Book Excerpt: “How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results”
Trust Yourself, Trust Your Child
How many of us grew up in an environment full of trust? Not many. I sure didn’t. As I said, my father was in total control of the family, and my mother and I lived in fear of crossing him. A lot of us have a hard time building trust, and can be more susceptible to anger, frustration, and depression. It sometimes seems like it’s impossible to trust ourselves, let alone our children.
If this sounds familiar, I suggest that you write down all the negative things your parents said, all the breaches of trust you experienced, all the pain and anger. Then analyze each one. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to help you. Ask yourself: Was what your parent said actually true, or was it a comment that came from a lot of anger that had nothing to do with you? Were you at fault for the mistakes in your childhood, or were you simply part of a dysfunctional family system, through no fault of your own? Why did breaches of trust happen? Is it because your parents were raised in an environment short on trust? As adults, we have the ability to look back and see how ﬂawed some of our parents’ statements were and to perceive how we got caught up in the emotional shortcomings of other people. Just doing this work of unpacking painful memories helps you to see the past more clearly and to have faith in yourself as a parent.
It helps to make a list of things you do well. It sounds simple, but writing this down can quickly increase your conﬁdence. Everyone does something great — absolutely everyone. I use this exercise with my students at the start of the semester. They interview each other and are tasked with ﬁnding out something special about the other person, something at which they excel. At ﬁrst the kids are shy — both the subjects and the interviewers. Some of them are convinced they don’t do anything well, which is a pretty tragic reﬂection of the experiences they’ve had at school and at home. But if the interviewers persist, and if they get creative with their questions, they can uncover all kinds of special talents: juggling, dog walking, being a good sister, listening.
These conversations build trust in our classroom and help students feel good about themselves and their ability to succeed. It can be so helpful for parents to ﬁnd people who trust in their abilities, just as my students trust in each other. Who supports you and understands that you’re doing the best for your family? Surround yourself with people who will build your conﬁdence, even when things go wrong, as they inevitably will.
No matter what challenges we face as parents, we can all see the evidence before our eyes. Look at your children. Observe them. Talk to them. Are they happy? Are they thriving? We are subjected to so many inﬂuences — especially other people’s opinions — that we forget to simply look at our families and see what’s working and what’s not. If something isn’t working, you can change it. Assess the situation honestly without blaming yourself or becoming insecure. All parents struggle. But struggle doesn’t mean we should lose faith: It means we need to believe in ourselves even more.
Excerpted from HOW TO RAISE SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE by Esther Wojcicki. Copyright © 2019 by Esther Wojcicki. Published and reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
This essay was featured in the May 12th edition of Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper newsletter. The Sunday Paper is the paper of record for individuals who want to be Architects of Change, lead meaningful lives and Move Humanity Forward. To get inspiring and informative content like this essay delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.