Mom of Youtube's CEO on how to raise successful kids

Carter Coudriet

Reporter on the Forbes wealth team

Most parents want to give their kids the best life possible. But take note: according to Esther Wojcicki, there’s a massive gulf between “best” and “easy.”

“It’s important to resist the urge to give your child everything you didn’t have,” says the Wojcicki, speaking at 2019 Forbes Women’s Summit. “If you think about how to get creativity and innovation, it comes when you don’t have everything.”

Esther Wojcicki is 77 and the mother of two of America’s richest self-made women: Anne Wojcicki (net worth: $690 million) and Susan Wojcicki ($490 million).

Susan, the oldest of Esther’s three daughters, was Google’s 16th employee and is the CEO of YouTube. Anne, the youngest, derives her fortune from 23andMe, the $2.5 billion genomics company she cofounded. Her middle child, Janet, went the academic route, researching early-life risk factors for obesity at the University of California, San Francisco.

Thank their mother for their success. Esther Wojcicki is a top-notch educator who founded America’s largest high school media program. Esther knew that if she challenged her daughters early, they would grow into independent, critical thinkers.

“I didn’t give them anything, even when they were little,” said Wojcicki. “They had to earn it.” Wojcicki is an author and award-winning teacher.

Her child-rearing model is TRICK. Which stands for: trust, respect, independence, collaboration, kindness. Esther says, her daughters were never afraid to tell her anything. They were empowered from an early age to make their own money and spend it however they thought they needed to. They all learned to swim by the time they were two years old.

“I used [my children] as guinea pigs,” Esther says. “I tried all my education philosophy on them.”

They grew into superstar pupils. Even as kids, the self-starter sisters were known around the neighborhood as “the lemon girls” because they’d sell fruit and crafts to their neighbors. In adulthood, they’ve thrived and innovated in fields historically dominated by men like tech and finance.

Before Susan joined Google (whose founders rented space in her Menlo Park garage), she worked stints at high-profile firms like Bain and Intel. Janet is a Fulbright winner who studied in Swaziland and oversees a long-term study in Zambia. Anne worked on Wall Street before starting 23andMe, which raised $300 million last July as it expands into drug development initiatives.

The trio’s upbringing stands in stark contrast to Esther’s own. Esther’s parents couldn’t focus much on her growth. They had a hard time affording food. Esther realized that her success could buoy her family’s luck and she went on to earn a graduate degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley. When it came time to become a mother herself, she resolved to do things differently, which she notes can be tough.

“When I had my three daughters, I said to myself, ‘I want to create the childhood for them I wish I had.’ It turns out you have to do this consciously,” Wojcicki says. Otherwise, “People tend to teach the way they were taught.”

Since then, Esther has helped develop the Google Teacher Academy and was named California Teacher of the Year in 2002. Esther expanded on her parenting and pedagogical methods in her new book: How to Raise Successful People, which came out in May. The book is currently No. 19 in the “Parenting & Family Reference” category on Amazon.

*Article is adapted from Forbes Daily Dozen June 19 2019