12 min read ⌚
Want to become a better parent?
Who better to teach you than Esther Wojcicki, respected educator and Mother of a Super Family?
Read our summary of her book and learn:
Who Should Read “How to Raise Successful People”? And Why?
How to Raise Successful People is a parenting book, which means that it is aimed at parents, especially new parents.
However, this is one book which should not only make the children better adults but also the parents better people.
But, then again, these two things should be connected, shouldn’t they?
About Esther Wojcicki
Esther Wojcicki is an American journalist, educator, and Founder of the Palo Alto High School Media Arts Program in Palo Alto, CA.
Considered one of the foremost educators of the 20th century, she has won numerous pedagogical awards including the 2002 California Teacher of the Year by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and the 2011 Charles O’Malley Award from Columbia Scholastic Press.
Known for “Moonshots: The Woj Way Pedagogical Philosophy (Trust Framework),” Wojcicki was awarded an honorary doctorate from Palo Alto University in 2013.
How to Raise Successful Children is her first book.
“How to Raise Successful People PDF Summary”
“There are no Nobel Prizes for parenting or education, but there should be,” writes Esther Wojcicki in the first sentence of How to Raise Successful People. “They are the two most important things we do in our society. How we raise and educate our children determines not only the people they become but the society we create.”
And there’s a reason why you should believe Wojcicki, or WOJ as she is known to many of her friends and admirers: she is not only a legendary educator and, unofficially, “The Godmother of Silicon Valley,” she is also, very official, the exemplary mother of a Super Family.
What does that mean?
Well, let’s just say that, in her family, you really don’t know who has achieved more.
Together with her husband, Stanford University professor of physics, Stanley Wojcicki, Esther has raised three exceptionally talented daughters: Anne (co-founder and CEO of 23andMe), Janet, a Fulbright-winning anthropologist, and Susan, YouTube’s CEO.
Want to learn how to raise children like that?
The Childhood You Wish You’d Had
When Esther Wojcicki starts the chapter with the title above with “we all tend to parent the way we were parented,” one cannot be blamed for thinking that she had wonderful parents.
That is, however, not the case: “when I became a mother,” she goes on, “the one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of my parents.”
The oldest of the three children of two Russian Jewish immigrants, Wojcicki grew up in a family where religious beliefs and practices decided every aspect of upbringing.
If you know anything about Orthodox Jewish families, you certainly already know that, in this tradition (as, unfortunately, in many others), women have one clearly defined role: mother of the family.
“That means women don’t need an education,” writes Wojcicki. “They only need to know how to take care of the children and their husband, and how to maintain a household.”
Case in point: when Esther’s brother Lee was born (on May 23, 1945, five years after her), she was told by her father something rather shocking: “Your brother Lee is a boy, and in our family boys are more important.”
Esther’s father wasn’t one who only talked the talk: he made this perfectly clear by walking the walk as well: while Lee was showered with presents and attention, Esther was merely watching from the sidelines.
“Part of what helped me cope,” says Esther in retrospect, “was the constant love of my mother; she was patient, never critical, and she made me feel important despite what my father had said.”
Unsurprisingly, much of Esther’s parenting philosophy is based on avoiding the mistakes her father had made and repeating the good things her mother had done.
TRICK Is the Trick
“I may have figured out a lot on my own,” says Wojcicki, “but I’m the first to admit that parenting would have been much easier with some guidance. So that’s what I’d like to offer you here – guidance,” she concludes.
And she writes:
We’ve made parenting into an incredibly complicated, unintuitive endeavor, filled with fear and self-doubt. We’re stressed out because we’ve become slaves to our children’s happiness. We’re worried that they won’t make it in this highly competitive world that we live in. We get upset when they don’t get into a prestigious preschool, or when they don’t yet know the alphabet but all the other kids their age seem to know it. We are the ones who are creating this frantic, overly competitive world for our kids. In truth, parenting is really quite simple – as long as we rediscover the basic principles that allow children to thrive in homes, in schools, and in life. Through my decades of experience as a mother, grandmother, and educator, I’ve identified five fundamental values that help us all become capable, successful people. To make it easy to remember in all walks of life, I call these values ‘TRICK’: TRUST, RESPECT, INDEPENDENCE, COLLABORATION, AND KINDNESS.
Let’s look at each of these values in detail.
Just recently, we summarized David Brooks’ immensely important book, The Second Mountain.
If you have already read that summary (by all means, you should), you are familiar with the depth and extent of the “four interrelated social crises of modernity.”
One of them is distrust, best exemplified by the fact that less than a fifth of millennials believe that most people are trustworthy – a serious drop compared to the 1950s; and, yes – those surveys came after a great war!
“The digital age and the ease of transmitting information has resulted in a crisis of trust,” writes Wojcicki, “and it’s affecting the way we live and the way we parent.”
Living without trust is miserable. It makes us dysfunctional. We become so fearful and anxious – and what do we do? We pass this fear and anxiety on to our children. They grow up nervous and afraid, just like us, and we wonder why more and more kids are incapable of transitioning to adult life. If you think this is an issue that only affects families, you’re wrong. The global erosion of trust is bad for mental health, relationships, business, and foreign relations, and it’s especially bad for democracy.
If you want your child to grow up in a trustworthy adult, and if you want it to believe in his/her capabilities, then it’s crucial that you start believing other people.
Because only that way you’ll allow your children to start roaming freely and experience things, and prevent them from internalizing your distrust.
“As parents, we have to take ourselves in hand and trust that we taught our children to make good decisions,” writes Wojcicki. “We have to trust the basic goodness of people and the basic goodness of the world. And sometimes, our children can be our greatest teachers.”
The only subtitle of this section of Wojcicki’s How to Raise Successful People is, really, all you need to know when it comes to respect: your child is not your clone.
Take, for example, Greg, “a genius in graphic design” who Wojcicki had the privilege of teaching journalism.
Greg’s father was a physician, and his mother was a medical researcher. “The very last thing they wanted their son to become was some creative type,” informs us Wojcicki. “He was supposed to be a doctor, a lawyer, or – best of all – a scientist.”
Of course, since Greg was sixteen at the time, his parents chose his courses for him. And even though he wasn’t that great in his science classes, for some reason, these were the ones he attended.
After some time, this resulted in him feeling depressed, withdrawn, and disinterested in absolutely everything.
Fortunately, Greg overcame this and eventually became a well-known graphic artist and web designer who currently runs a successful company in Los Angeles.
However, another student of Esther named Lisa wasn’t that lucky: instead of becoming a teacher, she became a doctor (her parents’ wish) and is still unhappy.
And if you have ever watched Dead Poets’ Society, you know that these kinds of stories may end even worse than this.
“Children will listen to you – they want your approval and love – but if they want to be happy, they’re going to have to listen to themselves,” says Wojcicki.
That’s what she did after her daughter Anne announced to her that she had no intention of pursuing a professional career (after graduating from Yale!) and wanted, instead, to become a babysitter.
Esther allowed her daughter to lead the way, and, eventually, it paid off: Anne Wojcicki now has a Wikipedia article of her own.
Trust and respect are the foundation of the third trait of good parenting: independence:
“Children who learn self-control and responsibility early in life are much better equipped to face the challenges of adulthood, and also have the skills to innovate and think creatively,” writes Wojcicki. “Truly independent kids are capable of coping with adversity, setbacks, and boredom, all unavoidable aspects of life. They feel in control even when things around them are in chaos.”
Most of us think that independence is something children officially acquire after their 18th birthday. However, this is a very wrong way to think about things.
Truly independent adults are formed in early childhood and to help them become such you need to follow two pieces of advice: 1) don’t do anything for your children that they can do for themselves; and 2) give your children grit.
If you know what we mean by 2, you have Angela Duckworth to thank for. And that’s because, in her succinctly titled 2014 book, Grit, Duckworth revealed to the world something rather interesting: passion and perseverance are more important than innate talents.
In other words, the ones who make it are the ones who have set clear goals before themselves, and have the energy to stride toward their completion; even in Auschwitz, as we learned from Viktor Frankl, the ones who survived were the ones with goals and determination.
Now, to give your children grit, you need to learn to allow them to do everything they can do by themselves; even if you can help them.
Independence starts there.
Because with doing things inevitably comes failure to do some of them; and with that, just as inevitably, comes the determination to try again, aka grit.
In short, failure in early years results in grit; in later – in depression.
Julie Lythcott-Haims says that there are at least four types of parenting: authoritarian (demanding and unresponsive), permissive (undemanding and responsive), neglectful (undemanding and unresponsive), and authoritative (demanding and responsive).
We don’t need to tell you that neglectful parenting is the worst kind, but we feel that we do need to remind you that permissive parenting allows children too much.
And, as studies have demonstrated over and over again, children need some structure!
Psychologist Diana Baumrind discovered this in two separate studies (from 1971 and 1991) which demonstrated that children with demanding parents are less likely to become involved in drugs and similar delinquent behaviors during adolescence.
However, as described above, there’s a big difference between authoritarian and authoritative style of parenting: the first one is the one practiced by Wojcicki’s father, and the second one the one advised by many psychologists in the world.
In other words, you need to be demanding of your child, but, moreover, you need to be responsive as well.
Esther goes a step further and introduces a new, fifth type of parenting: collaborative. It is the one in which the parent works with the child constantly, about all things and matters.
For comparison, an authoritarian parent would choose the color for his/her child’s bedroom and have it painted too; an authoritative one would choose the color and then instruct the child on how to paint it; a collaborative one, finally, would both choose the color and paint the bedroom with the help of his/her child.
“Collaboration means working together as a family, in a classroom, or at a workplace,” writes Wojcicki. “For parents, it means encouraging children to contribute to discussions, decisions, and even discipline… We shouldn’t be telling our children what to do, but asking for their ideas and working together to find solutions.”
Let us start the final trick in the Parenting TRICK manual with a very enlightening quote by Wojcicki:
It is strange but true that we tend to treat those who are closest to us without the kindness and consideration that we extend to strangers. Parents love their children, but they are so familiar with them, they often take basic kindness for granted. And they don’t always model kindness as a behavior for the world as a whole. Real kindness involves gratitude and forgiveness, service toward others, and an awareness of the world outside yourself. It’s important to show our kids that the most exciting and rewarding thing you can do is to make someone else’s life better.
Now, let’s go back once again to David Brooks’ The Second Mountain (we told you it is an important book, didn’t we?)
In it, the author expresses his deep concern about the future of humanity in the land of radical individualism: the United States.
We don’t even need to analyze why: individualists care for themselves more than they care for the ones around them; and communities are built on the very opposite: togetherness.
Wojcicki comments upon this sad state of affairs through the results of a study done by researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education: the Making Caring Common Project.
A survey of 10,000 children – mind you, children! – discovered that 80% of them identified achievement or happiness as their top priority, and only 20% said the same about “caring for others.”
But if everybody cares for himself/herself and not for others, then how are we going to build a human society?
Zoom in a little bit and the same goes for families: it’s either “one for all, and all for one,” or the demise of the nuclear family as we know it!
Key Lessons from “How to Raise Successful People”
1. The Trick of Good Parenting Is TRICK
2. Independence Relies Upon a Strong Foundation of Trust and Respect
3. Collaborative Parenting Is All About Kindness and Understanding
The Trick of Good Parenting Is TRICK
TRICK is an acronym which stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness.
And in Esther Wojcicki’s mind, it is also the simple (and, thanks to her, easy-to-remember) recipe for good parenting.
Independence Relies Upon a Strong Foundation of Trust and Respect
Distrust and disrespect breed distrust and disrespect; trust and respect breed independence.
It’s as simple as that!
If you don’t allow your child to roam freely and explore the world by itself (helicopter parenting), then it will certainly internalize this distrust and grow an untrusty parent itself. If you disrespect his/her choices, it may get even worse (this is one of the main causes of depression and suicides).
However, if you are trustworthy and respectful, your child will grow into just that kind of adult. And this is the difference between independent and needy children.
Collaborative Parenting Is All About Kindness and Understanding
Most parenting books advise authoritative parenting, which is different from authoritarian parenting in that it is both demanding and responsive (authoritarian is unresponsive).
However, Esther Wojcicki suggests a new kind of parenting: a collaborative one.
Collaborative parenting is all about the TRICK values; it’s doing things with your children not by showing them how to do them, but by doing them in discussion with them.
It’s about showing kindness and putting the needs of your children first; finally, it’s about understanding that allowing your children to lead the way from time to time is the best thing you can do.
They might teach you things such as trust, kindness, and respect – you know, the trick to being a better person!
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“How to Raise Successful People Quotes”There are no Nobel Prizes for parenting or education, but there should be. They are the two most important things we do in our society. Click To Tweet Every one of us has trauma and challenges from childhood that influence the way we relate to our children, and if we don’t understand that trauma, if we don’t carefully assess what went wrong, we’re destined to repeat it. Click To Tweet Respect is what we want to give our children, but sometimes we are held back by our own insecurities. Click To Tweet Success does not exist in isolation. Grit, then, is about fluidity and going beyond self-interest into the strength we can create in the world at large. Click To Tweet Success begins with our kids and us. Let’s all believe we are ‘crazy enough’ to change our world together, and we will. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
How to Raise Successful People should really be titled How to Raise Good People because, throughout the book, that seems like Esther’s main objective.
Unlike Amy Chou, Wojcicki thinks that a successful adult is just that: an independent, trustworthy, respectful, and kind person.
And her book will teach you how to help your children grow up like that; the successes of her children is evidence enough that her parenting methods really work.