My fellow parents, we're in trouble. Not because of anything we did wrong.
Instead, it's that we're all simultaneously navigating how in the heck you're supposed to do things like run a business, while working from home, and while simultaneously trying to raise successful kids--who are also cooped up at home.
It's like, where's the punchline and the hidden camera?
Fortunately, just before the Covid-19 outbreak really started to affect life deeply here in the U.S., I had the chance to interview Esther Wojcicki and Jessica Chang about raising successful kids.
- Wojcicki is the author of the book, How to Raise Successful People. She's also the mother of three highly successful daughters: Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of of YouTube, Anne Wojcicki, who is the CEO of 23andMe, and Janet Wojcicki, a professor in the medical school at the University of California, San Francsico.
- Chang is the CEO of WeeCare, a platform that helps caregivers start "curriculum-based home daycares." (Wojcicki is an advisor to the company.)
Ask Wojcicki how she managed to raise kids who grew up to achieve success, and she talks about five values: a formula she refers to with the acronym, "TRICK."
It's not so much a step-by-step handbook, but a philosophical guide. But that makes it much more useful now, I think, since we're all navigating this brave new world of working and parenting while being confined to our homes -- and frankly winging a lot of it.
Here's how it all breaks down, especially in our current, shared-but-separate environment:
As Wojcicki describes the value of "trust" within her paradigm, it's largely about setting routines, and then empowering kids to make decisions within those routines.
As a basic example, maybe your kids are very young -- like, too young to dress themselves.
Wojcicki suggests breaking the routine of "getting dressed" into two smaller routines:
- choosing the clothes (where you can choose to trust your kids' judgment regarding what they want to wear), and
- actually getting dressed, where they might need more help.
You might not be able to trust a very young child with handling the whole task, but you can trust him or her with part of it. So, strive to find those parts.
If I were designing the hierarchy of needs, I think I'd put "respect" very near the top. And kids do, too.
"Respect is basically understanding the ideas of another person, and listening," Wojcicki told me. "So the number one thing [parents] can do is listen, and then they can solicit their [kids'] opinions. ... It doesn't take a lot. It's just the idea that, 'Hey, I have some ideas and my parents listen to those ideas.' That is the respect."
Especially now: close quarters make physical distance more difficult within families, and that makes respect even more important.
Independence is related to trust when we talk about parenting. Wojcicki describes it as parents setting structural guidelines and then empowering kids to make their own independent choices.
As an example, maybe you put a limit on screen time, but you empower your kids to make independent choices on how to use that time.
"You, the parent, prescribe the structure," she said. "But within that structure, there's tons of opportunities for making decisions, and you give them that opportunity.
In fairness, if it were not for alphabetical order, I might actually put "collaboration" before trust and respect.
Because as Wojcicki describes it, this is about getting your kids' ideas and buy-in before setting the structures and routines--so that you can then trust them to do things independnently within them.
"Then you write down their ideas. Maybe they can't even read, but they can see you're writing it down," she suggested. "Then we talk about these things, and you try to include some of their ideas, with some of your ideas. The idea that you're really pushing is: 'We come up with this, collaboratively.'"
The last value might be the most relevant right now. Everyone is a little bit afraid, as our worlds have been upended. Kindness can be the antidote to fear.
"The number one thing that a kid needs, to be able to learn effectively, it's kindness," Wojcicki said. "And so, what you want is providing an atmosphere where, if you make a mistake, you're treated with kindness. It's not like the mistake doesn't go unnoticed, it's just that you're not traumatized."
This is also the value one I'd like to leave you with, too.
We're all in uncharted territory here, and most of us are going to fall short sometimes -- especially if you're trying to raise kids while running suddenly and simutaneously running a business from your home.
Each is a full-time job in its own right.
So treat your kids, and yourself, with kindness. Make mistakes, try to correct them, and move on.
That will make things easier now, and it will be a lesson your kids will take with them for life.