Education Cheat Sheet: 3 Ways to Encourage Exceptional

Three things you can do consistently to help your child succeed and thrive.

Photo: Getty Images

Editor’s Note: It’s a question the parents in the office often discuss over lunch, after meetings or anytime we have a moment. How can we make sure our kids grow up confident, capable and happy? Sometimes it is all about recognizing and encouraging what makes your child unique. Ruth Fletcher and Sophie Halliday from St. Andrew’s Schools has three easy ways you can help. 

Kulia i ka Nuʻu or “Strive for the highest” is our motto at St. Andrew’s Schools. It’s an aspiration every parent can appreciate. Who among us does not want children to fulfill their potential and become everything they can be? Isn’t that what takes them down the road to success and happiness?

The key to helping children succeed is just that: supporting them as they create their own success. Children have tremendous capacity. Accompanying them on their exploratory journey will build confidence in their capacity and allow them to make authentic discoveries about what makes them unique and exceptional.

Here are three ways we can help.

Parent Tips:

1. Embrace what makes children “lopsided”

Stanford’s Dean of Admission, Rick Shaw, once shared that he looks for “lopsided kids who love what they do.” It was clear to him that students poised for success in life have nurtured their unique strengths and interests. No one is great at everything. However, we can all be great at something. Creating opportunities and experiences for children helps them uncover their talents and skills in a meaningful way.

This doesn’t mean continually adding layers of lessons and activities into their lives, and always insisting they finish what they start. Instead, we can provide short-term experiences that encourage children to try things without fear of failing or worrying about getting locked into a long-term commitment.

2. Cultivate a circle of positive influences to make learning personal for children

Children often discover their passions through the influence of parents, teachers and other trusted adults. A friend of ours loves the outdoors. She has two young boys who proudly exclaim, “We are great hikers!” They have learned to enjoy the many hikes, camping trips, and beach outings they take as a family. They are learning to love nature from someone who loves and cares about them.

When a child is successful in mastering a skill, learning becomes powerful and long-lasting. They can then share it with someone who they know truly cares. We can work to surround children with these kinds of people!

3. Help children create a unique pathway

Just as no two children are exactly alike, there is no one right way to a meaningful and successful life. Sharing our own stories help children see that many pathways exist. Children vary naturally in the pace and sequence of their learning. It’s important that we strike a balance between respecting their timeline and encouraging them to stretch beyond what’s comfortable. When we celebrate the uniqueness of their journey and honor their voice and choices, children learn to love learning. They will thrive as they unleash all the exceptional things that make them unique.

As parents and educators, we succeed when our children have learned to embrace the opportunities that lead to their self-discovery. When they are prepared to step out into the world, they will navigate the path of their own choosing with faith and confidence.

Ruth Fletcher, Ph.D., is the head of school at St. Andrew’s Schools, which includes The Priory (K-12 Girls), The Prep (K-6 Boys) and The Preschool (Queen Emma Preschool). She has worked as a teacher, college counselor, and school administrator throughout her career which included serving as dean at Punahou School and director of the HAIS/UH Master’s Program in Private School Leadership.

Sophie Halliday is director of educational programs at St. Andrew’s Schools. She earned her bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics at the University of Washington and her master’s degree in politics at Princeton University. She serves as the primary facilitator of K-12 academic and student life and enjoys her role as incubator and diffuser of innovation in education at St. Andrew’s.