Dr. Alex Russell

Young people need to make mistakes in order to become resilient, independent people.

Author of Drop the Worry Ball

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Dr. Alex Russell | Author of Drop the Worry Ball
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Dr. Alex Russell is a clinical psychologist who helps children develop resilience and their own personal relationship with school and achievement. At the heart of his message—and his book, Drop the Worry Ball—is that children learn by experiencing non-catastrophic, painful failure, and it is through the process of these failures that they mature into resilient, resourceful and emotionally balanced individuals. 

Dr. Alex Russell is a clinical psychologist who lives and works in Toronto. He provides assessments and psychotherapy to children and adults, in addition to consulting with schools, teachers, and psychologists. The heart of his message is that children learn through the experience of non-catastrophic, painful failure, and it is through the process of these failures that they mature into resilient, resourceful, and emotionally balanced individuals. Parents need to see failing—whether it’s a test, a course, or a tryout for a team—as a normal part of growing up and not a sign of parental incompetence. In Drop the Worry Ball: How to Parent in the Age of Entitlement (co-authored by journalist Tim Falconer) and on stage, he offers a fresh perspective on raising children that is reassuringly familiar and strikingly sensible. 


As an education speaker, Dr. Russell has addressed many parent and counselor groups over the years. He is intimately familiar with the culture of the school system and the relationship that parents, teachers, and counselors share with regard to the children we are raising. He has been an active parent in his community and an avid hockey player and coach.


“Dr. Russell is an amazing speaker and also one of the nicest men I have met. He was such an amazing asset to our convention. Dr. Russell stayed afterward for quite awhile to answer any questions after the question portion [of our parent night] as some people had some personal questions to ask him. He was very professional and also very down to earth. I would love to work with your firm again.”

Central Alberta Teachers’ Convention

“Thank you for being part of such a successful Professional Development Day for the teachers of the OCDSB. Your flexibility and laid back style were appreciated. Thanks for staying later to continue to sell your book—you sold out! We continue to receive positive feedback on you, and your talk. You touched people and made them think, me included.”


“Thank you so very much for sharing such compelling concepts with our community at Crofton House School. There is much talk this morning about ‘minding, snowplow parenting, appropriate anxiety, and believing in the capacity of our children.’ You are making a difference to the lives of children, parents, and teachers!”

Crofton House School

“I wanted to take a moment to thank you for speaking to our Central Team in such an authentic and meaningful manner! Your messaging spoke to the individuals in the room and set a very positive context for our role in student’s lives this year. As you spoke I frequently scanned the room and noticed that people were totally engaged and connected to what you were saying. In dialoguing with my colleagues afterward, there were as many positive comments from a professional perspective as there were from a personal one. Congratulations on tapping into those critical connections.”

Toronto Catholic District School Board

“Thank you for your insights, intelligence, and your almost poetic description of the moments of which we should be mindful, that we often miss as we tell our kids what to do. I got all teary when you showed the baby looking at his mum with such joy and pride—that celebratory moment of triumph is everything to them, and ultimately to us. Thanks so much.”

St John’s

Speech Topics

Raising Resilient Children

Is it really a good thing to give children everything they need, all the time? In this keynote, Dr. Alex Russell addresses common challenges children and youth face, including dealing with troublesome behaviours, supporting children at school, and controlling or monitoring children’s access to computers, cell phones and other forms of digital technology. A perspective is offered that helps parents take a positive and emotionally rewarding role in their children’s lives, while allowing them to have the opportunity to make their own decisions—and mistakes—during the complicated business of growing up.

In enlightening and refreshing talks, Dr. Russell helps parents achieve this balance by providing essential perspective on today’s child-rearing context and the powerful forces that pull us to become over-involved in our children’s lives. Stop doing all the worrying—and let your kids do some for a change!

Released into the Wild Graduating High School and the Problem of Growing Up

Today’s North American children grow up in a decidedly adult-controlled world.  We have developed tremendous expertise when it comes to child development, and have learned to protect children from many physical and emotional dangers. However, while undeniably healthy, youth have fallen behind in their capacity to take on the world for themselves. At the same time, conditioned to continuous support from adults, they are increasingly unfamiliar with the experience of failure. This becomes especially apparent in university, when young people begin fending for themselves. How do we ease this transition? And more importantly, how do we prepare our children to be the next generation of leaders?

In this talk, Dr. Alex Russell explores how educators can gradually take students’ training wheels off, as well as handle well-intentioned parents who nevertheless interfere with this process. He also confronts common psychological issues that young adults encounter: the pressure to conform to parents’ career expectations, the lack of control over their future, overvalued external markers of success, and work and play in black and white terms. Through candid and stimulating discussion, Dr. Russell offers a fresh take on undergraduate instruction and the transition to the working world. 

Mental Health
That Big Bad World Helping Kids Thrive in Anxious Times
Anxiety disorders among children are on the rise: More medications are being prescribed, new disorders such as “school refusal” are appearing and, even among children not diagnosed with a disorder, children are appearing increasingly daunted by the task of taking on the world around them. Changes in the way children in the West play and learn are a part of this as children have less opportunity to creatively explore and practice in the world, free from adult involvement and protection. This workshop takes a health perspective in which childhood anxiety is understood as a necessary building block of adaptation, and an essential gateway to a child’s creative engagement with the world. A perspective is provided that helps slowly shift the burden of responsibility on to children as they grow—something that helps them take on anxiety adaptively, at the same time as they experience the sense of mastery and competence such growth generates.