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What Olympic Athletes Have in Common with Your Kids
Feb 24, 2010, 07:54

Hyde Schools
Bath, ME and Woodstock, CT

What Olympic Athletes Have
in Common with Your Kids

Rose Mulligan

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 here 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 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 one thing: 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 ultimate 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 brings 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. 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, your child's experience of high school.

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

"They can also identify 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, your 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 our expectations and resist "lowering the bar" when we sense that our 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' our 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," says Laura. "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. Not allowing that experience 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," says Malcolm. "But these are not the only paths along which kids 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 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."

About the Authors: Malcolm and Laura Gauld are the heads of the Hyde Schools, the group of character-building boarding and charter schools, whose pioneering philosophy has been profiled on 60 Minutes, 20/20, Today, PBS and NPR. Together they are the co-authors of the book The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have (Scribner), as well as the founders of parenting seminars that emerged from it. To learn more about Malcolm and Laura Gauld, or their parenting workshops, visit and

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