I talked to 70 parents who raised highly successful kids—here’s the ‘surprising’ parenting style they used

1. Structure

Thomas Vu grew up with strict rules and lots of structure, but his parents gave him the complete freedom to pursue his goals.

“I was expected to get straight A’s. It wasn’t easy, but as long as I did, my mom let me play all the video games I wanted. In my book, that was a fair trade,” he told me.

Vu was one quarter from graduating from college with a degree in bioengineering when he got an opportunity to intern at Electronic Arts, a leading video game maker.

His parents weren’t thrilled, but they let him drop out and pursue his dream of creating video games. He later became the lead producer at Riot Games for League of Legends, which today has 180 million players.

2. Supportive

D.A. Wallach is a successful tech investor. One of his early investments was Spotify, where he was Artist-in-Residence.

When Wallach was eight years old, he became interested in investing, so his mom gave him some money and opened an account for him. He spent hours researching companies. His mom gave her opinions, but he got to decide where to invest.

Wallach lost most of the money within six years, but his mom told him that losing was part of the learning process.

Not everyone can afford to give their kid money to learn about investing. But Wallach’s mom nurtured his talents in other ways that didn’t cost money: analyzing, discussing and debating choices with him, treating him like a grown-up, and not agonizing over failure.

3. Warm

Breegan Jane is an interior designer and host on HGTV’s “Extreme Makeover.” She’s also a philanthropist and serves on the board of Single Moms Planet.

Her parents taught her about compassion and showed her how to handle adversity with resilience and creativity.

“I was 11 years old when we first went to help others with mission work. We gave clothing to people in a Mexico town where clean water wasn’t abundant,” she told me. “I was shocked by the poverty.”

Now that Breegan is a mom, she appreciates the importance of teaching kids to give back. She and her two sons volunteer frequently together at food assistance programs.

“I realize now that most parents don’t expose their kids to sad truths, but mine did it by surrounding the pain in so much hope,” she said. “They always focused on all the good we could do and bring to others.”

 is a writer, mom and parenting expert. She spent 20 years in government, including as an FTC Commissioner and Chief of Staff of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and is the author of  Follow her on Instagram .