The five pillars of parenting all come down to trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness. Wojcicki believes that if we give our children – or students or employees for that matter – the freedom to become independent people, all of society will reap the benefits. She tells SL what T.R.I.C.K. means and how to make the right changes.
What is T.R.I.C.K.?
Trust: When parents are afraid, their children will be too. That fear will stop them from being themselves and trusting themselves. By trusting ourselves, it helps us to trust our children, which will in turn empower them to be independent people.
Respect: By noticing – and respecting – our child’s talents and gifts, it helps them to confidently and authentically pursue their own goals in the future.
Independence: This will come once you’ve got trust and respect in hand. Wojcicki says that by learning to be independent early in life, children are better placed to cope with adulthood, and will have the right skills to think in innovative, creative ways.
Collaboration: This means shifting the parent-child or employer-employee dynamic. Instead of parents remaining in charge, telling children what to do, Esther suggests asking for their input and working together.
Kindness: Often, we keep our best manners for strangers, and forget to demonstrate to our children how to speak and act kindly inside the home too. From saying thank you to showing forgiveness, our kindest behaviour will teach them awareness of the world outside themselves.
Which T.R.I.C.K principle do parents find the most difficult to implement?
Trust is the hardest to implement but also the most important. Without trust, there is little respect and it will be impossible to have independence or collaboration.
You talk in your book about ‘safetyism’ – can you explain what you mean?
We are all so worried about safety because we read about accidents, kids who have problems and about the suicide epidemic, every day. Also, the legal system supports it – we sue when our kid falls in the park. We are especially worried about their mental safety and want to protect them from negative ideas. So, we clear the way to make sure that they have no problems, that they can navigate and be ‘independent’.
Why is safetyism problematic?
Because children are not really coping with life because we have cleared the way. This creates kids who cannot handle the real world, kids who get really upset when things don’t go their way. They expect their parents, a teacher or coach to rush in to fix it. There is an epidemic of kids who are depressed, feel overly stressed and cannot handle the stress of college. This comes as a result of safetyism.
Do we over-schedule children with extracurricular activities too?
Today there is a pervasive competitive fear that infects parents. They can compare their child with thousands of others using social media and the web. They are worried that their kids are ‘behind’ the other kids they read about or see. So, they over-schedule to make sure their kids have all the opportunities they can possibly have. Years ago, parents could only compare their kids to a few – the ones next door, down the street, the cousins. We are all influenced by social media whether we know it or not.
You teach parents not to force-feed children nor reward them with food. How do you combat the urge to do so?
It is simple: don’t use food as a pacifier. Never. You might want to try tea, or lemonade, to read a story, tell a story, watch a video, but not food. Food should not be seen as comfort. It should be seen as nourishment, which is what it is. I never gave my kids food to make them feel better or to stop crying. If you are already doing that, you can alter it by just offering fruit.
How do we avoid being dismissive of a child’s ideas and opinions?
Some ideas are downright silly or dangerous and you need to explain why to the child. But most of the time, the ideas are just not traditional, and those ideas are not dangerous. However, it is important not to become a slave to their every whim. It’s important for parents to collaborate with their kids and have kids be part of the team as soon as they are able. That doesn’t mean over-burden them. It means respecting their intelligence and giving them an opportunity to contribute.
You taught your children about things like botany and financial literacy. What other skills can parents teach their kids to be more independent?
The main thing a child should learn from parents is that life is a constant challenge, but they are capable of handling all the challenges. Sometimes challenges seem overwhelming, but that just means it takes longer or requires a team effort to solve. Knowing as much as you can about the world empowers you to cope with the problems that come up daily.
What does independence look like?
If you give your kids independence, the first thing you will notice is that they seem much happier. When I allow my students to solve the complex problems they face in producing a publication, they naturally work together in teams, feel energised and solve the problem. At home, giving your kids independence helps the family, because they contribute to the family and they can help with work around the house.
Do many people that try your techniques come up against resistance from other parents?
People tend to be judgmental because they are threatened. They are thinking that perhaps they are doing it (parenting) wrong – or they could be convinced they are doing it right and are adamant about their methods. One solution is to form parenting groups, a few families together to help support each other. That team effort can help alleviate judgmental competitive parenting behaviours.
You’ve suggested before that T.R.I.C.K. can be translated into how employers treat employees too?
Yes, the same rules apply. In fact, the first person you need to trust is yourself, and most people don’t trust themselves. That is why they run to ‘experts’ for everything. They have little or no trust in being able to handle anything by themselves. I recently met a woman that was part of a group of young mothers in LA who pay ‘experts’ $100,000 a year to tell them how to raise their toddlers. These are women who have no faith in their own ability to be mothers. She told me, ‘I don’t want to make any mistakes and so it is worth it to me to pay for it.” The more pampered you were as a kid, the more likely it is that you don’t trust yourself to do anything.
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