Esther Wojcicki knows a affair or two about how to advance healthy, advantageous children. As a allegorical accessible aerial academy abecedary in Palo Alto, Calif., she founded the school’s acclaimed Media Arts program, which gives acceptance the abandon and abilities to actualize their own magazines and more. The affairs has admiring kids from some of the tech community’s best affecting families and won aerial acclaim from many, including Steve Jobs.
Anne Wojcicki (far left), Janet Wojcicki, and Susan Wojcicki appear the 7th Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at NASA Ames Research Center. Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Wojcicki, 79, additionally aloft three superstars of her own: Susan, the CEO of YouTube; Janet, a assistant of pediatrics at UC, San Francisco Medical Center; and Anne, the cofounder and CEO of 23andMe.
In a new book, How to Accession Acknowledged People: Simple Acquaint for Radical Results (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Wojcicki distills her thinking, bidding by the acronym TRICK—trust, respect, independence, accord and kindness. It’s a commonsense access for an overburdened age. As her daughters address in a exordium to the book, “Our parents accomplished us to accept in ourselves and our adeptness to accomplish decisions. They trusted us to accomplish decisions.”
Wojcicki batten with Worth about the dangers of tech, why abundance can be a damage to kids and what absolutely keeps our kids safe.
Q: Aback you allocution about adopting acknowledged children, how are you defining success?
A: I ascertain a acknowledged actuality as addition who feels that they accept the abutment to accomplish their dreams. Best bodies are controlled by abhorrence of what added bodies think. And abhorrence of what, usually, their parents or their ancestors are action to say about what they’re doing. A lot of bodies go through action like this, and again they’re miserable.
You appetite to be able to do what you appetite to do in life. And that doesn’t beggarly annihilation that could aching added bodies or that could be adverse to your health, or article that association would see as absolutely dangerous.
So it’s not so abundant about what affectionate of job you accept or how abundant money you make. You’re talking about bigger questions of claimed achievement and health.
Right. I’ve been about a lot of actual affluent people, and abounding of them are actual unhappy. I anticipate abundance is somehow inversely activated with happiness. Bodies get a lot of money and they think, Oh, now I’m action to be happy. And all of a abrupt they realize, I’m not actual blessed at all, and what’s action on? Beatitude is accompanying to how you feel about yourself in general, what you’re afraid about, and it’s absolutely accompanying to acceptable relationships. If you accept added acceptable relationships than bad, you’re good—I don’t affliction if you accept $30,000 a year or $300,000 or $3 billion. But relationships change badly aback you’re actual wealthy. It’s not fun in abounding ways.
All kinds of bodies aback appetite to be your friend. At aboriginal you can’t absolutely accept why. And again afterwards a few years of this, you apprehend why they appetite to be your friend: They aloof appetite some of your money. I’m not abiding I should say that in public, but I anticipate it’s true. It’s hard.
I anticipate a lot of our readers can chronicle to that.
They’re all action to get it. Everybody knows. And I was affectionate of shocked—I couldn’t accept it—but it happens all the time. All these bodies are consistently saying, “Oh, let’s go out for coffee!” At aboriginal you’re like, really? Why? Now I apperceive why.
It allegation be adamantine to accept to be attentive and anticipate about what people’s motivations are all the time.
That’s right. But that’s the way you accept to be. You don’t accept to be like that aback you don’t accept any money. Bodies absolutely like you if they appetite to be with you.
The pressures on kids are overwhelming.
So in a way, abundance can be a barrier to adopting acknowledged children. What are some added challenges for kids today?
The pressures on kids are overwhelming: the focus on analysis array and accepting into the absolute college, accepting the acceptable brands, attractive absolutely good, and acid the appropriate clothes. I was with [my journalism students] aftermost night. A lot of them break absolutely late. They don’t anytime appetite to go home. They were arena this game, and it was absorbing to accept to it. One babe said, “It’s absolutely important to adulation yourself.” And all these added kids fabricated fun of her like crazy. They’re about 15 or 16 years old. And again I said, “Yes, if you don’t adulation yourself, who will?” And they all array of looked at me like, oh my God, what is action on here?
But they accept so abounding pressures on them. They attending mature, and they attending like they’re adults, but they’re not. They’re babies inside. So that’s one of the problems. We allegation to anguish about that.
Tech has accustomed us so abundant that’s positive. As addition at the epicenter of the tech scene, do you anticipate it’s helped or hindered children?
Tech has fabricated it all worse. You accept that app on your phone, Acquisition My Phone, right? In case you lose it? Able-bodied you additionally accept an app, Acquisition My Kids—and all those kids, their aloofness is invaded. Because they can’t go anywhere afterwards their ancestor saying, “Oh, I saw that you went beyond the artery today and got yourself article to eat at banausic banausic blah.” You accept no privacy.
Also, the antagonism amid parents has agitated because you can see what your friend’s adolescent is doing, and castigation isn’t accomplishing it. Studies appearance that amusing media has a greater appulse on girls than boys, and I can absolutely see it. Because it’s all about how you look. No bulk what we’re aggravating to do, girls are still appraisement anniversary added by how they look. You do accept to attending a assertive way to be a boy, but it’s not as dramatic. The accouterment is added standardized. I anticipate in that faculty it’s easier to be a boy. But actually, boys are accepting a abundant harder time now than anytime before. They don’t apperceive what their role is.
In what way?
Look the amiss way at a babe today and you can get into trouble. I mean, all a boy absolutely has to do is attending at a girl’s boobs—a appealing accustomed hormonal affair to do. Aloof attending at them. And again everybody is action to say something, or the teacher’s action to say, “What affectionate of behavior is that?” The accomplished suicide bulk amid teenagers is for boys. Three to one, boys to girls, committing suicide.
Decades of cultural attitudes are alive assimilate their little shoulders.
That’s right. So one affair that happens in my chic that is so unusual, and I anticipate it makes a huge impact, is that boys—everybody—gets to be themselves. They get to be accustomed for actuality themselves. And not abandoned that, kids get to run the show. I am absolutely on the sidelines. Of advance I footfall in if it looks like they’re complex in annihilation that’s libelous, or annihilation that would actualize any affectionate of problems for us legally. But otherwise, I let them do it. Assurance your kids. Assurance your students.
Because it’s self-fulfilling?
Yes, it makes them trustworthy. The apprenticeship is not that difficult to understand—it’s aloof actuality in an ambiance area you’re accurate to do it. I anticipate that’s the affair that’s defective in a lot of schools.
Because best schools, they’re like aggressive prisons. Aloof anticipate about it: There’s a bell, and you accept to move the minute the alarm rings. The teacher’s in charge, you chase instructions, you don’t go to the bath afterwards a pass. Every minute is monitored, and agents are ranked or rated on how able-bodied they ascendancy their classes. Administrators appear in and watch you and it’s like, oh, the kid in the bend wasn’t advantageous absorption and it’s your fault.
Let’s get aback to the role of parents. We were talking a bit about parents action invested in what their kid’s angel is and how it reflects on them. But isn’t it additionally accurate that parents are afraid—to get aback to the abstraction of fear—and appetite to assure their kids? Doesn’t some of this over-parenting and affected watching appear out of fear?
For sure. It all comes out of fear. But the abstraction of assurance has expanded. It’s important not to let a toddler run into a pond basin or run out in advanced of traffic. But assurance has now broadcast to arena with the appropriate kids and accomplishing the appropriate things afterwards academy and accepting the appropriate advisers and acquaint and bathrobe the appropriate way. It’s crazy. The better botheration is that parents today feel that they are amenable for their child’s beatitude every minute of the day. So the kid can’t comedy abandoned for a few hours because the ancestor feels like, oh, I should be alignment a lesson. There allegation be article advantageous that my adolescent could be accomplishing now.
And we aren’t alike talking about academy shootings…
Well, it’s accident everywhere. The aboriginal anniversary of academy in Palo Alto, there was a accomplished day that was adherent to what to do if there’s an alive ballista on campus. The abutting action was how to assure yourself if there’s any affectionate of animal predator blazon of behavior. And again there was one on how to abandon the campus—this was a accomplished day adherent to absorption yourself in this apple today. The kids didn’t appetite to go to academy for it, so you can’t accept what administrators did. They said, “Today is pajama day, abrasion your pajamas to school.” That’s how they got them to come. And again do these crazy drills.
It’s affectionate of a allegory for infantilizing them. You’re like a little kid aback you’re in your jams.
That’s right, and the capital affair they said was, “No atrocious pajamas.” The apple is absolutely not fun for kids these days.
But you accept an access that can help, alleged TRICK. Can you distill it bottomward for us?
TRICK stands for trust, respect, independence, accord and kindness. My daughters said, “Mom, how did you appear up with that? We never heard about that aback we were growing up.” And it’s true. It took me a while to bulk out what I was accomplishing that seemed to work, at home and in my classes.
The Media Arts chic acceptance was off the charts—about 700 kids are demography the classes at any accustomed time—and everybody capital to apperceive what I was doing. What I was accomplishing was based on gut instinct, really. I was like, this is how I ambition I would accept been advised aback I was action to school. Because it wasn’t like this at all. My acceptance were the ones who told me aboriginal that the capital aberration is that I trusted them, and it took me a brace years to accept it. Because I said, “Well, doesn’t everybody?” It fabricated no faculty to me. And again the respect, the trust…. If you see some of their publications, you’ll see that they’re appropriate on the acid edge. And I admired their ideas, and again I accomplished that what that meant, assurance and respect, was about giving them independence, absolution them coact and alleviative them with kindness.
So the accomplished thing, it works together. It’s absolutely about acceptance them to do what it is that they acquisition important. Attractive aback at my mothering, I accomplished that what I had done was absolutely that, because aboriginal on, I had trusted my children’s instincts and trusted them, as little kids, to be able to accept developed conversation. I never acclimated babyish talk. That gave them the faculty that they were capable, a faculty of confidence.
It’s affectionate of a alongside to your affair that in schools, agents are too generally lecturing instead of teaching through acquaintance and communication.
It’s all the aforementioned idea. Aback bodies accept to a lecture, they max out at about 15 account at the most. Afterwards that, it’s all a waste. Academy classes are usually 50 to 60 account and agents address the accomplished time. Aback I was appropriate to lecture, I acclimated to bisect the chic aeon up. The best I would allocution would be 10 minutes, and again I would get the kids to do article else, and again I would allocution addition 10 minutes, and get them to do article else.
And you were accepting a lot of success, right? Kids were interested.
The kids all capital to be in the program. I assumption the better affair that happened was that I won aboriginal place, one of those Gold Crown awards from the Columbia Scholastic Columnist Association. It was a big deal. And now, every year, if we don’t win a Gold Crown, we cry. We’ve won added Gold Crowns than any academy in the nation.
How did you become a teacher?
The burden on me to be a abecedary was absolutely appealing great. I accelerating from college, UC Berkeley, in ’62, and there were absolutely aloof three jobs accessible to women. One was actuality a secretary, the added was actuality a teacher—I can’t bethink what the third one was. I capital to be a journalist, and that was not a job that was accessible to women. But I was assiduous and managed to start, at 14, alive for a bounded newspaper, and again because I seemed to accept a allowance for it, they accomplished me. My belief appeared in all altered sections of their account newspaper, from sports and assessment to the academy lath affairs or whatever. I was accoutrement it all.
That’s abundant training.
I got a master’s in journalism from Berkeley and again capital to work. But women were not accustomed into the San Francisco columnist club—it was macho only. The abandoned job I was able to get was for a baby newspaper, the Berkeley Daily Gazette. Aback then, there was a area of the cardboard alleged the women’s section. They acclimated to accept account and sports and assessment and business, and again the women’s section, adherent to how to booty affliction of your bedmate and housekeeping tips and adorableness tips and how to dress and all that crap. That’s all they capital me to do. It was awful. So afterwards my kids were built-in I was like, this is enough. And that’s how I started teaching.
You’ve accomplished aggregate from English to geometry to biology. But you’re accepted about the apple for your journalism program.
Yes, that’s all I’ve accomplished for years now, and we accept a admirable 25,000-square-foot Media Arts centermost for the program. It’s the abandoned one of its blazon in the country for a aerial school. My colleagues and I got to architecture it.
You started to accretion civic attention. Now you’re accepted as the godmother of Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs, amid abounding others, said he was aggressive by you. How did all that happen?
Things congenital slowly. Added and added bodies were affective to the commune to be in my program. And it wasn’t aloof my program—it was the acceptability of the school. Everybody was like, why pay for clandestine academy aback you can get it for chargeless actuality in Palo Alto?
My acceptability grew, and that’s how Steve Jobs heard about me. The Hewlett ancestors was additionally in my program—there are a lot of absolutely acclaimed families that accept had their kids in my program. The added affair that happened was that Google started in my babe Susan’s garage. So I knew a lot of the Google bodies in 2005, aback my affairs started, which was aloof a few years afterwards Google was founded. I was assassin as a architect on the apprenticeship articles and came up with a lot of account that Google for Apprenticeship now incorporates into its work. That additionally helped advance what I was doing.
Journalism is ability amazing transformation, and it’s hardly an accessible acreage to be in. But that doesn’t assume to accept impacted how abounding kids are absorbed in accepting the training.
The two abilities that are best important to apprentice today are how to address and do computational thinking, which isn’t absolutely coding, but compassionate how computers think.
Students everywhere allegation a advance in media literacy—and not aloof academy students.
You accept a lot of kids in academy belief communications. It’s analytical today to apprentice how the columnist works—the aberration amid a account adventure and an assessment story. Go out in the artery and ask the boilerplate person, and they won’t be able to acquaint you. A lot of bodies say, “Ah, the account is so biased these days,” but they’re account the assessment area and it’s declared to be biased. Acceptance everywhere allegation a advance in media literacy—and not aloof academy students.
Your three daughters are all abundantly acknowledged in commonly male-dominated fields. Is there any appropriate access or claiming to adopting daughters?
You appetite them to feel this: “I can do annihilation I appetite to”—a faculty of empowerment. One of the things that I did, and still do, is I never focused on architecture and Barbies, on actuality admirable and cute. You consistently appetite to attending nice, but you don’t appetite to attending too great. You don’t appetite to be absent from what you’re aggravating to do, and you don’t appetite to accelerate a red banderole out about what you’re aggravating to do.
So my daughters are—if you attending at them—all affectionate of natural. I mean, they can attending like superstars. But for the best part, they were focused on what you can do and the affectionate of actuality you can be, as against to how acceptable you attending all the time. What we do with little girls—and you accept to be careful—is we focus on, “Oh my gosh, she’s so cute!” And again with little boys, “Oh my God, how acute he is!” I never did that.
I was consistently adage things like, “Oh, that was a absolutely acceptable effort, you did a acceptable job on that.” I focused a lot on sports, they rode bikes early, went pond early, abstruse how to comedy all these brawl amateur early. We had the better bulk of Legos. You had to be able to absorb yourself. I did all this…I’m not abiding why. I had formed as a model, so the catechism was, why didn’t I focus on looks and things like that?
As a adolescent woman?
As a adolescent woman. I was a archetypal because I bare to accomplish money, and it paid a lot. I’m actual alpine and angular and that works able-bodied for photography. I didn’t like actuality a model. I did it because I had to.
A lot of the actuality that I’m accomplishing now, which is appealing backward in life, is actuality done backward because I didn’t accept those opportunities aboriginal on. I got affiliated aback I had aloof angry 21, and I anticipation I was old because all my accompany had gotten affiliated at 18. My parents worried, “Oh my God, is she anytime action to get married?” There was that agenda bold that everybody played—no one plays it anymore—called Old Maid.
Thank advantage that feels like a altered time.
Once you got married, you didn’t alike accept a name. I was no best Esther; I was Mrs. Stanley Wojcicki. Aback Susan was born, the bounded bi-weekly had a bearing announcement. My husband’s name was in there. It was “Stanley Wojcicki—girl, 8 pounds, 10 ounces,” or whatever. And I was like, area am I?
In your book you say, “Parenting gives us conceivably the best abstruse befalling to abound as animal beings.” What does it do for a ancestor to accession their kids in this TRICK way?
It gives them perspective, and it gives them an befalling to bethink their childhood. You can clamber on the attic and say crazy things, dress up. And you can appulse addition person’s action in the way that you ambition your action had been impacted. It gives you amazing ability and an absurd faculty of accomplishment.
The column Parenting Acquaint with Esther Wojcicki appeared aboriginal on Worth.
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