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Adversity Quotient – Why Your Child Needs to Lose Sometimes

An adversity quotient is a score that measures the ability of a person to deal with adversities in his or her life. It is commonly known as the science of resilience. – Wikipedia

There is an interesting article in the New Asia Republic about Amy Chuah’s new book that I would like to draw your attention to. Yes, Amy Chuah’s book has been discussed to death, but that’s not what I want to highlight. The article talks about the “Adversity Quotient” which is believed to be an important determinant for future success. The problem with a child who has always been no. 1 in everything in life is that he does not have the opportunity to build up his adversity quotient which then makes it difficult for him to recover from setbacks and to accept failure later in life. This can have very negative repercussions.

My mother once told me a story about a woman she knew growing up. This woman excelled at everything in her life – she was top of her class in school, she became a doctor, married a doctor and had a very successful life in every sense. She was the epitome of everything Amy Chuah strived to achieve with her daughters. Yet, despite everything she had going for her, when she had her first baby and discovered her baby was deformed, she committed suicide. She couldn’t take the “failure” of giving birth to a baby that was not “normal”.

I’m sure this is a rather extreme example, but it is a poignant one. So while it is great that our children do well in school and life in general, suffering a few setbacks while they are growing up is actually a very healthy experience for them. Their ability to rebound and pick themselves up will help them later on in life.

Adversity Quotient Determinants

There are four determinants to the adversity quotient:

  • Control – how much influence we believe we have over a particular event to alter what happens next. This measures our resilience.
  • Ownership – assuming responsibility for the situation and making the effort to change it. This measures accountability.
  • Reach – how will this event affect other aspects of our lives? This measures how much stress we feel.
  • Endurance – how long do we expect the effects of this even to last? This can influence how long we are willing to persevere through the hardship.

Adversity Quotient

Increasing Your Child’s Adversity Quotient

Shulman and Bowen did an analysis of a particular subset of Ivy League graduates – the sportsmen who usually had lower GPA and SATs and their achievements in their careers beyond. It turned out the athletes ended up with much higher income than their peers, and were more likely to go into the high paying financial sector where they were more likely to succeed with their personality and psychological make-up. It is possible that their good adversity quotient given their sporting background could have been one of the factors of their successes.”

So what can you do to help ensure your child develops his adversity quotient? One thing you can do is get him involved in sports because sports is an activity where children will experience failure and defeat. Allowing your child to observe how you deal with failure – by getting up and trying again – is also important for his development.

More about the Adversity Quotient.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

6 thoughts on “Adversity Quotient – Why Your Child Needs to Lose Sometimes

  1. Absolutely agree. I have a friend who’s involved with Uni students in his work and he observes that many can’t cope with failure and trying and trying again. They’ve never had to because have been mollycoddled by their parents who did their best to make sure their children didn’t fail and didn’t have to face the pain of it.
    Best thing we can do for our children is to let them fail every now and then and to learn that it’s not the end of the world when they do.


  2. Yes, AQ is very important and that’s one reason why many businessmen are successful, despite having little academic success.

    Since young, I’d wanted to win at everything, it was simply something in me. I’d cry even after losing a Monopoly game. No one understood why and I accepted the fact that losing and imperfection is inevitable at times, yet I still try to strive for excellence.

    Exactly, sports are great. Including games (board games, chess games, even scissors/paper/stone). No one can win all the time, the child learns the fact, then find ways to improve himself. Team sports / games are also fantastic for learning team skills. Learn to utilize everyone’s strengths, weaknesses, build communication, create strategy, etc.


  3. Yeah, I’m afraid this is something I really need to work on with Gavin. He’s a real sore loser. Are all kids like that to begin with? Or is it partly character?


  4. Definitely not all kids, I was the only one like that among my siblings and cousins. Thinking back, I must have been quite irritating to my parents and playmates. Haha! And not to say very bossy when playing too.

    Need to help the child accept that losing is inevitable at times. Such a child feels miserable when losing (he can’t really control that emotion), so the parent’s positive encouragement to ask him to try again next time will be helpful. Wanting to win and striving for perfection are traits for high achievers, so just need to overcome this ‘I cannot lose’ part.

    On the contrary, children with laid back attitude are much harder to push towards reaching their potential. Until they find their one motivation to work for. My youngest sister is like that.


    1. When you put it like that, I think it might be easier to help a kiasu child accept failure than it is to motivate a laid back child… Hubby thinks I’m super kiasu, but I think it just depends on what it is. There are some things that I don’t really care about so losing is no big deal, but other things I can’t let go of because it’s important to me.


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