When it comes to raising successful kids, Esther Wojcicki is three for three. The educator and journalist is mother to the CEO of YouTube (Susan Wojcicki), the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe (Anne Wojcicki), and a successful doctor. So it’s no surprise that Wojcicki’s book on the topic, How to Raise Successful People, was a bestseller.
The surprise is how Wojcicki did it in a world of helicopter parenting where many adults micromanage their offsprings’ lives and pressure teachers for better grades. She gave her kids a ton of independence, let them learn from big mistakes, and even told them to make their own breakfast.
Wojcicki gave b. some parenting tips for the C-suite.
Stop Projecting Your Own Insecurities
According to Wojcicki, the temptation to over-parent comes from the best of intentions. Adults often unconsciously try to right certain wrongs from their own childhoods.
“They think they can prevent their child from making the same kind of mistakes they made,” she says, adding, “We’re making it clear to [kids] that the world is a dangerous place and, unless they get the help that a parent can provide, they’re not going to be successful.”
That’s why it’s important to …
Foster Self-Sufficiency Early On
Wojcicki encouraged her kids to play outside — the internet wasn’t invented yet — and taught them how to find their way home. Inadvertently, they learned the alphabet from street signs in the neighborhood.
“I wanted my children to be as independent as they could be early on,” Wojcicki says.
She even taught them to swim at one year old in case they fell into a nearby pool. (“That was not because I was trying to get them ahead on the swim team. It was because they had to protect themselves.”)
From the age of 18 months and up, they had to get cereal from the pantry. Wojcicki kept milk in a small enough container that they could carry it themselves.
Let the Ivy Leagues Go
Young children shouldn’t worry about the college admittance rat race, and parents’ “neurotic” status anxiety has a trickle-down effect. As long as kids are passing their classes and learning, Wojcicki says, “Who cares if they get into Harvard or not?”
The more important thing is to model setting goals and learning from failure yourself. “Your kids do what you do,” Wojcicki says. “They don’t do what you tell them to do.”
A degree will only get a person so far in life. Independence can take them anywhere.