A Response to: Is Your Child a "Warrior" or "Worrier"?

CJ Westerberg, November 7, 2013 10:05 PM


Why Some Kids Handle Test Pressure and Others . . .  Not.

by C.J. Westerberg

The first part of the article Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure and Others Fall Apart? mainly focuses on student anxiety related to test-taking with fleeting mentions in other arenas, such as sport or artistic performances.  According to authors Merryman and Bronson,  how one deals with stress - whether one uses it to perform better or to perform less than optimal -  has much to do with brain chemistry:

"The people who perform best in normal conditions may not be the same people who perform best under stress," Diamond says. People born with the fast-acting enzymes "actually need the stress to perform their best." To them, the everyday is underwhelming; it doesn't excite them enough to stimulate the sharpness of mind of which they are capable. They benefit from that surge in dopamine - it raises the level up to optimal. They are like Superman emerging from the phone booth in times of crisis; their abilities to concentrate and solve problems go up.

Some scholars have suggested that we are all Warriors or Worriers. Those with fast-acting dopamine clearers are the Warriors, ready for threatening environments where maximum performance is required. Those with slow-acting dopamine clearers are the Worriers, capable of more complex planning. Over the course of evolution, both Warriors and Worriers were necessary for human tribes to survive.

But doesn't it depend?  We all know the student who can waltz through a theater performance yet crash and burn during a test, or a high school student who is a confident test-taker but chokes during a speech. Excerpt:

stress2.girl-in-a-jar.jpgSo while the single-shot stakes of a standardized exam is particularly ill suited for Worrier genotypes, this doesn't mean that they should be shielded from all challenge. In fact, shielding them could be the worst response, depriving them of the chance to acclimate to recurring stressors.
Johnson explains this as a form of stress inoculation: You tax them without overwhelming them. "And then allow for sufficient recovery," he continued. Training, preparation and repetition defuse the Worrier's curse.

It would be fairly difficult to go through life "shielded from all challenge".  Sounds like practice-makes-habit but aren't we talking about test prep and how to practice how to take a test?  (See  my review of Sian Bellock's book in the post Choke, Test-Takers: A New Way to Look at Test-Prep? )  And shouldn't there be other forms of assessments, such as portfolios of work as expressed by educator Tony Wagner in his book, Creating Innovators?

The article then advocates for more competition - the right kind - among students to acclimate them to the stresses one needs to be able to handle
in life.  The authors make the case that  the SAT and other high-stakes standardized tests "lack the side benefits of competing that normally buffer children's anxiety."  The answer?  Bring on academic competitions such as spelling bees, Math competitions and chess clubs.

High-stakes academic testing isn't going away. Nor should competition among
students. In fact several scholars have concluded that what students need is more academic competition, but modeled on the kinds children enjoy.

One would think the above-mentioned forms of "right" competition usually would be selected by students themselves. In other words, these are venues of choice.  I would think a poor speller wouldn't exactly be thrilled
by the prospect of a public spelling bee competition.  Rick Lavoie tackles
the issue of competition along this line of thinking.  In fact, he believes
there is another greater motivator which I won't spoil for you - check out
The 3 Myths about Competition: How it affects student motivation.  

What say ye on this topic?  You may also want to see the Kindergarten Test Prep video below, especially the 2:30-4:00 mark - it's a gem.  You'll see
what I mean.
  Video runs 5 minutes.

  • Make Your Worrier a Warrior provides useful and comforting methods that parents can use to help their children create an anxiety-reducing “toolbox” to carry with them wherever they go. In building this foundation for their children, parents will find that these strategies will work just as effectively to manage their own anxieties.



  • Mohd Mobin

    In fact have working with kids and adolescents, who had learning problems for some time before learning that children were dyslexic, several years after being in
    practice. Raising childrens with dyslexia deepened my own experience

  • Neha

    With this book, parents can team up with their children or teens to help them do the most courageous thing they will ever have to do: conquer their Worry Monster. Make Your Worrier a Warrior provides useful and comforting methods that parents can use to help their children create an anxiety-reducing “toolbox” to carry with them wherever they go. In building this foundation for their children, parents will find that these strategies will work just as effectively to manage their own anxieties.

  • John

    ya well said only parents can team up their child. they have to take care about what they need & why the need.

  • I agree to you and really a good post for children and their for their parents as well. They will obviously find bad people fast who will make them bad as them but its very hard to find a good environment for children but still it is one them that how they taggle with the same in which they are living.

blog comments powered by Disqus
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
Follow The Daily Riff on Follow TDR on Twitter

find us on facebook


Parents: Are we sabotaging our own kids' math "ability"?

CJ Westerberg, 11.12.2013

Many parents in the United States assume that (math ability) is just some kind of aptitude - some kids have it, some kids don't . . . The result is most of our kids (in the U.S.) don't do really well in Math . . ."

Read Post | Comments

Riffing good stories


Stigliz on Education

CJ Westerberg, 11.11.2013

VIDEO: "We have an education system that is very dependent on where you live, where you live is very dependent on what you can afford . . . "

Read Post | Comments

A Response to: Is Your Child a "Warrior" or "Worrier"?

CJ Westerberg, 11.07.2013

Why Some Kids Handle Test Pressure and Others . . . Not.

Read Post | Comments

Cool Smart Teen: Changing the conversation about building stuff

SMW, 11.04.2013

Not just building an app to play with . . . but a test for cancer

Read Post | Comments

Am I Preparing Students for My Age or Theirs?

CJ Westerberg, 11.03.2013

I can never understand how and why we expect students with far more energy, ideas, natural creativity and far more everything, to be more "contained" in their behavior than adults.

Read Post | Comments innovation.jpg

Video: What is the link between "design-thinking" and creativity?

SMW, 11.03.2013

Creative Confidence: Must-Watch Interview on Charlie Rose

Read Post | Comments
early education.preschool.jpg

How Much Do Early Years Lead to Student Success?

CJ Westerberg, 11.03.2013

"The idea being that wasn't necessarily to create little engineers everywhere, though that would be great for us. The idea was to take advantage of the natural learning process and curiosity that children have at that age . . ." Tamika Lang, Boeing

Read Post | Comments

NEW: Weekend Reading

SMW, 11.03.2013

Looking for Intimacy in the Age of Facebook is a higher education course (yes, you heard right). Interestingly, social media may inhibit creativity and innovation

Read Post | Comments

The New Resume

SMW, 10.31.2013

A picture is worth a thousand words. A video game-like format is worth . . .

Read Post | Comments