Posted on: April 30, 2020 at 7:44 pm

If parenting was an Olympic sport, Esther Wojcicki would be a contender for a gold medal. She has raised three successful daughters- Susan is the CEO of YouTube, Janet is a professor of pediatrics, and Anne is the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe.

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Her daughters’ success has placed her among the ranks of “famous moms”, and as such, she often gets questions from other parents for how they, too, can raise successful kids. Whenever she finds herself in these discussions, she always has one piece of advice, and what she has to say might surprise you.

Teach Your Kids to Care

Wojcicki says that she grew up with the belief that she had a duty to care for her community, and to strive to make it a better place. At the time, she didn’t realize the impact her own actions would have on her children’s well-being, but she always tried to show them through her actions what they could achieve.

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One of the biggest lessons that, in Wojcicki’s opinion, many parents seem to miss when raising their kids is the value of kindness.

She did not, however, lecture her daughters about the importance of serving a community. She truly did care about making her community a better place. She cared about doing what she could to help tackle the big problems facing those around her, and that level of sincerity was evident to her kids.

Raising her daughters in that kind of environment meant that they grew up caring, too [1].

Read: Physician: American Children ‘Immersed in a Culture of Disrespect’

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A Country Built on Narcissism

Wojcicki believes that the American idea is all wrong. She says that when kids are taught that they are the center of the universe, they grow to be young adults who are unprepared to take on causes that could make the world a better place.

The American idea is to get rich quick, then coast through life- vacationing in exotic destinations, buying luxury homes and vehicles, and going out to expensive dinners. For this reason, kids are raised to focus on making money, and they expect that doing so will lead to happiness and fulfillment.

These kinds of pursuits cause people to always prioritize themselves over the good of the community. They don’t fight for social causes and are pursuing lives devoid of meaning and purpose. This self-fulfilling attitude turns people into narcissists and thrill addicts, who are often lonely and depressed.

“I’ve met lots of unhappy millionaires and even some unhappy billionaires,” says Wojcicki. “A lot of them probably started out as directionless kids.” [1]

So what exactly is narcissism, and are American’s truly guilty of being this way? According to Psychology Today, the traits of narcissism include:

  • self-centered
  • extraverted
  • exhibitionistic
  • self-satisfied
  • self-indulgent
  • nonconforming
  • dominant
  • aggressive
  • Impulsive [2]

Chances are, as you read that list of traits, you were probably thinking of at least a couple of people you know who are exactly like that. If you were, you’re not alone- a study conducted by the American Psychology Association found that not only do people in other countries view Americans as being this way, but American people rank themselves as being more narcissistic than other nations [3].

Americans place individualism as a top priority, and this extreme desire to “stand out from the crowd” makes the United States a breeding ground for self-indulgent behavior. 

As a nation, we are consumed by an obsession with acquiring fame and fortune- and with today’s technology, it seems like anybody can do it. With social media, YouTube, and apps like Tik Tok, our reach has become much larger- one video has the potential to catapult you into stardom, and you can do it from the comfort of your own home [4].

But when all of our efforts are focused on rising above the masses and creating a name for ourselves, we stop looking out for the needs of others. This has led to an increase in anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Read: Strong Mothers Raise Strong Daughters

The Importance of Taking Care of Our Communities

The amount of research highlighting the benefits of community engagement and volunteerism is vast. One 2013 study found that adolescents who spent time volunteering within their communities not only saw a decrease in negative moods but actually showed a decrease in risk for issues with their cardiovascular health [5].

Another study from 2016 found that teenagers who did volunteer work were much less likely to engage in illegal activities and had fewer convictions or arrests later in life [6].

Wojcicki wonders how many of us consider this when raising our kids.

“How many of us take up causes and show our kids, through our own behavior, how to fight for our communities?” she wonders. “How many children feel empowered to take on the biggest challenges of our time and find a way to contribute?” [1]

Wojcicki has noticed that children seem to be increasingly self-centered. Their main focus is where they want to go to school, what vacations they want to take, and what things they want to buy. 

Altruism, Happiness, and Success

She believes that when we teach our kids to prioritize service and purpose, as opposed to chasing money and possessions, we will raise kids who are happier and more capable of tackling larger problems.

When we raise kids who care for their communities and work to create positive social changes within them, we also create an environment wherein everyone can experience success. But if you were not raised with those ideals and you’re not sure where to start, Wojcicki says you needn’t worry- it’s not that hard to start.

“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.” [1]

Everywhere, she argues, there is a problem to be solved, someone to help, or a cause to champion. If we begin teaching our kids these values and empowering them to use their resources and skills to help, we can move toward a world that promotes the well-being and success of everyone in our communities.

Keep Reading: The Narcissistic Mother: One of the Most Frightening of All Personalities

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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