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7investing lead advisor Austin Lieberman chats with New York Times best-selling author Jessica Lahey about education and parenting during the COVID pandemic.
September 14, 2020 – By Simon Erickson
Right now parents find themselves in a very challenging situation. In many cases, parents are trying to juggle their own jobs while being thrust into the unfamiliar role of helping their kids attend school virtually from home.
As a parent to young children himself, 7investing lead advisor, Austin Lieberman has been wondering how he can help his son be successful as he starts kindergarten from home without “over-parenting” our impeding his son’s ability to learn and grow.
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With that in mind, New York Times Best Selling Author Jessica Lahey is the perfect person to help!
Jessica Lahey is a teacher, writer, and mom. Over twenty years, she’s taught every grade from sixth to twelfth in both public and private schools. She writes about education, parenting, and child welfare for The Atlantic, Vermont Public Radio, The Washington Post and the New York Times and is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed.
She is a member of the Amazon Studios Thought Leader Board and wrote the educational curriculum for Amazon Kids’ The Stinky and Dirty Show. Her second book, The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence, will be released in April 2021.
This interview was originally recorded on September 11, 2020 and was first published on September 14, 2020.
Hi, everyone, welcome to the 7investing.com. Our mission at seven investing is to empower you to invest in your future. We do that by providing a ton of free educational content, like this podcast and by offering a monthly subscription service where our team of advisors provides our seven best ideas in the stock market each month for just $17. If you are a somewhat regular listener to this podcast, you know that we mostly talk about investing in the financial sense and investing in things like public companies. And we’ve even had we’ve even talked about venture capital. But our families and specifically our kids are another area where I believe it’s very important to invest. And so, almost out of my own desire, I reached out to Jessica Lahey and asked her to be a guest on the podcast because I can’t think of a better person, at least not anybody that I follow or that I know than you to talk about this. Jessica is a teacher, a writer and a mom. Over 20 years she has taught every grade from six to 12 in both public and private schools. She writes a lot and she writes about education, parenting and child welfare for the Atlantic, Vermont Public Radio, The Washington Post in the New York Times, and She’s the author of The New York Times best selling book, the gift of failure, which for anybody watching the YouTube video, I have it here and she has it behind her in the tagline is how the best parents learn to let it to let go so their their children can succeed. She’s a member of the Amazon Studios thought leader board and wrote the education curriculum for Amazon kids, the stinky and dirty show and she has a second book coming out the addiction inoculation, raising Healthy Kids in a culture of dependence, which will be released in April of 2021. So Jessica, thank you for being on.
Jessica Lahey 02:17
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me on. I love talking about kids. I miss I, you know, we’re all kind of isolated right now. And so having the opportunity to, you know, do a little bit of teaching and do a little bit talking about what’s great for kids is makes me really happy. I’m excited.
I watched the keynote of yours. And you talked about how you had your life planned out when you were 25 years old. in law school but then a different opportunity came up and you decided to take an opportunity to teach gifted kids in middle school. So why would somebody that was on track to be a lawyer and probably make a lot of money? Why would you decide to start teaching? My mom’s a teacher so I know I know what that life is like. So why did you make that decision?
Jessica Lahey 03:15
First, let’s take the finances out of it because I was going to be working on the local level in juvenile court. So I was not going to be making. I was in it. I was in law school for to work with kids. I was going I had a job sort of all I had all scoped out. I had a mentor. She was becoming a judge. She was moving away from the juvenile court. I was hoping to take her places this is to district attorney in juvenile court. And, you know, I was asked to teach by someone, a teacher of mine, my actually my legal writing professor asked me about whether I’d be interested in teaching a course over at the Duke talent identification program. And at first I said no, because I was on track to graduate early from law school by going to school in the summer, and I just, and I was pregnant at the time, so I really did need to graduate early. And I don’t know what, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I did it. And I, you know, I came home after that first day of teaching, and I just knew I was positive. In fact, it was so clear that I knew I was going to be a teacher that my husband just saw on my face. And he, you know, the joke I always make about this is he looked at me and he said, Are you even going to finish law school? It was so I was radiating, I was just glowing. And it wasn’t just that I was pregnant. So, you know, that was a it was a really important moment for me. You know, I was sort of becoming a mom and becoming a teacher in the same year and that has really, that onfluence has really dictated much of what I’ve done with my career and my writing life.
I’m also a big fan of sort of the the winding road towards figuring out what you want to do. I’ve done a lot of different things I worked in, right out of college, I worked in mutual funds. I worked in I’ve been a speechwriter for a US governor. I’ve worked helping assess kids for sexual and physical abuse. I’ve worked in juvenile court. So there’s been so many cool things I’ve gotten to do. I was a researcher at one point for the Centers for Disease Control for pediatric HIV, when that first was happening, and so it’s been but what’s been so amazing about that trajectory is that every piece of that has given me some insight into what I do what I love. And each one of those things was exciting when I first started but then you sort of figure out what you’re good at and what you want to do and you finally piece it all together. And here I am getting to grow at the very nexus of all the things I care about most, which is helping kids become their best truest selves, and helping them develop their voice and helping education be as good as it can be, and writing a lot about child welfare and juvenile justice, so that, you know, all of those pieces have been so worthwhile because they all you know, I never practice law, but I still write about juvenile justice all the time. So they’re, I love that, you know, I’m a huge fan of David Epstein’s book range for that reason.
Yeah, and an interesting thing that you said in your keynote was that you still finished law school. You started it so you wanted to finish it and it in my head it there’s people have different takes on that. So just curious to hear your thoughts on that.
Jessica Lahey 07:15
I get that I get that question a lot. The whole letting kids quit thing. I think it’s a sort of a different question when you talk about law school, because at that point, I was really fortunate at that point, we did have to move and so I had to go visit at another school in order to finish it University of North Carolina, they were really supportive in that. I just, I love school. I mean, I love the exercise of especially law school, because law school teaches I’m not the natural sort of thinker, that one would point out and say, Oh, yeah, you should go to law school. I’m not a really sort of lean or I wasn’t anywhere really linear process based thinker. I’m one of those people who you know, would raise my hand in the class and open my mouth and just hope something that made sense came out, whereas law school really helped me. It’s there’s so many writers that I respect and love their process, especially as journalists who have been lawyers, actually, my former editor than your times was one. Some of my favorite writers right now actually were former lawyers, mainly because it allows you to really think along a trajectory and come up with you know, the the devil’s advocate sort of both sides of it, and come up with a really great argument for your point. So, you know, that was all really worth it for me. And at that point, you know, when you get to the point where you’ve only got, like, I had three semesters left at that point, and I was able to finish them doing, you know, a bunch of creative cobbling and, you know, once I had my kid and it was just fun for me, it was learning for me is play and it’s hard sometimes. I mean, I had to take a lot of classes and stuff that was really difficult for me but in but I love that challenge. That’s one of my favorite I would I probably would just be in school. And I guess that’s what I’m doing. I mean, honestly, as I write these books, you know, I was interested in the topics behind gift to failure, I became interested in substance abuse, both through my own recovery and through the fact that I was teaching in a drug and alcohol rehab for kids. And so the addiction inoculation came out of that. So essentially, I find these things that I’m really fascinated in, I get to read everything in that topic. sort of break it all down, find the landscape in my head and find a way to translate it for people who don’t want to do all the technical reading. It’s, it’s like this incredible place of being just a big research geek and a translator and a writer. I love it. It’s one it’s just, it’s the perfect job for me.
Yeah, and that and it’s so true as all the time and effort that you or anybody has, has that’s done well with a book that has put into it. Books can take a long time to read, but when you think about it, you’re able to cram years of research into this book, and then kind of consolidate it and organize it for people, which actually saves them a lot of time to learn deeply about a topic from the work that you put in or another author put in.
Jessica Lahey 10:12
Well, and that’s, that’s also a place of trust. Because in order to be a good source of information for you, the reader, I have to do all of my due diligence, and it helps that I’m married to a statistician. So every once in a while, I’ll sit down with a study and I’ll say, you know, I really want to mention the study, but I’m not. It just seems a little shaky to me. And I can go to him and show him the study and he’ll say, Oh, you know, you can’t talk about that one. Because look at these confounding issues, blah, blah, blah. But we were talking about this before we went live is that the process of writing a nonfiction book, for me anyway, to do it the way I feel I have to do it to have it be really good and to be solid. On a research from a research perspective. As you know, this last book, the substance abuse book, the Addiction Inoculation, it took me a whole year to write the proposal before that even went to my editor, and that was because for me to even get my arms around the topic, took me a full year. And then I start the writing process and that process takes a year year and a half and then the editing you know, all that other stuff that comes after so I started this book. I got the idea for this book about four years ago and and, you know, have been whittling away at it ever since. And so it’ll be out in in April. It was supposed to come out this fall, but we decided the election would not be election season would not be the best time to release any book right now. So so I’m really glad it’s coming out in April.
But that’s like I said, That process is really special to me. It’s, it’s a huge place of privilege for for you to open a book and then you know, find something that is interesting to you and quote it because that means you have faith in me that I have done my work well and I fact checked every single angle on it. So it’s a lot of pressure but it’s a lot of fun.
Yeah, and your website, jessicalahey.com., people can buy either of your books there, and then you’ve got links to where they can get them on Amazon. So check out Jessica’s website if you if you want to look at either of her books. I talked about it a little bit earlier.
Right now, a lot of people are in this situation we’ve never been in before, where one I think we’re starting to appreciate teachers a lot more than ever before, probably because we’ve been thrust into this role where we’re almost like, part time teachers as well are trying to help out my my son started school two weeks ago or last week, he’s in kindergarten, and he he’s doing the first nine weeks virtually, and then the plan would be for him to go back to school. so my wife and I find ourselves we switch off depend on who’s working, sitting there, and we’ve got to be there to help them get logged into class and then listen to what the assignments are. And again, I’ve read your book and I’ve read, reviewed notes and taking notes. And I’m all about letting not only kids, but people fail and learn from their failures and stuff. But I still find it really, really hard to know when my kid is, is has an assignment and homework, because I’m not a teacher. How do I help him without crippling him and giving him the Learn dependency? we’d love to kind of frame the discussion about about raising resilient kids and letting kids fail around sort of our current environment of we’re in this position where we’re playing to goodness,
J Jessica Lahey 13:43
Thank goodness, I did not have to write that book, mid pandemic. I mean, it’s a different thing. The other thing I had to do with writing that book is there’s a lot of stuff we do in education to begin with, that is a disaster for learning. But I couldn’t, you know, write the gift of failure and say hi in my fantasy world where everything is fantastic, where we don’t give a lot of homework and where we don’t do these big summative exams. Here’s how to handle that fantasy world of mine. Well, that’s not very helpful. So I had to sort of go at it from the perspective of here’s where we are. And, you know, I, I think right now is a really difficult time, mainly because, let me let me flip it on its head when I go, I get to usually when we’re in a non COVID situation, I’m usually on the road for a huge chunk of the year, doing professional development for teachers working in schools, talking to kids talking to parents. And I can tell you right now that when I talk to teachers, they’re often amazed by how hard it is to take the tools we have as teachers that we know work for learning that are evidence based tools, you know, great for learning, and use those with our own kids.
There’s so like, there’s a wall in our brain and it’s hard for us to see both sides. And so and that’s under normal circumstances. Now flip that on its head. And suddenly you have parents who don’t have training and all of that stuff that we know works for kids. And being asked to somehow be good at that, too. It’s an impossible situation. So I think the best advice I can give parents right now is to sort of envision the teacher that you learned the most from and it probably was not a teacher who when you raised your hand or when you felt stuck, just gave you the answer, right? Because that’s, that’s terrible teaching and it’s, it’s terrible for learning. What works really, really well for learning is helping guide kids toward their own discovery of the answer and especially when a task is slightly just a hair beyond the ability level of the kids. So that’s why you know, a math teacher, for example, might leave the most challenging problems for the end of the problem set because they want to stretch you at the end. The most learning happens in those stretch moments. So as a parent, if you can just remember that this thing called desirable difficulties, which is learning something that’s just a little difficult for you to parse and get in your head. But that’s good, desirable difficulties are really great for learning. That handing our kid kids don’t just, like upload, you know, it’s not like we can download what’s in our brain and that they’ll just suck it up. And suddenly it’s there. That’s not how learning works. So the more we can sort of step back and lead kids in the direction of figuring out the answer for themselves, the better. It’s not going to be our job to you know, reteach all of algebra one because they can’t figure this one algebra problem out. It is good for us to go maybe look at a problem they did do well, and say, Okay, well, let’s look at what you did on number four. Why are you not replicating that same process here with problem two, or what’s different about problem two and from problem four, that means you’d have to change your approach that kind of reflection back. Sometimes all they need honestly. And often what will happen is a kid will raise their hand and they’re like, this is laziness, Lee, I can’t do it. I’m stuck. And our job at that point is honestly, just to stand there and have them tell us what they think the problem is what they think the issue is what they think the question means to read the directions again, reflect to us what they think they’re supposed to do.
And I’m going to tell you eight times out of 10, they’re going to say, Oh, nevermind, I just figured it out myself. So being more of a silent sort of place for someone to just voice what they think they’re supposed to do. Someone who can look with fresh eyes at what they’ve done, and maybe how they can alter what they’re doing based on what they’ve done in other spots. But often, you know, we want to just fix it because that’s easier and it’s faster and it makes our kids stop saying I’m so dumb. I don’t know what to do and you know if we can just make them stop. That then they can feel good and smart about themselves and have good self esteem. But unfortunately, that’s not how self esteem works.
yeah, yeah. So I’ve found My wife and I have found ourselves talking to each other about this. And we know it’s the wrong way to look at it, but we do it anyways. Right. And I would just love to hear your opinion on this. We see our son’s work, and we, you know, we submit it, we take pictures of it, and you submit it and I think eventually we’re going to get some type of feedback or grades back from the teachers. But a couple times, we said, well, I wonder how this compares to what the other kids are doing. And I know that that is the the wrong way to look at it. But it’s that temptation is there. So I guess a is that the wrong way to look at it and you won’t hurt my feelings if you tell me Yes. And then be what? What would the right approach to that because we want our kids to succeed, right?
Jessica Lahey 19:00
So first of all, how the other kids are doing on it for your purposes is totally irrelevant, because so there are a few things we know work really well for teaching. And one of them is this thing called formative assessments and formative assessments are everyday some sort of low stakes assessment to figure out where the kid is in the learning. And if you think about it, these assignments or homework, and it’s most ideal form, if there is such a thing, that’s what those are, right? So your kid doing things to the best of their ability, and being in charge of articulating back to the teacher, what they don’t understand. That’s the best and highest use of an assignment or homework assignment or whatever that thing is that you’re handing back in. And just Just so you know, by the way, homework or assignments like you’re talking about when you said hopefully you’ll get some feedback on it. Research is really clear that if you don’t if your kid doesn’t end when I say you, I mean your kid, not you, your kid if your kid does not get feedback on that assignment. It is not a very useful assignment, it’s not much better than a waste of their time. The The, the feedback matters a lot. So and what that feedback look like and all that sort of stuff. So for you, from your perspective, honestly, the best possible thing is that you have no idea how all the other kids are doing it, because it’s, it is irrelevant for your kid Unless, of course, unless your kid has some major learning disability, and that’s and needs to be assessed and isn’t being assessed. That’s a massive issue too. But I’m assuming Since you didn’t mention it, that that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about, you know, where my kid is, and the your need to understand that is natural because, given that we don’t get report cards on our parenting, the next best thing as a parent is to see a report card on their performance right so that we can co OPT that as some evidence of our success or failure.
But if you turn that on its head again. And that I need to stop using that phrase, if you think about it, that doing that to your kid is super unfair, because they are not an extension of your parenting. They’re their own person. And if you’re co opting their successes and failures as your own, it’s not only unfair to you, it’s unfair to them. So stop doing that. And if they were in my classroom, and they do that thing, where they start comparing notes, like, oh, how do you do? How do you do? All that does is foment competition, which for some kids is great, but for a lot of kids is a really negative factor on performance. That adding competition and actually for many kids can lower their performance because mastery and speed or mastery and you know, mastery of a concept, doesn’t have a lot to do number one with how everyone else is doing and it doesn’t have anything to do with like how fast they can do it, that kind of thing. So yeah, shouldn’t matter to you? But if you’re unsure, and if you’re unsure of where if you really need to know, in a couple weeks, go to the teacher and say, you know, it’s really weird to not have a sense of where my kid is, but I’m assuming your kids pretty young, because you’re saying you have to sit there with them when they do this stuff. At this point, really, I have to say until high school and even then I don’t think it matters, it really is irrelevant to you, where your kid is relative to other kids, unless the teacher is worried that there’s a problem. So staying on the topic of school and you’ve, you’ve written about this, and I’ve heard you talk about it, but getting kids excited for school. So getting kids excited for school requires that you get them excited from an on an intrinsic level that you’re getting there. Sort of, you know, when you watch your kid and they’re doing something like Minecraft, or Legos or whatever, reading something that they’re really, really into, and they’re not doing it for a grade. In fact, if you were to assign that same book, they probably would be like, I don’t want to read that Forget it. But if it’s something of their own choosing, they’re going to be a lot more likely to be invested for the sake of the thing itself. And so the analogy I give is, you know, if it’s really cold outside and you have a toddler, you don’t say to your kid, you know, do you want to wear a hat, you give them limited choices within the framework of it’s kind of important to wear a hat today. So would you like to wear the Red Hat or the blue hat and that gives them some buy in and that also allows them to feel like they have a little bit of control. And anyone who’s ever been around a toddler knows that that lack of control is what makes them often insufferable. Because they just they have control over nothing. And yet they want control over everything. So the more control we can give them over the small things, the more likely we’re going to be to get by and the one thing to remember is that if you want to undermine their excitement and enthusiasm for something, it’s through those extrinsic motivators, whether that’s paying kids for grades, whether that’s sticker charts, whether that’s you know, punishing kids for, for not having a high enough GPA, whether that’s surveillance, watching them on their phones, whether that’s surveillance going on the portal and looking you know, and looking at their grades all the time. All of those things are extrinsic motivators. And they work really well in the short term and they’re disaster over the long term. And that’s not me. That’s 40 years of really good research, go read Edward deseas. why we do what we do the science of self motivation. Go listen to Dan Pink’s TED Talk. Go read Martin Seligman, his work in positive psychology, all that research. 40 years of research shows that extrinsic motivators trying to get kids by dangling a carrot and stick does not work over the long term. If you want your kids to not want to learn math, pay them for their math grades. It’s pretty clear. So intrinsic motivation. That’s where it is. That’s where the good Yeah,
I think you said extrinsic motivation destroys confidence and creativity or maybe it was competence and creativity. extrinsic motivators. It destroys
Jessica Lahey 25:01
What it does is it whittles away at kids motivation to do something over the long term.
And it also is really destructive to creativity. In Edward deseas book, he talks about a couple of different studies where they looked at creative output in kids and adults who were being rewarded for their creative output or in some sort of competition or some control had been placed over their creative output, and it undermines creativity. So there’s music and math of those music and art teachers that have to use grades, they’re in a really difficult place. Because if the very way they evaluate creative output undermines creative output. They’re in a horrible catch 22.
Yeah, and so what Do you have an example of a way instead of doing something like a sticker chart, which is something we’ve commonly seen as ways to try to help our kids stand on rooms at night or sleep or whatever, instead of using that what’s a good way to get them intrinsically motivated?
Jessica Lahey 26:02
So, you know, there you got to take apart what’s on the sticker chart? I mean, because the
approach is different based on what it is if it’s household duties, you know if it’s get, you
know, first of all, no paying kids for doing stuff around the house that you we had talked
very briefly before we went on air about books around finance and kids and teaching kids
about money. Ron Lieber, who is the your money columnist for The New York Times, his
book, The opposite of spoiled is magnificent. It is such a great book about that
intersection between finance and money and budgeting, teaching kids about personal
finance and the intrinsic extrinsic motivation stuff and how to get kids really engaged. So
if it’s about something like household duties, you know, the attitude should be that we all
do these things, because we’re all part of the family and the research there is that kids
actually, especially during times like this, like this COVID pandemic, kids who have a hand
in keeping the family running, whether that’s just putting their dishes in the dishwasher, if
they’re really little kid, or keeping the room clean, if that’s something that matters to you,
or just doing little things around the house, kids who feel like they have been playing a
part in, in keeping the household running, actually suffer fewer mental health issues,
negative mental health effects from the bad stuff that happens, whether it’s a pandemic,
whether it’s a divorce, whether it’s a death in the family, whatever that thing is. So there’s
a couple of different research studies on that. So coming at it from that attitude of, you
know, what would you like your job to be, and here’s what your job will and if whatever
that thing is, it’s going to be your job for the next six months or three months or whatever.
So there’s ways to go with that. There is an exception By the way, while I while we’re
talking sticker charts, the exception to the sticker charts don’t work for the long term. They
seem like they work they’re so sneaky because they really do work in the short term and
extrinsic motivators are a great way to boost motivation for the short term, or like as a
one off, they’re great. The one exception to that rule though, is potty training because
potty training does have its own intrinsic reward which is not wearing diapers anymore
wearing big kid pants whatever that thing is, that does have its own reward at the end so
you know, you sticker chart away for for that sometimes there’s absolutely one. Yeah, but
getting kids interested in doing the thing for the sake of the thing itself, which means you
might have to give them more choice on the front end. And intrinsic motivation comes
from boosting they’re giving them more choice or autonomy. So how they do it in what
Author Jessica Lahey – The Gift of Failure & Pa Hgoew 1 0P aorfe 1n6ts Can… Transcribed by https://otter.ai
order they do it you know, if you feel really, really strongly that dishes should be oriented
north south and you’re doing it east. They’re doing it East-West, maybe just kind of a
break. Number two, helping them feel competent, which means that they can do it. Even
if things go wrong, they’re going to be able to figure out ways to do it. And that they feel
connected to you that you’re supporting them, even if they do it wrong. So those three
things are sort of what get kids invested in. And in the book, like, I’m giving you big picture
stuff here. But in the book, there’s like lists of tips, like, here’s all the things you can expect
a six year old to be able to do around the house. And here’s some strategies to how to get
them to do it. And that was the really fun part was breaking down what kids really can do,
and our expectations tend to be so low for them. It’s really crazy.
My biggest takeaway was that we underestimate or undermine our kids. We don’t give
enough credit for what they can actually achieve.
Jessica Lahey 30:00
So it’s faster if we do it right. And it’s just easier if we do it. But someone sent me a video
once. It was one of my favorite things that I’ve ever gotten in the mail. And it was a little
boy who wanted to help with the laundry. He wanted to help so desperately. And so he
was like a big, he wasn’t quite a toddler. He’s bigger than toddler but it’s toddler little
sister was nearby. And so he was reaching in it was a top loading washer, don’t worry, there
was an adult right there, it was very safe. And he told his little sister, he said, I’m going to
crawl in here with the top of my body. And if I can’t get out, you have to pull on my legs to
help me get out. And so he would fish around in there and get the wet clothes. And he’s
like, pull me out. And his little toddler sister would pull on his leg and help pull him back
out of the washing machine. And then he put the thing in the dryer. It was one of the
coolest things because you would have looked at that kid and said, first of all, he can’t
reach up there on his own. There’s no way these two little kids are going to do it. And they
did it. They figured out a way to do it on their own. It was so cool.
So this is a good segue. You said it’s faster if we do it ourselves. Right. You shared a story
about how your son was too embarrassed at one point to tie his shoes in school which led
to him skipping physical education. Can you share that story?
Jessica Lahey 31:34
Author Jessica Lahey – The Gift of Failure & Pa Hgoew 1 1P aorfe 1n6ts Can… Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Jessica Lahey 31:34
There’s even more to the story that’s in the book because it it sort of led to some really
cool things that happened after the book came out. So Finn was nine at the time and go
to I we lived in New Hampshire at the time and which will come up and be relevant in a
moment. And so he I got a note I he was going to the same school where I taught which is
good in some ways and horrifying for him and otherwise. And so I found out that he was
not To go to PE he was having to sit it out because he was wearing his brother’s like big
tall boots and didn’t have sneakers. But I knew he had sneakers because I had bought
them. It turns out that the sneakers that he had had laces in them, and they’d lost his
Velcro sneakers, and he couldn’t use the sneakers with the latest because he didn’t, he
had never revealed this to me, I guess I’d never thought about it. He didn’t know how to tie
his own shoes. And, you know, at that point, he’s old enough that it’s embarrassing. He
doesn’t want anyone to know, he doesn’t want to tell me why he can’t wear the sneakers
and it was a whole thing. And you know, that that sneaker thing came at a really
opportune moment because I was really angry at the parents of my students for for just
doing too much for their kids. And I was on a stupid, very high horse you know, at that
time and so it was a really good moment for sort of my to realize that this is what I’m
doing too. And so that’s what sort of led to this book and You know, various things were
coming up that, that I realized he was going to have to be a lot more competent than I
had allowed him to be. And you know that, that was that moment of humility where I said,
You know, I can’t really be angry at the parents of my students for over parenting because
I’m doing the exact same thing for my own kid. And that’s when it really became urgent
for me that I had to figure out not only how overparenting contributes to learned
helplessness, and But not only that, how it contributes to learning like, Are we really
messing Kids Learning up when we over parent? And it turns out, Yes, we are. And I just
split an infinitive, anyway. But it turns out that we are really messing around with kids
ability to learn when we do too much for them. And there’s really great research on that
as well. It turns out that the most powerful teaching tools I have as a teacher, work best
for kids who are capable of feeling a little bit frustrated and sort of sitting with that feeling
for a little bit and kids that can’t who Typically tends to kids that tend to be over parentid
are much more likely to give up and just abandon the effort of a difficult task right off the
bat. So, the research, putting all that research together as sort of the fun part of writing a
book like this is, is, you know, putting, tying the pieces, you know, to overdo the metaphor
of the shoe tying, putting out tying all the pieces together and allowing someone to see a
big picture of how the research actually applies to our own kids learning.
Without something like that happening. What are some signs that I can look and I’ll just
Author Jessica Lahey – The Gift of Failure & Pa Hgoew 1 2P aorfe 1n6ts Can… Transcribed by https://otter.ai
put it in my own terms that I can look for in my son or daughter, then that might indicate
that we’re over overparenting? Like, is there anything to just look for? Is it like, kids give up
early on stuff, or is it?
Jessica Lahey 34:53
Yeah, that’s it. So it turns out when you’re what’s overparenting, let’s use a more technical
term, if you’re over directive, which means you tell your kid, okay, now do this, okay, now
do this and don’t give them that moment to sort of think for themselves about what the
next step might be. That overly directive parenting tends to lead to kids just being really
quick to give up really quick to sort of throw their hands up in the air and say that said, I’m
never ever going to tie my shoes ever, because there’s no way I can do it. I’m too dumb,
blah, blah, blah. It also leads to really heightened anxiety. And, you know, there’s a whole
bunch of really great writers writing right now, Lisa demore, and Julie Lescott haymes, and
a whole bunch of wonderful writers talking about how much anxiety we’re currently seeing
in kids and it’s really through the roof. And a lot of that anxiety comes from this need to be
perfect that if you can’t do it perfectly, the first time you try, then you’re stupid, or then it’s
just too hard for you and that overly anxious thing and the sort of willing the tendency to
give up really quickly all That can be fixed actually fairly easily. If you’re willing to pay a lot
more attention to the process of learning and take your drag your attention away from
the end product, drag your attention away from needing to know what the grade is on
everything and how everyone else is doing. Because our kids right now don’t really believe
us when we say, Oh, you know, the grade doesn’t matter. All I care about is the learning.
Because what we’re showing them is what I really care about is that grade so if we can
focus more on the process and less on the product, we can lower anxiety, we can lower
competition, we can also help kids just feel more comfortable with frustration and
therefore help them feel more competent through learning with their learning.
One of the things we like to talk about is is just the idea of getting our kids interested in
finance and investing. And so you mentioned the book, Opposite of Spoiled, but just a few
ways. You know, one of the challenging things with money is it’s a boring topic, right?
Jessica Lahey 37:02
It’s bananas like, yeah, believe me, I’m out there advocating for personal finance. In fact,
my kid is this year enrolled in both personal finance and business ethics, which we’re super
excited about. You know, Ron Lieber and I talk about this all the time. Oh, my gosh, where
Author Jessica Lahey – The Gift of Failure & Pa Hgoew 1 3P aorfe 1n6ts Can… Transcribed by https://otter.ai
are they going to learn personal finance, if not, in school, or from us? I’m so glad you’re
talking about this.
How do we start to have those discussions with them and not just completely lose them?
Jessica Lahey 37:38
I mean, the the basic stuff is number one note paying for chores, or I call them household
duties, because who wants to do something called a chore just sounds terrible. But
allowance is very much a part of teaching kids about money, right? And if you read there’s
a fantastic book. So not only is Ron Libras book, wonderful and really outlines for you how
exactly you do that how you help kids. Get a budget. He has great sections in there on, like
back to school clothes buying which things are wants in which things are needs, and how
do you budget for the wants as opposed to the needs. You know, and it’s the front of the
book. I’m not sure what if the paperback still does, but you know, it has the three jars, the
spend, save and give. And that stuff’s all important too. But understanding that we give
kids an allowance because we they need a place to learn about money and they need to
learn about, you know, generosity, and they need to learn about, you know, how they
manage that money. And that’s really, really important. But that’s not tied to
contributions around the house. Often in our house. Actually, if kids really want to save up
for something I’ll come up with, you know, I can come up with jobs extra and above jobs
that they’re in charge of, and they can earn extra money for things like that. But the basic
stuff is what you do as part of a family. So I recommend Ron’s book. There’s also another
book by a woman named Vicki Hoefler. HF l e comm duct tape parenting, she’s hardline
because her rule is every year after age 12 they get a weekly let’s see they get a weekly
allowance. Okay I’m sorry up until 12 they get a weekly allowance that’s the dollars for the
number of years they are so six year old gets $6 a week blah blah blah, up to age 12 at
which point you start cutting it in half because kids should be able to get little you know
fine little jobs to do and stuff like that and I will say it is much harder for kids to get jobs
now. My 16 year old has when he first went out looking for jobs It was really really hard so
you know because there’s such due to liability stuff like you know one play said we’d love
to hire you but we can’t You can’t even run the the vacuum cleaner because that’s seen as
a piece of machinery. I mean it was just bonkers. But her hardline is is really and then if
they when they get a car they have to pay for it themselves. have to pay for their
insurance themselves. You know, I think all of those things, there’s somewhere in there is
your sweet spot as a family, for us, you know, my 20 year 21 year old is in college and he
pays for certain aspects of his life. And it you know, the nice thing about that is those
things mean a lot, much more, a lot more to him because he has a job and he’s earning
Author Jessica Lahey – The Gift of Failure & Pa Hgoew 1 4P aorfe 1n6ts Can… Transcribed by https://otter.ai
money and that’s his money to either save or for use accordingly. So, you know, using the
budgeting stuff for the financial discussions, and and I remember at one point, my 20 I
think he was like 18 at the time, or 17. At the time, we were talking about investing for
retirement and the I was explaining compound interest to him because, you know,
teenage years are a great time to explain compound interest. And I was I did the classic
example of here’s what it looks like if you save you know, $10 a week now versus $10 a
week when you’re 30 and my son looked at me and he said, How are people supposed to
learn this stuff? And I said, this conversation right here and that’s only because I know the
tiniest bit about it. We really need to be teaching personal finances school and I find it
horrifying that we don’t so I’m slowly lobbying for that.
I’ve got one last question for you. And I didn’t prep you for this. So I’m kind of putting you
on the spot here. Okay, you What’s something that you’ve changed your mind about
Jessica Lahey 41:37
Oh, a lot of things. As a journalist, there’s a lot of learning I’ve had to do on the national
stage, which is a you know, it’s my learn my thinking has evolved over a long period of
time around homework around dress codes, dress codes, is the big one. I worked at a
school for a long time that had dress codes, and I was so I invested in that school policy
and being a member of that team that I was overlooking what it was, how it was affecting,
especially the girls that I was having to enforce the dress code with. So I actually have
written an entire piece on it for why I enforced Middle School dress codes. And it’s a piece
that I wish would I could make go away, but I can’t I mean, the, you know, the publication I
wrote it for would have to issue like a retraction or something. But when you’re doing your
learning on a national stage like that, I definitely I did a big one on homework as most
homework dress codes. You know, school time starts. You know, the American Academy of
Pediatrics says the school shouldn’t start any earlier than 830. Because for teenagers
because of sleep phase delay, there’s a whole bunch of stuff I’ve changed my mind on and
that’s the best part of being in a position where I can say here publicly. Yeah, I had this one
opinion. And then I learned some more stuff and my opinion has evolved and that’s the
very thing I’m asking my children to do. Which is to not be ashamed and deny the fact
that they ever had that opinion. At one point, it’s to say, look, I took this learning and I
used it to have now a more evolved opinion. Isn’t that a good thing? And that’s what we
should be modeling for our kids all the time.
Author Jessica Lahey – The Gift of Failure & Pa Hgoew 1 5P aorfe 1n6ts Can… Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Awesome. Well, thank you, Jessica. Really appreciate your time.
Jessica Lahey 45:05
Thank you so much for having me. This has been fun.
Author Jessica Lahey – The Gift of Failure & Pa Hgoew 1 6P aorfe 1n6ts Can… Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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