Steve Jobs: From Rebellious Child to One of the Most Influential People of Our Time

Posted October 28, 2011 by

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Do you ever feel like your situation with your oppositional, defiant child is hopeless? You might have more in common with the parents of Steve Jobs than you realize.

On the surface, you wouldn’t think Steve Jobs had a fortuitous start in life. His biological parents were grad students from Wisconsin (his mother was an American from a strict Catholic family, and his father was from Syria). He was first adopted by a lawyer couple in San Francisco who returned him to his bio mother for unknown reasons. Next he was adopted by a California couple who’d never been to college, but who promised to send their new son to university. His adoptive father, Paul Jobs, was a repo man who’d been in the Coast Guard.

By his own account, Steve Jobs had a turbulent childhood — he was rebellious and defiant at times — and was quoted as saying he didn’t care about school very much until he met his 4th grade teacher, who figured out a way to “bribe” him into learning. (She used candy and her own money.) He attended a middle school in a poor area where he was bullied at the age of 11 by some of the older kids. At his insistence, his parents sent him to a different school.

Steve Jobs was also a college drop out who experimented with drugs and had a child out of wedlock in his early adulthood. Though never formerly diagnosed, it was widely thought that he had ADHD.

And he was arguably one of the most influential, brilliant people of our time.

As amazing as he was, I’m sure raising him couldn’t have always been easy. And the truth is, some of us are given difficult children, whether they’re adopted or biological. There are nights when we wonder what we’re doing, why our kids are so hard to manage, why they act out and won’t accept the answers that other children seem to be fine with. But it’s important to remember that many people who would be labeled as “difficult” have done some incredible things and made some of the most important advances in human history — maybe in part due to the fact that they’re rebellious and think differently from the rest of us.

Is it easy to parent a child like this? No. There are days when you’re exhausted and wonder if you’re doing the right thing, if you’re even getting this whole parenting thing right. Then your child says or does something that makes you realize how remarkable they are — or that makes you see how difficult is for them to navigate in the world, as well — and it all becomes worth it.

Asked in a 1995 interview what he wanted to pass on to his children, Jobs said, “I just want to try to be as good of a father to my child as my father was to me. I think about that every day.”


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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