The Five Must-Have Skills Every Child Needs to Succeed

It isn't your child's IQ that matters so much as five attributes that you can help nurture in your child's everyday life.

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What Does It Take to Succeed? (Hint: It's Not IQ)

As parents, we’re obsessed with making sure that our children are set up to succeed in life. We constantly worry whether other children are better positioned to do well in school, in sports – you name it. But there’s good news: your child doesn’t have to be a genius to make a powerful and lasting impact on society. Liam Hudson, a prominent British psychologist, has concluded that a person with a 120 IQ is just as likely to win a Nobel Prize as someone with a 200 IQ.

It’s not your child’s IQ that matters so much as five attributes that you can help nurture in your child’s everyday life. Here are the five attributes, compliments of Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom:

1. Curiosity

As a boy, Bill Gates read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and constantly asked questions about a variety of topics. We all know how his story turned out. While Gates may have been naturally curious, his parents nurtured his inquisitiveness and encouraged him to talk about any and all topics at the dinner table. You can do the same for your child – help him explore all his interests without fear of failure. Give him access to books, take him to museums, planetariums, and zoos. Importantly, don’t force activities or hobbies on him – let him find out what he likes and then cultivate that interest.

2. Devotion to Passion

Thomas Edison – who invented, among other things, the lightbulb and the movie camera – once said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Any child who is truly gifted will possess the ability to work independently and concentrate for a long time on things that interest him. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, coined the term “10,000-Hour Rule,” which posits that to become successful in any field, it takes 10,000 hours of practice.

3. Persistence vs. Smarts Mind-Set

As parents, one of our most natural instincts is to tell our child that she’s smart. And while our intentions in doing so are good, this can actually hurt our child in the long run.

4. Tolerance for Failure

Michael Jordan once said, “I have missed more than nine thousand shots in my career. I have lost almost three hundred games. On twenty-six occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot . . . and missed. And I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

The only way for a person to go from good to great is practice. If you find that your child is frustrated by something, try to identify the aspects of his performance that are giving him trouble, help him improve, and encourage him to keep practicing until he gets it right.



5. Self-Control

Aren’t we all beholden to our self-control? No matter how smart we are, if we don’t discipline ourselves and resist our desire for instant gratification, we won’t get very far. The same is true for your child, and that’s why it’s important to instill early on the importance of waiting for rewards in a variety of situations, so that your child is able to stay focused and persist through challenging circumstances – academic or otherwise!

6. Moral of the Story

What we’ve just gone through is actually very good news – because if one thing is clear, it’s that your child doesn’t need to have an IQ over 150 to be successful in life. The key is instilling the above traits early on – and nurturing and encouraging them every chance you get. If you do, your child will have a huge leg up on the competition.

Now that you know the five must-have skills, how does your child measure up in these areas? Here are some sample test questions from the ITBS®, a test that assesses general skills. Note: these questions are intended for children in the third grade.

Test Question: 1

The pictures in the first part of the row are related in a particular way. In the next part of the row, find the one picture that belongs in the empty box.

Test Question: 2

If each little square has area 4, what is the total area of this figure?

Test Question: 3

Look at the numbers below. They go in a special order. Can you figure out what that special order is and tell me what number goes in the blank space? 15 20 25 _____

Test Question: 4

Which word is misspelled?

Test Question: 5

What fraction is equal to .75? a) 1/2 b) 3/4 c) 5/8 d) 2/4



  1. 1
  2. 144
  3. 30
  4. 1 (pardon)
  5. b

These materials were provided to by For 100 more FREE Practice Questions that you can use to help your child prepare for testing and more, visit!

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