Parenting Experts: What Olympic Athletes Have in Common with Your Kids

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Like Olympic athletes, kids today are obsessed with the achievement. They feel these achievements are the true measures of their worth…winning is everything. The Parenting Experts of Hyde Schools believe this paradigm is detrimental to the maturation of our youth. They feel the focus should be on the effort one puts forth, not the outcome.

Teach your kids that it is what they achieve, but how they got there.

But letting go of the outcome — whether they win or lose — allows our children to take responsibility for their actions without feeling judged.

The theme of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics is “With Glowing Hearts,” an atypical motto that strikes unusually close to the core of the Olympic games and their historic meaning.

The Olympics provide an arena for amateur athletes worldwide to come together and perform their personal best in competition; the keyword being “amateur” — from the Latin amator, or amare — to love. In spirit, the Olympic games are played for love of the sport.

“The Olympics continue to be a timeless inspiration to young people,” says Malcolm Gauld, parenting expert, president of Hyde Schools, and co-author of the parenting book “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have,” with his wife Laura Gauld. “Olympic athletes demonstrate by example what can be accomplished with passion, commitment, and some risk.”

“Many of the qualities we admire in the athletes are what we also want for our children,” says Laura. “As parents we are inclined to want great success for our kids, awards, trophies, even stardom. It’s part of the lure of our achievement culture.”

Now all of us — the Olympic athletes, viewers, and media community — are focused on scores, medals, and winners. If you visit the official web site,, you will find the latest winners in their categories and how the countries of the world are stacking up against each other.

And who can blame us? Winning is the summit, and yet often it is the personal stories of the athletes, the obstacles they have faced as they pursue one of the most distinguished spots in athletic competition that compels and even moves us, and seals our admiration of them.

The Gaulds also assert that the best end results do not necessarily lie in medals or awards — and that success indeed is found in ‘how you play the game.’

“In the end, who you are matters more than what you can do,” says Malcolm. “The real success story lies behind the medals — in the athlete’s commitment to hard work, their grittiness, mental toughness, determination…their relationship with obstacles and failures. That is what carries them to their peak — their attitude.”

“While we may not have control over physical gifts, these are qualities and choices over which we do have control,” adds Laura. And they are the attitudes we can help our children develop within themselves.”

The Olympics remain an idealized sports competition that continues to create memories that make an indelible mark in a young person’s mind. And this arena can have some things in common with, say, a child’s experience in high school.

“Watching a figure skater compete, for example, your teenager can easily feel the sparkling excitement of the event and the wonder of the crowd,” says Malcolm.

“Your teenager can also identify and perhaps connect with a young person under enormous stress; the pressure to be perfect; the immense expectations and hopes of parents; perhaps a glowering coach; and, of course, the fear of failure. No, make that utter dread. Add to that the fiercely competitive atmosphere and some historic encounters of bullying, and you’re pretty much there.”

According to the Gaulds, kids do not need to be in the Olympics to obtain the same wisdom of a great athlete’s journey. They offer advice to parents who are interested in helping their children develop the right attitude”

1. Set High Expectations and Let Go of the Outcomes.

“This can be difficult for parents,” says Laura. “Whether it’s about academics, sports, or areas of personal growth, parents need to aim high with their expectations and resist “lowering the bar” when they sense that their children are having difficulty achieving success.”

“But letting go of the outcome — whether they win or lose — allows our children to take responsibility for their actions without feeling judged.”

2. Allow Obstacles to Become Opportunities.

Parents can get caught up in trying to ‘fix’ their children’s problems — disagreements with their teachers, friends, coaches, etc. — instead of seeing the potential for positive learning opportunities.

“Don’t rush in to help your teen in all challenging circumstances. Weigh the situation. Often, the scenario is one ripe with opportunity for your child to assess, think, learn, act, and grow. This is what helps develop real self-esteem. Preventing that experience from happening by fixing things takes that opportunity away from your child.”

3. Value Success and Failure.

“Today’s parents have a hard time letting their children fail. It’s understandable, with so much emphasis on performance, aptitude, tests, and scores. But these are not the only paths along which our children move ahead in life.”

Success is important, but failure can teach powerful lifelong lessons leading to profound personal growth.

4. Inspiration: Job #1.

Parents, don’t forget that teens share a deep yearning to be inspired by you.

“When all of the noise of their athletic heroes, movie stars, and pop music performers subsides, kids are most inspired by their parents,” says Laura. “And contrary to our materialistic culture, we will not inspire our children with our financial of professional achievements.”

“We best inspire our teens when we share our struggles, reach for our best, and model daily character,” says Malcolm, “parenting like real Olympians — amateurs, with our hearts on fire.”

For more information about Laura and Malcolm Gauld, “The Biggest Job” book and parenting workshops, and Hyde Schools, contact Rose Mulligan at (207) 443-7379, and visit and

About Malcolm Gauld
Malcolm Gauld is the award-winning co-author of the book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have and the President of Hyde Schools, a network of boarding and public schools whose unique character and leadership development program has been featured on 60 Minutes, The New York Times, PBS, and NPR. His more than three decades as an educator at Hyde Schools have provided him the opportunity to work with parents and their children who seek guidance and support for raising strong families of character.


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Mark Murrell

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