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Jessica  Lahey

Jessica Lahey

Educator & Best-Selling Author of The Gift of Failure & The Addiction Inoculation


Teacher, New York Times best-selling author and columnist Jessica Lahey is inspiring audiences with her rallying cry to allow children to experience failure as an integral part of becoming successful, resilient and self-reliant adults. Her breakthrough manifesto, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, has become essential reading for parents, educators and coaches and declared a “must-read” by magazines as varied as Working MotherFortune and Education Week. In schools around the world, The Gift of Failure is being deployed as a community read that sparks dialog and improves cultures. As a highly sought-after speaker, Jessica addresses “overparenting” with the helpful authority of a seasoned teacher and the empathetic, often humorous, personal perspective of a mom who has truly been there. Her engaging presentations simplify complex cognitive neuroscience and pedagogy, making the case that children learn and develop best when they are given autonomy, allowed to feel competent and valued for the content of their character rather than the letters on their report card. She also provides actionable recommendations to help parents (and the educators that work with them) reframe children’s temporary setbacks as beneficial steps toward lasting, longer-term success. Read More >

Jessica has become internationally recognized as an expert and thought leader on how parenting styles affect students’ motivation, learning and resilience. As a speaker, writer for The Atlantic and The Washington Post, commentator for Vermont Public Radio and author of the popular New York Times “The Parent Teacher Conference” column that ran for three years, Jessica has covered topics ranging from education and parenting to addiction and child welfare. With each subject, she weaves in the latest research into her own vast experience as a teacher and parent. Jessica is also a member of the Amazon Studios Thought Leader Board and wrote the educational curriculum for Amazon Kids’ The Stinky and Dirty Show, designed to model resilience and innovative thinking for preschoolers.

She earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts and a J.D. with a concentration in juvenile and education law from the University of North Carolina School of Law. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two sons and teaches high school English and writing in Vermont, and her second book, The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence, will be released in 2020.

Passionate about providing hope for children who have been given everything yet feel adrift in their own lives, Jessica creates a true connection with her audiences. Her presentations are filled with laughter, tales from her own life, experience in the classroom and on the front lines of education research. Taking on difficult, often emotionally challenging topics with grace, sensitivity and humor, she provides an uplifting and hopeful experience that changes thinking, inspires new behaviors and forever transforms how we feel about failure. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

The Gift of Failure

The Addiction Inoculation

Changing the Odds

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

3 Ways to Get Intrinsic Motivation

Learning to Let Go

Letting Your Kids Make Their Own Mistakes

Speech Topics

The Gift of Failure

Modern parenting has become defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness. We all know parents who rush to school to deliver forgotten assignments, challenge teachers on disappointing report cards, mastermind their children’s friendships or interfere on the playing field. According to teacher and bestselling author, Jessica Lahey, this “overparenting” has the potential to both ruin children’s confidence and undermine their education. By letting go and allowing children to learn how to solve problems on their own, we give them the tools to grow up to be self-reliant, confident and successful adults. That’s the Gift of Failure. Jessica reminds us that teachers don’t just teach reading, writing or arithmetic. Like coaches and others who work with children, they also teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint and foresight — important life skills that shape stronger futures. In this powerful presentation that can be tailored to parents, educators, administrators, coaches, community members and students at all grade levels, Jessica Lahey champions failure as a crucial element of long-term success. She also provides indispensable advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, competitive sports and more.

The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence

Offering three different versions of this talk (for parents, educators and kids), Lahey helps make the statistics and research come alive, and includes personal anecdotes culled from over twenty years spent teaching, parenting, and mentoring kids. Read More >

Parent talk: Lahey offers an evidence-based exploration of what it means when experts proclaim, “Substance abuse is preventable.” She begins with an overview of why humans use and abuse substances, an explanation of why the adolescent brain is uniquely wired for novelty and the risk of substance use while being uniquely vulnerable to those substances in very specific ways. She will identify the major risk factors for substance abuse and explain what adults can do to overcome the weight of a given child's risk factors. Lahey offers an overview of the research as well as concrete, practical takeaways adults can use to change their thinking and behavior and begin preventing childhood substance use and abuse at home. Parents will leave Lahey’s talks feeling informed, challenged, empowered and entertained. 

Educator talk: Substance abuse is preventable, and yet only 57 percent of schools in the United States offer substance abuse prevention programs. Of those 57 percent, only ten percent are based on evidence. Lahey believes can do so much better. Lahey will detail the research on substance abuse prevention and help teachers, counselors, and administration know what to look for in evidence based, effective substance abuse prevention programs that begin in early childhood and extend through high school and beyond. Educators will leave Lahey’s talks feeling informed, empowered and entertained. 

Kid talk: Years of research on the existing substance abuse prevention programs reveal that scare tactic, “just say no” and punishment-oriented programs do not work. In fact, some of these programs actually increase the chances kids will try substances. Effective programs arm kids with real data about their brains and cognitive development the harm addictive substances can have on their developing brains and give them solid refusal skills based in inoculation theory. The more kids know about substance use, the more they can overcome the incomplete or false assumptions we all tend to harbor, such as the belief that “everyone is doing it,” and the belief that everyone else values and consumes more alcohol than they really do. Kids will leave Lahey’s talks feeling informed, empowered and entertained. Read Less ^