There’s more to life than academic achievement

4 min read   •   October 1, 2020
Danielle Barfoot

While a degree is still considered as a measure for skill and talent by many, employers – including some of the largest companies in the world – are increasingly realising that academic achievement measures only one type of intelligence and that marks don’t even begin to represent a person’s talent, abilities or emotional quotient.

Of course, academic success is necessary in certain fields – think physics, medicine, or teaching – but it doesn’t form the core of the skill set required to perform most jobs. That is because academic success alone cannot tell an employer much about a person’s resilience, their interpersonal skills, how they work alongside others, or any of the other skills required to be successful in the 21st century.

A certain level of academic achievement is undoubtedly required for life after school. Still, for children to become well-rounded adults, they require more than perfect report cards – they need a concrete set of non-academic skills and abilities.

C = success

Here are some of the most important non-academic skills children can learn from a young age to help set them up for success after school.


Character is who we are and what we do and guides our responses to the issues (both good and bad) we face in life. Helping children build character is important because it will ultimately be this trait – a combination of their thoughts, values, words, and actions – that will determine how successful they are in life. Parents who exhibit qualities such as honesty, integrity, compassion, and respect will transmit these values to their children.

“The true measure of your character is what you do when nobody’s watching.” – Charles Caleb Colton


Compassion is the ability to understand someone else’s situation and the commitment to place someone else’s needs above your own. It is what drives us to be inclusive and what compels us to care about and help one another. Compassion is a skill that can be learned, so it is within parents’ power to raise children who are kind, caring and tolerant.

“Compassion is the basis of morality.” – Arthur Schopenhauer


Children develop healthy self-confidence by experiencing mastery and rebounding from failure. While it is parents’ job to support their children so they can flourish and develop, doing things for them instead of with them robs them of the opportunity to become competent and confident. In fact, constant parental intervention undermines children’s self-belief and prevents them from learning for themselves.

“Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing being wrong.” – Peter T McIntyre

Also read: Encouraging your child to succeed – The do’s and don’ts


Creativity is not an inborn talent, but rather a skill that parents can help their children develop. It is also not limited to artistic and musical expression; creativity is an essential ability that applies to most aspects of life as it promotes problem-solving and critical thinking. Children who are taught to think creatively and to approach problems from different perspectives turn into adults who are flexible, who are open to new opportunities, and who are better able to deal with uncertainty.

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” – Mary Lou Cook


Curiosity is the force that creates new ideas and leads adults to take risks so that they can ultimately create their own success stories. Nurturing children’s curiosity is one of the most important ways parents can help them become lifelong learners. This skill is fostered by encouraging children’s natural interests as they learn so much more through activities that capture their attention and imagination. Ultimately, curiosity will encourage children to follow their passion … and isn’t that what all parents want for their children?

“Curiosity is the fuel for discovery, inquiry, and learning.” – Anonymous


It’s natural to want to prevent children from getting hurt, feeling discouraged or making mistakes, but parents who frequently intervene aren’t doing their children any favours. Children learn to succeed by overcoming obstacles, not by having their parents remove them. In fact, trial and error are how children learn and how they figure out that life isn’t easy or fair. It is essential to teach children that it is okay to fail and that it is normal to feel sad, anxious, or angry. It is equally important to teach them to have the courage to persevere.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

Also read: Let your child fail – it’s okay