Want To Raise Independent, Successful Kids? 3 Reasons To Treat Them Like Adults
If there's one thing journalist and teacher Esther Wojcicki knows, it's how to empower children. She has raised some pretty successful daughters—Susan, Anne, and Janet—who have grown up to become the CEO of YouTube, the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, and an assistant professor at UCSF with a Ph.D. and master's in public health, respectively (Janet also spoke at our revitalize event in 2015!). Not only has Wojcicki learned the importance of empowerment in raising her own family, but she makes it a point to empower the children she teaches in school. A firm believer in making mistakes, Wojcicki knows how to create uplifting environments where kids can flourish and take healthy risks.
When I sat down with Wojcicki on this week's episode of the podcast, we chatted about her book, How To Raise Successful People, as well as the advice she would give to parents who want to empower their own children. Her instruction was simple yet has remained with me since: Treat your kids like adults.
Here are the three reasons Wojcicki wants you to treat your kids like adults. Who knows—with this level of empowerment and independence, you may have a couple of CEOs of your own one day:
1. Kids will rise to your expectations.
Think of your kids as mirrors—they'll reflect whatever attitude you project onto them. That's why it's important, according to Wojcicki, to never let your kids feel incapable of a task.
"When kids feel incapable themselves, they rise to those exact expectations. When you think they can't do it, they won't do it," she says.
Instead, parents should have high expectations of their kids with a can-do attitude. They might surprise you and rise to the occasion. And even if they make mistakes, that's OK! Wojcicki notes, "If they fail, it's not a big deal."
In fact, Wojcicki thinks failing is an important component of the growing-up process. She wholeheartedly believes that children must have opportunities to fail (whether in an academic setting or in activities like sports) in order to recognize the importance of persistence and trying again.
2. Kids are actually quite capable!
Relating back to the idea that your kids will rise to whatever expectations you project onto them, they might maintain a childlike attitude if you treat them like incapable beings.
Basically, Wojcicki hates baby talk. "Research shows that baby talk is a bad idea," she says.
Instead, let them handle certain tasks. Wojcicki wants you to give them the power to make decisions and help out, no matter how young they are. "Most 5-year-olds are really quite capable of doing a lot of things," she notes.
While it's understandable that as a parent, it's tempting to coddle your children and protect them from failure or embarrassment, trust that your kids are capable, smart, and determined—qualities they must have gotten from you!
3. When given opportunities to collaborate, kids will give respect in return.
"Collaboration is one of the best ways to succeed," Wojcicki states.
Collaboration—the fourth pillar of her book's TRICK principles—is so essential in parenting because it will teach your kids to self-regulate. Additionally, collaborating with your kids is one of the best ways to respect them, and they will trust and respect you in return.
Rather than telling your kids what will happen throughout the week, try allowing them to contribute to the conversation. Wojcicki offers some great ways to collaborate every day with your kids: Questions like, "What fruit should we have at home this week?" or "What time do you think you should go to bed?" will make them feel important in your decision-making process, which will only make them feel more capable of taking control of their own lives.
When planning a trip with your family, let your kids handle some details. "What are we going to do when we get there?" and "How long will it take to get there?" are some effective questions that can teach your kids independence and allow their creative ideas to shine.
Although it might be counterintuitive to treat your kids like anything but the cute and carefree children they are, regarding them as adults may actually help them achieve success in their own lives. However, don't feel too pressured to follow every single rule of "good" parenting to a T. After all, Wojcicki adds, "We all need to relax a little bit. Our kids are going to be just fine."
Colleen Wachob is Co-Founder and Co-CEO at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Stanford University with degrees in international relations and Spanish, and spent 10 years working at Fortune 500 companies including Gap, Walmart, and Amazon. Wachob lives in Miami, Florida with her husband, mbg Founder and Co-CEO Jason Wachob and their two daughters, Ellie and Grace. Her first book, which is co-authored with mindbodygreen Founder Jason Wachob, The Joy of Well-Being, is being released on May 23, 2023.