She’s not claiming to be the world’s most perfect parent because there’s no such title, but she aims to share the concepts she got right with other parents hoping to raise legends. Encouraging kids to engage in humanitarian and community services helps shapes them into leaders with inspiring character and discipline.
“I’ve met lots of unhappy millionaires and even some unhappy billionaires. A lot of them probably started out as directionless kids.” - Esther
Esther Wojcicki is a world-celebrated mother, journalist, and educator. Mom to Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube, Anne Wojcicki, Co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, and Anne Wojcicki, a professor of pediatrics, she’s spent half her life grooming some of the most successful women in the world. As expected, she’s garnered invaluable experience and some amazing lessons over the years. She doesn’t take all the credit for their successful careers, but she certainly played vital roles in all their chosen paths.
In a post published on CNBC where she’s a contributor, the 78-year-old highlighted some important aspects of parenting that are getting muddled over today .
“I grew up believing it was my duty to contribute and make our community better,” she wrote. “I still feel that way. If everyone just sits around and talks, nothing gets done. I was always a doer. All of this influenced my daughters, not because I lectured to them about the importance of serving the community — but because I truly cared.”
She wasn’t the kind of mom who’d speak constantly and proclaim words excessively. She taught them through her actions (despite being unaware of her impact at the time), that they could rise and achieve whatever goals they desired by being proactive.
She taught her kids to immerse themselves in service to the community
“Teenagers who volunteer with younger children experience both decreased negative moods and cardiovascular risk, according to a 2013 study,” she explained. “Another study, from 2016, found that teenagers who performed volunteer work were significantly less likely to engage in illegal behaviors and also had fewer convictions and arrests between the ages of 24 and 34.”
Esther explains that in recent times, parents don’t think of volunteer service as a necessary venture for their kids to undertake. Kids are being excessively spoiled, thinking only of themselves and their own wishes. Teenagers are no longer being motivated to stand up for what they believe in and fight for their home communities. They merely want to breeze through the early stages of life, going to high school, prom, college, hanging out with friends, enjoying vacations and summer camps, but no one spurs them onto character development and self-enrichment.
“Sometimes it feels like we’re training a nation and a world of narcissists, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that helicopter parenting has played a big role in this,” Esther wrote.
The American idea is all wrong
Parents are over-sheltering their children, shielding them from the necessary experiences that’s shape youngsters into responsible adults for the future. Many young adults in this generation are growing up to remain completely dependent on their parents, even when they have their own families to cater for. They’ve been the center of attention for so long, they don’t know how to be anything else.
“They tend to focus on money, because they think it will make them happy and fulfilled,” she explained. “It’s the American idea: Get rich, then do nothing. Sit on a beach. Go out for an expensive dinner. Go to Las Vegas. But these kinds of pursuits turn people into narcissists and thrill addicts. There seems to be a number of them here in Silicon Valley, people who worry about themselves before anyone else. They don’t prioritize the good of the community, they don’t fight for social causes and they aren’t pursuing a life of meaning and purpose.”
Prioritize service and preach purpose
Esther explains that the alarming opioid epidemic sweeping through the United States is due to the fact that a lot of people have no idea how to fend for themselves; physically, emotionally, and psychologically. They tend to resort to external factors such as drugs and alcoholism for a semblance of happiness.
“We’re chasing money and possessions. Not service, not purpose. If we have a purpose at all, it’s to make ourselves happy. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: You’re happiest — as well as most beneficial to society — when you’re doing things to help others,” Esther wrote.
She encourages other parents out there to begin now to imbibe the character of service into their children. Through their own actions, they can teach their kids to prioritize purpose and goodwill over material possessions and self-seeking thrills. It’s never too late to start, and if you decide to take up this cause, don’t be discouraged by a lack of direction.
“The main thing you need is the right attitude — toward yourself and your children. You can start small. Volunteer for one hour in your community. Go to a city council meeting. Research an issue that affects your neighborhood. At the very least, you can vote. Everywhere there’s a problem to be solved, someone or some group to support and champion. It really is a way of being in the world, and when it comes to our kids, it pays to shape this perspective as early as possible.”
- I raised 2 successful CEOs and a doctor—here’s one of the biggest mistakes I see parents making. Esther Wojcicki. CNBC. May 8, 2019.
- Esther Wojcicki. Wikipedia.
- Effect of Volunteering on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in Adolescents. A Randomized Controlled Trial. Schreier et al. Jama Network. April 2013.
- Long-Term Engagement in Formal Volunteering and Well-Being: An Exploratory Indian Study. Elias et al. PMC. September 27, 2016.
- Opioid Overdose Crisis. NIH. Drug Abuse. January 2019.