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5 Factors for Life Success not Taught in the Classroom

5 Factors for Life Success not Taught in the Classroom

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - June 27th, 2016

Non-Intellectual Factors that Drive Success

5 Factors for Life Success not Taught in the Classroom

If you have a child who struggles with skills required to succeed in an academic setting, school can be a daunting experience for your child. I used to ask myself, when my daughter struggled so much, “How will Schuyler make it in life if she can’t pass math?” “Will she ever graduate from high school?” Well guess what? She graduated. Today, she is thriving in the non-academic school of life.

What I didn’t know at the time, and what I can see clearly now looking back, is that her academic struggles forced her to work on abilities they don’t teach in school. It is these other non-academic abilities that shaped her into the successful young adult she is today.

These five qualities are required for life success, but are not taught in the classroom.

Do whatever you can to foster these abilities in your child, because all kids need them to succeed, and they aren’t in your school’s curriculum.


Nurturing your child’s curiosity develops a love of learning taking him far past school. Help your child explore whatever inclinations captivate him. Notice what sparks his interest and then give him the tools – be it books, classes, museums, theater, mentors – whatever – to explore further. When my daughter was in middle school, she discovered that she loved being on stage – performing in a play, singing, doing aerial circus tricks – this lit her up like nothing else. It was my job to help her find opportunities to be successful in that world. We don’t get to choose what captivates our children. We can only be attentive to it and offer support.

Devotion to Passion

I’m sure you’ve read about the “ten-year rule.” Geoff Colvin says this: All the research shows that in fields from sports to academics to athletics to arts, no one becomes great without ten years of hard preparation. The clock starts ticking whenever a person begins to pursue their deep interest in something. When Bill Gates started high school, he had already put in over 10,000 hours playing with and studying a computer available at his private school. And by the time my daughter graduated from high school, she had performed in at least ten plays, requiring hours of rehearsals and preparation.She was already on her way.


Stanford University Psychologist, Carol Dweck, wrote extensively about the importance of not praising children for being smart, but instead praising them for their efforts. She says children praised for their natural intelligence and talents often give up easily when faced with tasks they don’t think they can do. Children praised for working hard are more likely to seek out challenges, persist in the face of difficulty, and handle setbacks more gracefully. When you have a child, as we did, whose brain doesn’t mesh with the demands of school, you must have faith that there’s value in praising her for trying, for her strategy, her persistence, her hard work, her choices, and mainly, for not giving up.

Tolerance For Failure

Michael Jordan says that failure is the key to his success. “I have missed more than nine thousand shots in my career. I have lost almost three hundred games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot…and missed.” It is frustrating to practice something you aren’t good at over and over again, but that is the only way to go from bad to good and good to great. Enroll your child in piano, tennis, or any activity that interests him so he can experience what it is to work on something that he isn’t good at until he masters it. Knowing that you have to stumble before you can triumph is a valuable life lesson that inspires kids to push ahead in the face of difficulty.


No matter how smart or talented you are, you must forgo lazy days at the beach in order to practice to master something. To become an Olympian or a doctor requires sacrifice before reward. Research by Dr. Roy Baumeister shows this: Building up self-control in one aspect of your life (such as daily exercising) improves your overall ability to self-regulate in all areas of life. As parents, we must teach our kids to wait for rewards in a variety of every day situations so they can strengthen their self-control “muscles” and improve their odds of achieving their goals. One important way to do this is to NOT rush in and help your child every time he asks. It’s okay to say, “I can’t help you now, but I will after dinner.” Encourage your child to take on projects and activities that take a long time to pay off. Make sure he doesn’t get hooked on immediate gratification and teach him to tolerate the frustration of waiting.

Outside the Classroom

Whether your child is an academic superstar or one who struggles with learning differences and needs to find his own path, these qualities are key to thriving outside the classroom. Children don’t acquire them at school or in one or two easy lessons at home. It takes years of parents planting the seeds before they take root. If you plant them now and tend to them as your child grows, your child, like mine, will emerge from school with the ability to flourish in the everyday life.

Want to know how Schuyler is doing today?  Well, read more about her, here!

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