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Posted: Oct 5, 2010 08:27


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by Rose Mulligan

As we recognize fathers everywhere, parenting and education experts Laura and Malcolm Gauld share some words of wisdom about what they’ve seen work best for dads who are successful in their parenting.

As the president and head of family programs of the Hyde Schools, a network of prep and charter schools based in character education, Malcolm and Laura have worked with dads and their families for more than three decades. As the authors of “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have” book and parenting seminars, they’ve seen what works – and clearly what doesn’t.

“Every parent has the best intentions,” says Malcolm.

“Nonetheless, it’s easy to fall into common parenting traps that won’t help your kids.”

What are some of those traps?

“Believe it or not, one of the big traps is focusing on rules,” Laura explains. “Every family needs some rules, as they offer specific boundaries. But applying new rules every time something starts to spin out of control, like ‘No, you can’t eat in that room, either!’ will not help your kids.”

This is what the Gaulds suggest instead:

  • 1. Rather than focus on rules, place your primary focus on principles.

    “Principles are the rock foundation that deepens your children’s understanding of what it means to live a good, meaningful life,”says Malcolm. “They are the values you live by, what you believe in, what you stand for. These are the things that will guide your children through life.”

  • 2. Make truth a priority — even at the expense of harmony.

    Fathers who understand and practice the concept of placing truth before maintaining harmony in the family earn deep respect from their children and their parenting partners. All dads want harmony, but those that prioritize the truth over maintaining harmony raise families of strong character.

    “We can all relate to not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings by avoiding telling the truth to keep the peace, or wanting to please someone,” Malcolm explains. “We often easily rationalize these situations away as necessary acts of kindness or diplomacy.”

    But avoiding the truth only perpetuates the underlying issues in the family that create conflict.

    “Trust in this principle: Encourage telling the truth at all times, and harmony in the family will follow,” says Malcolm.

    According to the Gaulds, these are ways fathers can encourage truth-telling:

    Talk a lot about principles. Hold discussions with your children about which principles are most important in your family, such as honesty.

    Write them down; display them on a cork board or the refrigerator; and, most importantly, talk about them with your children every chance you get. When issues in the family come up (and they will come up), the principles will serve as a map and compass. There is a definite right way and wrong way to go, and messages are less likely to be misconstrued.

    Model what you convey to your children. Don’t lie. And, if you do catch yourself in a lie or exaggeration, don’t be afraid to talk about it with your children. Letting them know you are human and offering them a sincere apology for falling off-track will give them the humility to ask for help when they need it, and it will teach them that self-learning is a lifelong process.

    Remember you are a parent and mentor to your child — not a buddy or friend. It is not your job to persuade, manipulate, or coax your children into doing what you believe is right. Rather, guide them with love and discipline toward their unique best.

    Our true test as parents is to arm our children with the tools they will need to be independent and productive members of their communities and to set the course for them to live fulfilling lives.

    “It’s important to keep these priorities clear as a family,” says Malcolm, “as we are living in a culture increasingly gripped by a ‘win at any cost’ mentality.”

    As the schools focus on test scores, awards and aptitude tests, and the culture emphasizes competition, achievement and material success, the Gaulds explain it is understandable that parents may also fall into the pattern of reinforcing mixed messages.

    “We want our children to succeed,” says Laura, “but not at any cost – not by cheating, bullying, or actions at the expense of their character. In the end, there is a difference between winning and victory.”

  • 3. Value your child’s ATTITUDE more than their aptitude. For the Gaulds, the real victory lies not in our abilities, but in a strong character that can guide us through life. Let your children know that their efforts and their attitudes are more important than their aptitudes.

    “Attitude means everything,” says Laura. “An unchecked attitude can lead to trouble for kids as they grow into adults, regardless of their intelligence or skills. The kind of attitude your child carries will be reflected in the course they take in life, and in whom they will attract, both personally and professionally. In short, nothing can help the person with the wrong attitude.

    Nothing can stop the person with the right one.”

    “There are great fathers out there everywhere,” adds Malcolm, “and some of the most successful ones really take this concept to heart…in everything they do. Their kids get a chance to learn life’s most important lessons as a result of good modeling by their fathers and they are destined for the kind of lifelong success that will be measured by both their accomplishments and their character.”

To learn more about Laura and Malcolm Gauld, their work at the Hyde Schools, and “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have” book and parenting seminars, contact Rose Mulligan at 207-837-9441 or visit and

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