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

CJ Westerberg, October 22, 2015 10:05 PM


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

DSC_0163-1_2.jpgby 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.

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.

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The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they - at some distant point in the future - will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely... because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.
Alvin Toffler
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