenting. By now, we’re all familiar with this unflattering term for hovering parents, but the result she gave of helicoptering is one I’d never heard before. She talked about high-achieving college-bound kids who have impressive applications – AP classes, high SAT and ACT scores, overseas volunteer trips – but who don’t know how to do their own laundry. Ouch. We’re still slogging through preschool, kindergarten and first grade over here, so it’ll be some years before we start writing college essays but there is no denying that the pressure starts early. Her example of the unintended consequences of “helping” is a good one to keep in mind.

The second part that really resonated with me was a conversation she had with one of her student’s parents. She told the mom that she needed to get her daughter to school on time. The mom responded that they got there right on time each day. Lahey responded that was her point. She said that the research supports kids needing 15 minutes to fully acclimate to a new situation. She mentioned how in the mornings she’s seen sleepy middle-schoolers stand in front their open lockers for that length of time just staring before they ever pulled a book out.

Regardless of where we’re going or what time we need to be there, I consider the hardest part of the day just getting out the door. It never fails to astonish me how long it can take little people to put on their socks and shoes, even when things have been laid out the night before. I really hate being late, so consequently we are frequently rushing just to get going. Reading this made me realize we need a longer lag time: my five-minute warning is not long enough. From now on, we’re going to aim for 15 minutes just to get a move on.

Did you read the book? What did you think?

**P.S. – We received word yesterday that all of the host children made it safely back to China. This means Mr. Scientist, who was on winter break while he was with us, should be back in school. I can’t help but wonder how he’s acclimating and what adventures he’s sharing with his classmates. Matt told me that at the airport he overheard a discussion (in Chinese) between Mr. S and another host child, he thought it was about the kinds of food they’d eaten with their host families. Hilarious!




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