How to raise successful people – book summary

If you’re here for the watches, I have bad news – this one doesn’t connect kids to watches at all! Just a summary of a book, with some points I thought were quite useful, and as a parent, I thought it would be useful to share.

Author, mum and teacher Esther Wojcicki says “There’s a real lack of understanding of what parenting is about“. Parents might be fearful that their child will fail, or anxious that they’ll make irreparable mistakes, and this fear and insecurity come from a place of love – but the result is a generation of anxiety-plagued, helpless young people. This book is about the “Woj Way” that stresses trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness (TRICK) – and how this approach will help you raise children who become self-reliant, capable and confident adults.

Why should we listen to her anyway? Well, as the mother of three girls, Esther (“Woj”) Wojcicki developed a parenting philosophy that she based on her gut instincts and experiences as a journalist and teacher. Her daughters Susan and Anne are the CEOs of YouTube and 23andMe respectively, and her third daughter Janet is a pediatrics professor at the University of California in San Francisco.

Woj grew up in a small, rural town in California’s San Fernando Valley. Her father, a Ukrainian refugee, was a frustrated artist who worked in a low-paying job he disliked, as a gravestone cutter. Her mother followed the tenets of their Orthodox Jewish tradition, remaining subservient to her father in all things. While her mother was kind and supportive, it was clear that Woj’s needs were secondary to those of her younger brothers.

Two childhood incidents had a profound effect on Woj. First, her little brother David died at 16 months after getting into a bottle of aspirin. Her mother didn’t push the doctors at the county hospital, having been brought up to trust authority. The second incident occurred when a faulty heater leaked carbon monoxide into their apartment. Woj’s mother told her to lie down on the bed, but Woj ran outside instead, which saved her life. From that time on, she vowed to listen to her instincts and question authority. She deliberately avoided repeating the destructive parental patterns of her childhood home, and instead created the Woj Way of parenting.

General summary

Many parents try to prevent their kids from experiencing any hardship, adversity or failure. As a result, they end up raising fearful, dependent children who lack determination and perseverance. Parents also emphasize personal achievement above all else, teaching kids to focus solely on performance or outcomes, and discounting values such as kindness toward others and gratitude for what they already have. Society’s obsession with children’s happiness and achievements is making kids more unhappy, depressed and anxious. It is failing to prepare them to face the normal adversities of life.

“How we raise and educate our children determines not only the people they become but the society we create.”

Five principal values, which form the acronym TRICK, serve as the basis for the Woj Way: “Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration and Kindness.” Trust your parenting choices while also trusting your children’s ability to become self-sufficient and independent. Respect your children as individuals, and nurture their passions rather than attempting to mold them to your expectations. Foster independence so kids develop the skills necessary to handle adversity and disappointments. Embolden children to collaborate at home and at school by seeking their input and encouraging them to contribute to the decision-making process. Lastly, promote and model kindness – an attitude of acceptance, appreciation, and awareness of the people and things around you.

The immediacy of news and information that technology enables has created a lack of trust.

Research shows that people are safer today than in years past ,yet fearful and anxious parents raise kids who view other people as threatening. Woj suggests breathing deeply and repeating the following mantra to yourself: “The majority of people are trustworthy.”

She suggests you foster a trustful environment in your home by trusting your parenting instincts. The evidence of the success of your parenting choices is right in front of you. Are your children happy, confident and thriving? If something isn’t working, make a change and move on. Don’t worry that you’re struggling or making mistakes. Parents are fallible, and missteps are correctable. Parenting from a position of trust reinforces your kids’ self-confidence and changes how they see themselves. Understand how much they need this support. The belief of parents or teachers has a tremendous influence on a child’s ability to achieve.

“All you need is one person, just one person who trusts and believes in you, and then you feel you can do anything.”

Trust starts in infancy. Babies who trust the love and support of their parents develop a deep sense of security that enables them to thrive. As your children grow, build their belief in themselves through small, accumulating achievements. For example, they should pick their clothes, choose what they want to eat and learn to tie their laces. Teenagers can assume responsibility for shopping, which establishes trust and helps them learn about money management. It’s normal for children to violate your trust. When this happens, keep your sense of humor, hold them responsible and issue a punishment that fits the crime. If you break your children’s trust, listen to their grievance, apologize and commit to earning their trust back over time.

Show respect for children by viewing them as autonomous beings, separate from yourself.

As a teacher, Woj often witnesses situations in which the parents’ goals for their child conflict with what the child wants. How many times have you heard a story about a kid with doctors for parents, who raise them in their own image, and refuse to support their desire to pursue some other goals such as a creative career?

“Respect includes setting high standards. You don’t respect your children’s abilities if you coddle them. But you also don’t respect your children if you force them to excel in activities that have no personal meaning for them.”

When parents measure their self-worth through their children’s achievements, they’re exhibiting what psychologists call “ego in parenting.” They become angry or impatient when their kids don’t develop or succeed as they expected.

Depression in teens is on the rise. Yale researchers have identified “pressure to succeed” and “isolation from parents” as two primary causes of anguish. Children feel isolated when the adults in their lives fail to value their ideas, desires or choices. Showing respect and nurturing passions build children up. For example, the system considered a student named Caleb a poor performer and troublemaker when he entered Woj’s class. Woj discovered that he loved shoes. She encouraged him to become a shoe expert – to learn all he could about brands and prices, and write about them. Caleb began to turn in his work on time, smile and enjoy the class. By showing that she believed in Caleb and giving him a subject to “own,” Woj changed his trajectory.

Your children learn from you. They observe how you treat people, and pattern their behavior after yours. Therefore, model respectful behavior by being considerate to everyone with whom you interact, from your spouse and siblings to co-workers and neighbors.

Allow your children to do things for themselves.

You love your children. It hurts to see them struggle or fail. It’s so tempting to step in and lend a hand. After all, what’s the harm? Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of the bestseller How to Raise an Adult, explains that overinvolvement results in children who may be high-achieving but who “don’t know how to think things through as adults.” Authoritarian, controlling parenting can teach kids how to follow directions, but it doesn’t inspire exploration or independence.

By age two, children want to do things for themselves. While it takes more time, let them complete simple tasks, such as dressing themselves, at least sometimes. Allow for mistakes: They’re important for learning. Teach them to control their emotions. If they’re having tantrums, don’t give in, but encourage kids to use their words. Listen to what they want. Give their suggestions credence, distinguishing between inconvenience and danger. For example, your kids can’t swim unsupervised, but you may let them take extra turns on the slide, or have one more turn in the board game. Children should do their own homework. Assist if they need it, but don’t do the work for them. Assign age-appropriate chores such as washing dishes, folding laundry or helping with shopping.

“This is what we want to bring out in our kids: grit that flows from unbreakable and keen drive and carries them through any obstacle.”

Foster curiosity by encouraging questions and helping to research the answers. Curiosity expands the imagination and promotes creativity. Establish cellphone policies with your kids, including consequences for breaking the rules. Lastly, model the behaviour you wish to see.

The incoming generation is less able to handle criticism and setbacks. They enter the workforce without the resilience to overcome inevitable obstacles. Help children develop grit: the ability to persevere, despite failure or hardship. Separately, here’s a related link to a TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth which actually names ‘grit’ as a predictor of success.

Encourage children to participate in discussions, activities and decisions by soliciting their input and ideas.

The role of a parent is not to simply tell children what to do. Yes, some structure is necessary, but too much control and an overemphasis on rules and obedience are detrimental to children’s development. Collaborative parents establish that they’re in charge while children are young. They build a relationship of mutual trust and respect as the children grow.

“Collaboration is only possible with a strong foundation of trust, respect and independence. Kids also need a defined goal, one they feel passionate about.”

Collaboration begins with modeling it in the home. Although it’s not a good idea to have nasty fights in front of the family, managing the conflicts of daily life models collaboration in action. Don’t issue orders like “Put that down!” Instead, talk to your kids as you would to a friend, with respect and kindness. Ask for their input and provide choices whenever possible. Household tasks provide great opportunities for collaboration while teaching that everyone in the home is responsible for its upkeep. Kids are also more likely to willingly participate in museum trips or restaurant outings if they have a say in the planning.

Childhood friendships teach kids how to share, negotiate and compromise. Athletics also teach collaboration and teamwork, in addition to the importance of good sportsmanship and grit. A collaborative approach to discipline uses mistakes as teaching moments. Encourage children to write what they’re feeling, and then talk about it together. Reflective writing or drawing is an amazing tool for learning.

Over involved parenting focuses on personal performance and success, and fails to cultivate kindness as a valued characteristic.

The focus on individual perfection is breeding a generation that lacks compassion or empathy. When kids and parents obsess about achievement, the idea of kindness falls by the wayside. Many people view kindness as a weakness – an invitation for others to take advantage. In truth, “kindness gets results.” It not only improves your own life, but also makes others’ lives better. Universities and companies are all looking for people who have soft skills: the ability to empathise, show consideration, and provide help and mentorship.

Instill kindness in children by practicing common courtesy. Greet people nicely, smile, make eye contact and express your thanks. Hold a door open, offer a hand, run an errand or give your time. Gratitude is a form of kindness. Research shows that practicing gratitude boosts people’s sense of well-being. Bullying is the opposite of kindness. Bullies often suffer from low self-esteem, or are themselves victims of violence or cruelty. Cyberbullying is increasing because it is anonymous, and perpetrators don’t see the damage they cause. Raising awareness of how someone’s behavior affects others helps both the bully and the bullied.

“Parenting is never just about children: It’s about the adults they become. The citizens they become. The changes they fight for and the ideas they contribute.”

Young people raised to prioritize personal achievement often focus on money because they believe it will make them happy. They don’t understand, and no one is teaching them, that finding a purpose and contributing to something bigger than yourself is the path to fulfillment. While financial stability is an admirable goal, life’s greatest rewards come from service to others. Volunteer in your community, and help your children find ways to contribute. Opportunities include spending time with the elderly, volunteering at a soup kitchen or mentoring other students. However, don’t force community service on your kids or use it to embellish a college résumé. Instead, encourage them to pick a cause that they believe in and find gratifying.

TL;DR – Shorter summary

  • Five principal values form the basis for the “Woj Way” of parenting – Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration and Kindness.
  • The immediacy of news and information that technology enables has created a lack of trust. Trust your parenting instincts, and foster a trusting relationship with your kids.
  • Show respect for children by viewing them as autonomous beings, separate from yourself.
  • Allow your children to do things for themselves, nurture a sense of independence in them.
  • Encourage children to participate in discussions, activities and decisions by soliciting their input and ideas; this helps encourage frequent and productive collaboration.
  • Over involved parenting focuses on personal performance and success, and fails to cultivate kindness as a valued characteristic – instil kindness by practicing common courtesy and encouraging them to do the same.

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