If there is one thing about the parenting world that I cannot stand, it’s when holier-than-thou parents stand up on a soap box and tsk-tsk the rest of us about how we’re raising our kids.
The chorus of “you’re doing it wrong” is already crazy loud.
Especially when it comes to everything from how to diaper to choosing between the boob and the bottle, all the way to what kind of discipline a parent will use.
So, when I saw an article about a mother who raised three ultra-successful people, I rolled my eyes. Hard.
Esther Wojcicki penned a cleverly veiled ad for her parenting book that reads like a gold standard for parenting advice.
In it, she says that her three daughters, Susan (the CEO of YouTube), Janet (a doctor), and Anne (co-founder and CEO of 23andMe) got to be ridiculously successful largely because of Wojcicki’s parenting style.
Curiously, the article made no mention of the means or connections it takes to help three kids get to that rare level of success.
What is her parenting style? Well, it’s defiantly NOT helicopter parenting, which she takes great pains to explain is toxic as hell.
We all know what helicopter parenting is; parents who do everything for their kids, so their kids have an easy time.
Wojcicki says that helicopter parenting is only hurting kids when parents do this. And she’s not totally wrong, but she’s not totally right either.
On the one hand, I understand what she means.
Of course, it is not helpful to teach your child to lean on you to do everything. Of course, we should all be teaching our kids independence.
At some point, our kids do have to navigate the world on their own, and they absolutely do need skills to do that.
Kids at every age level should be able to handle certain tasks and responsibilities without a parent reminding them or guiding them through them. But really, this boils down to basics like homework, chores, and manners.
However, her timing of telling a post-pandemic world not to helicopter their kids seems a bit disingenuous.
Everything feels like an unfair obstacle and kids are wilting under things like incredible stress, anxiety, and depression. Not to mention everything from school shootings, food insecurity, and poverty. Oh and yeah, everything they lost during the pandemic.
It almost feels a little bit like taunting to tell parents not to try and buffer their kids from the world at least a little bit.
Her article sets up the argument that parents need to train their kids to be a bit like little CEOs by taking charge of their lives.
She cites her friend Maye Musk, the mother of Elon Musk (who is not who I would describe as a shining example of the type of person I would ever want to raise).
Musk never checked her children’s homework and even trained them to forge her signature so that they could sign her name on school forms.
Wait, what? That’s the type of parenting you want us to mimic? No thanks.
Wojcicki says that kids who aren’t raised to be independent are basically lazy and uncreative.
She leans on studies that poo-poo helicopter parenting to make her point, but she leaves out a gaping hole that was all of 2020 and 2021.
Kids have been learning hard-core survival skills for the last couple of years. They are not going to forget that just because mom and dad want to make them feel comfortable by doing their laundry for them.
So, what is this golden advice that Wojcicki has that we don’t?
She calls it TRICK, which stands for Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration, and Kindness.
This is pretty wild advice because I also teach my kids those things, but the chances of my kids becoming as successful as Wojcicki’s has almost nothing to do with my parenting style and everything to do with class, education, and capitalism.
Wojcicki seems to suggest that if only the rest of us parents followed her advice, our kids would also be CEOs, doctors, and future TED Talk givers.
Does she really think that parents who don’t have future CEOs and doctors are because they couldn’t figure out the basics of what being a decent human being is?
That’s a bold argument to make.
The reality is that no parent has the magic formula to raise kids to be uber successful.
At least not by the high shelf standards of Wojcicki.
Perhaps we ought to change the definition of what success looks like and consider that in a world that is ultra-saturated in selfishness, raising kids to be compassionate adults who care about community, decency, and kindness is a pretty darn good goal that doesn’t require a title.
And while Wojcicki’s kids went on to do excellent and great things, her idea of success is limiting at best.
We can have other hopes and aspirations for our kids and still call that success.
Because the last thing we need in this world, especially in the post-pandemic era when parents everywhere are struggling harder to make ends meet, is to be told that we suck at raising kids if we choose to pad our kids’ experience to ease some burden.
No amount of TRICK can change how economics and systemic racism work.
Not every family is going to catapult their kids into CEO success.
And while I 100% agree with Wojcicki that we should be teaching our kids to be respectful and independent, I wholeheartedly disagree that she gets to judge anyone else’s parenting based on the unusual success of her own kids or her eccentric friends.
Parenting is challenging indeed, but if more parents would stop telling the rest of us how to be parents, then maybe it wouldn’t feel so infuriating.