Why is so much parenting advice seemingly in direct conflict with others? How do we determine who is correct? How do we make these emotional decisions for ourselves?

Esther Wojcicki is considered the most influential educator in contemporary times and her pedagogical and epistemological philosophy is being adapted by local Silicon Valley schools as well as national and global educational programs. She is the pioneer of Moonshot Thinking, a program that she uses in schools, and her influence in technology-enabled schools has been central to the tenants and design of new modern education systems.

She is also known as the mother in Silicon Valley who raised three of the most successful women in the United States. You may recognize her as the mother of Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube; of Janet Wojcicki, who has a PhD in medical anthropology and teaches at the University of California San Francisco’s medical center; and Anna Wojcicki, the founder of the biotech and genetics testing company 23andMe.

Today on this episode we get to talk to Esther about her core principles in her pedagogical style and her parenting style. How she promotes independence, critical thinking and encourages kids to dive into topics that truly excite them. Her focus and work is on how to help children become young adults by developing the self-sufficiency to take control of their futures.

  • How pregnancy and birth recommendations have changed over the last 40 years.
  • How giving even the youngest children jobs or tasks can increase their feelings of accomplishment and self-worth.
  • The value behind speaking to babies and toddlers like they are a partner and understanding presence.
  • Her acronym for success, TRICK, which stands for: trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness.
  • That giving young children the space to be independent teaches them that: they are capable and that you trust them.
  • How the single piece of advice Dr. Woj wants to pass on to new mothers is quite simple: trust yourself. No one knows your baby better than you.
  • What Dr. Woj considers to be the main value of sleep training (hint: it’s not sleep).
  • How successful businesses embody the same relationship with their employees that Dr. Woj used to raise her children and currently uses with her students.

The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #113

Some Quotes From the Episode

  • “When you talk to your kids, a lot of people use baby talk. It’s kind of a natural instinct, but in addition to the baby talk, you might want to just talk to them as they’re a partner.”
  • “Susan became a diaper folder at the age of 20 months. She thought this was actually a very important skill. Kids could do things if you just give them the opportunity.”
  • “[My daughter] grew up with this idea that she could do things, that she was capable, and that I trusted her to do it, which I did. So I think that’s just the very beginning of when they’re really small.”
  • “That’s one thing that I think all young parents can do is really, you, the mom, you know best. You should trust your instincts and you don’t have to rush out and call somebody right away.”
  • “I’m telling you, trust the fact that your kid is really smart, because he is. He/she is smart.”
  • “If you just think about children from zero to five, they have 85% of their brain is developed by age three. They are learning. They might not be able to talk very well. They can’t put their clothes on very well, but I’m telling you, they could learn another language.”
  • “I can tell you, when you are in a situation where you are told what to do all the time and you don’t feel trusted and respected, your passion is minimal. Your number one passion is when do I get out of here and how much money am I going to be making?”
  • “Little kids, their number one thing is they want to do it themselves. My daughters are like, ‘Self! Self!’ They want to do it themselves, like, ‘Okay, the shoes are on backwards, or what, the sweater is upside down.’ It’s like they did it themselves. I think that is what you want to encourage, the sense of empowerment and respect and independence.”


Wojcicki is a leading American educator, journalist and mother. Leader in Blending Learning and the integration of technology into education, she is the founder of the Media Arts program at Palo Alto High School, where she built a journalism program from a small group of 20 students in 1984 to one of the largest in the nation including 600 students, five additional journalism teachers, and nine award-winning journalism publications. Wojcicki serves as Vice Chair of Creative Commons and has previously worked as a professional journalist for multiple publications and blogs regularly for The Huffington Post.


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