Instant Parenting Advice
Join our mailing list and get instant access to:
  • Child behavior tips
  • Course samples
  • Exclusive discounts
  • And more!

The Resiliency Quotient: Why Gifted Kids Need to Experience Failure (and Underdogs Often Win)

Posted by Dale Sadler

Nearly every parent hopes and dreams that their child will be the smartest in his or her class, or gifted in some way. Perhaps he will be the next child prodigy who graduates college at age twelve. Or maybe she’ll be the 15-year-old who sells her start-up for millions. There’s even an entire market that panders to parents hoping to raise a “wonderchild.”

For those parents whose children are tested and labeled as “gifted,” there are some very specific factors that may surprise you. In his latest book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it’s actually the underdog who wins. We expect him not to, and when he does, we’re all surprised and thrilled. Gladwell’s basic premise is that when people have to fight harder to get something, they tend to work harder in other areas of their lives.

Consider this: If you have a gifted child, she probably studies very little, retains all that she hears in class and her grades are nothing less than superior at every grading point. “It all comes so easy,” you may say. Herein lies the issue. Since it all comes easy, she’s missing one vital part of success in today’s world: the ability to work hard.

It turns out that resiliency, more than IQ, is the dividing factor between those who are successful and those who are not.  In fact, according to Gladwell’s research, after an IQ level of 120, there is no difference in how much a person makes. As the IQ climbs, the income does not. The difference is the RQ or “resiliency quotient.” Research study after research study has explained this idea, and it’s getting to be more mainstream in education. I am working with students now based on their strengths and weaknesses in this very area because these are things that cannot be taught in a math or reading class.

“If all that I do is easy, when something is hard, I am more likely to give up.”

What can a parent do to help his or her child succeed to his fullest potential? Here are 4tips for raising your child’s RQ:

1. Small fish, big pond. First, help him realize that he won’t always be in that small town. In his school of 300, he’s probably a big fish in a small pond and stands out in nearly everything he does. When he goes to college, there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of people just like him. This either will help him find a place to belong or it will shock him into losing his identity as the smartest person in the room…which leads to the second point.

2. Don’t hitch self-worth to accomplishment. Help your child see that her self-worth is not tied to her accomplishments. You may say this, but do you show it as a parent? Are you only happy when she does well? Do you find yourself in a constant state of pushing her to succeed? These moments can overshadow those of sincere love unless you make a conscious effort to focus on what’s most important.

3. Revive your grandparents’ values. Teach your kids humility, responsibility and other character traits that seem to be going out of style. When asked what they want their child to be when they grow up, many parents have some sort of occupation in mind. How about saying you’d like them to be a good person or a hard worker? These traits will carry them much further than an arbitrary title they’re given now.

4. See them for who they are. Finally, work to help your child be all that he can be, not what you have envisioned for him. While you may have unfulfilled aspirations in your own mind from your childhood, pressing these upon your offspring may serve to curtail their interests — and frustrate you. Their strengths may not be yours, and their struggles are their own. By working through them, they will come out the person they need to be and the adult you actually wanted all along: one that is self-reliant, dependable and successful on his own terms.


About Dale Sadler

Dale Sadler is the author of 28 Days to A Better Marriage and How to Argue with Your Teen & Win. By day he works with middle schoolers and by night he is a family counselor specializing in marriage, parenting and men's issues. He works hard to be the husband and father his family needs. Follow him @DaleSadlerLPC or visit

Like What You're Reading?
Sign up for the FREE Empowering Parents newsletter to receive special offers and more content like this.
We will not share your information with anyone.