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Jessica  Lahey

Jessica Lahey

Educator & Best-Selling Author of The Gift of Failure & The Addiction Inoculation, Recovery & Prevention Coach


Jessica Lahey 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 and The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence. Read More >

Over twenty years, Jess has taught every grade from sixth to twelfth in both public and private schools, and spent five years teaching in a drug and alcohol rehab for adolescents in Vermont, and serves as a prevention and recovery coach at Sana at Stowe, a medical detox and recovery center in Stowe, Vermont.

She writes about education, parenting, and child welfare for The Washington Post, The Atlantic, is a book critic for Air Mail, and her biweekly column “The Parent Teacher Conference” ran for three years at the New York Times. She designed and wrote the educational curriculum for Amazon Kids’ award-winning animated series The Stinky and Dirty Show, and was a 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee for her Creative Nonfiction magazine essay, “I’ve Taught Monsters.”

Jess holds the dubious honor of having written an article that was later adapted as a writing prompt for the 2018 SAT. She co-hosts the #AmWriting podcast with bestselling authors KJ Dell’Antonia and Sarina Bowen, and lives in Vermont with her husband, two sons, and a lot of dogs. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

The Gift of Failure

The Addiction Inoculation

Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence

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 ^