At Graduation, What Will You Say to Your Child?

grad-pic-genericWhen our children graduate from high school, it’s every parent’s dream to bestow a pearl of wisdom that can somehow help guide them forward in life. What will you say?

“Graduation is a milestone event, and parents may begin to get nostalgic as they think about the important transition their children are getting ready to make,” says parenting and education expert Laura Gauld, co-author with her husband Malcolm of the parenting book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have and The Biggest Job parenting and teen seminars.

“In addition to praise and congratulations, parents may be contemplating that one important message they want to say to their children,” Laura says, “hoping that it will be something memorable, meaningful, an essential message they can pass along that their kids may carry with them throughout their lives.”

While the media tends to focus on advice given during commencement speeches delivered by governors, journalists and TV personalities, the Gaulds believe that the most effective words still come from Mom and Dad.

“Parents remain the greatest source of learning and inspiration to their kids,” Laura says. “And they determine the essential lessons based on their own values.”

The parents of three grown children, with 30-plus years experience as teachers and administrators of Hyde Schools, a network of prep and charter schools rooted in character education and leadership development, the Gaulds were clear on what they told their own children and students: “Who you are matters more than what you can do.”

“Our culture has become preoccupied with external achievements,” Malcolm explains. “Schools have come to focus on awards, grades and test scores. Our culture focuses on monetary and material success. A ‘win-at-any-cost’ philosophy takes over. But these things will not define our kids in the end.”

What will define them, say the Gaulds, are the choices they will make. The greatest chance of true and meaningful success rests on a foundation of principles-and knowing they have done their level best with honest efforts.

When it comes to pearls of wisdom, the Gaulds offer these suggestions to parents:


“Tell your children the truth is good enough, and to make truth their primary guide in life-even when telling the truth is difficult; even when it may affect their relationships; even if it means a professional or social loss. Their lives must be built on a foundation of truth if they want to reach their fullest potential. So be honest.”


Albert Einstein once said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

“This perception cannot be underestimated in today’s world,” Malcolm says. “If our children are going to fulfill their potential, they need to possess and nurture the right attitude.”

“Attitude means everything-everyone says this because it really does!” adds Laura. “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.”

“Parents need to trust their instincts,” Malcolm says. “An unchecked attitude can lead to trouble for kids as they grow into adults, regardless of their intelligence or skills. In short, nothing can help the person with the wrong attitude; nothing can stop the person with the right one.”

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