Raising successful people: five things parents need and the one thing they shouldn't forget

(Photo: Unsplash/Sammie Vasquez)

Recently I was listening to BBC Radio 4 Women's hour and was struck by an interview with Esther Wojcicki, a leading American educator, journalist and mother.  In addition to these accomplishments, she has written a book called "How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results".

The radio interview was focussing on how Esther has raised three highly accomplished daughters; Susan who is CEO of YouTube; Janet who is a professor of paediatrics at the University of California, and Anne who is co-founder and CEO of 23andME. A rather impressive line-up of offspring. Esther and her husband, Stanley are no less inspiring themselves.

As a mother of three grown up daughters myself, I was interested to hear what Wojcicki had to say and also to find out to what she credits her daughters' success.

Wojcicki stresses the importance of trust in her relationship with her children. From a young age, she would trust her daughters to make the right choices and do the right thing. But there is more to how she raised her children than simply trust and Wojcicki says it all boils down to something she calls 'TRICK', an acronym that stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness.

Wojcicki explains that, "The ultimate goal of TRICK is creating self-responsible people in a self-responsible world.

"This is what we're doing as parents, teachers and employers—not just raising children or managing classrooms and boardrooms but building the foundation of the future of humankind," she writes.

As a parent I agree wholeheartedly with Wojcicki and believe what she has done and is suggesting is enormously helpful to those trying to navigate the unpredictable terrain of parenting.

When my daughters were very young, I attended a parenting course at our local church. I went along rather reluctantly because I already had three children and wondered what on earth I could be taught – God has since taught me about the importance of a teachable spirit!

The course content wasn't particularly new or revolutionary, however, there was one challenge that was presented that changed how I parented. It centred on respect. The scenario posed was if an adult came into your home and threw their coat onto the floor, would you shout at them to pick it up or would you politely and respectfully ask them to pick it up? That simple scenario changed how I spoke to my children.

From that day onwards, I addressed my daughters with respect. I made sure I regularly thanked them and said please whenever I asked them to do something. I spoke to them with the same respect I would an adult, and as a consequence, I received respect back. Of course there were times when they needed to be reprimanded but even in those moments, I tried to do it respectfully explaining why they were being told off and what the consequences were going to be. Treating each other with respect was life changing for our family dynamic.

I would completely endorse TRICK – the 5 components are fundamental to not only the child/parent/carer relationship, but to any relationship.

However, as a Christian parent, for me there is one thing missing from Wojcicki's acronym and that is love. I believe love is foundational for every relationship and if I could make the TRICK acronym work with an L in it, I would!

I was a single parent for a long time. I have no academic qualifications of any note and in spite of circumstances vastly different from the Wojcicki's, I believe I also have raised three daughters who are extremely accomplished. My eldest, Jessica is a researcher at Bristol University and working towards her MSc; my middle daughter, Tabitha gained a 1st in psychology and is a primary school teacher, teaching a multi-ability class and Abigail, my youngest is living in Uganda, working on a social care project with the Ugandan government.

They are well-qualified, able and competent human beings who are self-responsible people. Naturally, I am immensely proud of their academic and professional achievements but I am much prouder of their qualities as human beings.

For me, raising my daughters to be loving, giving, inclusive and self-sacrificing, modelling the attributes of Jesus was the highest priority on my parenting agenda. To raise daughters who were able to love selflessly, give of themselves sacrificially and include everyone, are the characteristics I want my children to be recognised for and the qualities I extol whenever I speak of them.

I applaud Esther and Stanley Wojcicki and am in awe of what they and their amazing daughters have achieved but we are not all going to raise CEOs or professors.

We can, however, try and raise children who contribute positively to society, who value giving over receiving, who challenge injustice and who love their neighbours.

Those children may not win awards, may not make it onto any Fortune 500 lists but they will be remembered, as Maya Angelou put it so well, not for what they said or for what they did but for how they made people feel.

Mandy Bayton is The Cinnamon Network Advisor for Wales, speaker and freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @mandyebayton