Years ago, I interviewed Dr. Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders, which resulted in the most viral article I’ve ever written for Forbes. It covered seven behaviors that prevent children from becoming leaders. In the feedback that Elmore and I received, we clearly saw that when it comes to raising and educating children, many parents are confused.
As a parent and corporate vice president, then a marriage and family therapist, and now a career coach, I’ve learned a lot over the past 25 years about the specific behaviors that help people grow and thrive. And also its opposite. About the behavior that destroys young people by diverting them from their path to potential.
To learn more about how to raise successful adults from children, I spoke with Esther Wojcicki, an internationally renowned educator and founder of the largest school program in the United States.
Wojcicki was named California Professor of the Year in 2002, became a member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Team in 2009, and in 2011 received the Charles O’Malley Award from Columbia University. She has served as president of Creative Commons and PBS Learning Masters and is a board member of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum.
Wojcicki, who also advises several educational technology startups in Silicon Valley, founded the Journalism Education Initiative at the University of Oregon and holds three honorary doctorates. She wrote the book Moonshots in Education and the best-selling How to Raise Successful People. She is also the founder and CEO of GlobalMoonshots.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting student-led education.
Additionally, she raised three very successful daughters – Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, a genetic testing company, and her older sister, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. Their sister Janet is a professor of pediatrics at UCSF and has a doctorate in medical anthropology.
Wojcicki shared with us his perspective on how to teach and educate truly successful people:
What would you call, as an award-winning teacher, the key to your great success in teaching?
Education is about relationships. The relationship that students feel between the teacher and the other students in the class is important. They need to feel part of a classy team. If the teacher has a positive relationship with the student, the student is more likely to look forward to class. If the team perceives them, they will feel good there.
The next step is confidence and confidence that the student can achieve the goals you have set for them. Sometimes children think they will never succeed, but the teacher’s job is to be patient and let them try until they succeed.
I call it “the teaching of the master”. Take, for example, writing an essay or an article. They have to try until their texts are good enough to get number one or to be published. Sometimes it takes two revisions and sometimes ten, but my goal is to show them they can handle it. And when they do, they’re proud of themselves. This will encourage them and it will be easier for them next time.
The key to success is the student’s academic confidence. And the master’s teaching gives them confidence. The teacher must believe in them, and they will believe – and they believe in themselves.
What do you do differently from other educators?
The other teachers do not apply the teaching component of the master’s degree. Students usually have an opportunity to write an essay and get a grade for it. Many of them get nervous and “block” because they are afraid of doing wrong. Sometimes students receive an essay with a grade of C and only a few grades – for example, poor structure or poorly chosen words. But they have no idea how to fix it.
Mastery teaching also works in other subjects, such as math, where students need to be able to repeat problem solving until they understand why problems are being solved a certain way. That’s how it works in all subjects.
The problem for teachers is that achieving goals can take more work and time. There are several ways to modify the lesson structure so that you have time to master the program. He just has to try. Testing pressure prevents most teachers from spending the time they need with students. Excessive testing is a problem in general.
Let’s talk about raising successful children. You raised three daughters – two are CEOs in Silicon Valley and one is a college professor. What behaviors do you think have most affected your children’s lives and yours?
There are five main patterns of behavior that have fundamentally influenced my approach to education and my own life:
It is important to trust the child’s innate ability to achieve the goals you have set together. Sometimes kids want to do something that their parents aren’t interested in or that they consider a waste of time. It is important to respect the best interests of the child, as long as it is not harmful or counter-productive.
Anne, for example, decided she liked skating. I’m not a skater and I wasn’t excited about training at five in the morning, but I supported her as much as I could. She had to buy the skates herself because they were very expensive, sometimes up to a thousand dollars for a couple. But she succeeded.
I had no idea if she wanted to be a professional figure skater, and I’m not sure she did, but I supported her. Each of my daughters liked to do something that I knew little about, but I supported them all. And when their interests changed, I wasn’t angry.
Respect your children as personalities. Don’t expect them to be like you, because they are unlikely to be like you.
They were born in a different time and that in itself changes their interests. If your child does not want to go to the museum, make a compromise, small children often do not appreciate the museum. Unless they are specifically aimed at children or do not meet their interests.
When you trust and respect your child, it helps him take the same approach to himself. You have to believe in yourself first – and respect yourself. You need to take care of yourself and forgive yourself if you make a mistake.
Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not alone, who will be there for me? If I’m not there for others, who am I? And if not now, then when?
Give your child independence as soon as possible. Today, there is a widespread epidemic of overprotection of children, which undermines their independence. However, we must all learn to be independent.
We should celebrate and cry a little when our kids leave us in college. However, if we managed to do everything right, we can rejoice that they are independent and try life on their own with their friends.
If they keep calling you and needing help and they feel they can’t handle it (like the vast majority of students today), you’ve done something right. evil. You have protected them too much.
Julie Lythcott Haims has written an excellent book, Raising an Adult, which addresses these questions and, in particular, how to change that when you’ve already spent the first 18 years raising a child to protect them.
Independence could begin soon. Toddlers can learn to dress up, clean up toys, help with placemats. Children feel honored when we trust them and involve them in activities. Don’t tell them homework. They are family work and part of the family. We all have to participate in it to create a family.
Don’t dictate all the time. Nobody likes to be controlled, even if they are two years old. This does not mean that there are no rules and structure. There must be certain rules of conduct, but there is always the possibility of cooperation within those rules.
Children can help design a weekend plan, they can help choose a mat for nursery or breakfast cereal, they can learn to use a broom and a shovel.
Each of my daughters has decorated her room. Susan picked up a rug when she was six, and it stayed until she graduated from high school. It was not my choice. She chose a fluffy pink rug and fell in love with it. She also chose her own bedspread and put her favorite animals in it. It was his space.
Janet did the same, but her rug was blue and Anne chose a bright, fluffy green one. Janet was the only one who didn’t choose a shaggy one. However, the rest of the house was not like that at all. This involved cooperation on many fronts, including clothing, travel, and food.
While all of these behaviors are important, kindness is probably the most important thing. Why? Because the first person you should be nice to is yourself, and the others are your relatives and friends. Be kind to each other when you make a mistake or when others make mistakes. Take care of yourself, eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise. It’s that simple, but many of us don’t.
Forgiveness is also important. Every religion in the world teaches kindness and forgiveness, but everywhere we see horrific battles, including the murder of women and children out of anger that began centuries ago. How can people say they are believers and yet not be kind and forgiving?
In everyday life, we must teach our children to forgive by showing them the example. Don’t hold grudges. Even in the classroom, it is important for the teacher to remember that school is a place where mistakes are made. It’s a place where people learn and none of us can do it for the first time.