motivating children from within
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How feelings affect your child’s progress

How feelings affect your child’s progress

How do feelings affect your child’s progress? Recently, I listened as a mother reported on her very bright, 9 year old child’s progress. It appeared from what was being said that he was making overall improvement in attitude and behaviour, however, this was inconsistent. He could be organised, systematic and do a great job with his homework and give his mum the impression that he had ‘finally’ decided to take responsibility for himself; but then, another time she would leave instructions for him to complete work supervised by another adult and she would return to find it not finished.


Understandably, she found this inconsistency frustrating and felt as though they had gone forward three steps and back two. When I began the teaching session, I asked the child, who had overheard what his mum had been saying, why he sometimes didn’t do what was asked when it was obvious that he could, if he put his mind to it. He told me it was because he ‘didn’t feel like it’. These words used to have me stumped and I know they can defeat even the most diligent of parents, but somehow, if the children are to progress and not wait to make the same mistakes we did, we have to get around them and we can do this by digging a little deeper into how things work.

From the minute we open our eyes in the morning, to the minute we close them at night; we are constantly being alerted to our environment; our health and well being and made aware of what is going on through our feelings. No one can actually see feelings and so it can be hard to understand a person’s behaviour at times, particularly for children. Sometimes we can make irrational decisions based on a powerful feeling. Businesses, governments, communities, you and I are all strongly influenced by what we feel about a situation, person, place or thing and feelings are an essential part of the human experience. But, mostly, we don’t really educate children about them or about how they work!

Add to this the fact that before puberty at around 10/12 years old, young children don’t have the reference or experience to make rational decisions and are based in their feelings. This means their behaviour is a reflection of what they are feeling at any given moment. I’ve come to realise this is the reason young children will look at you blankly when you ask ‘Why did you do that?’. They don’t know! They were reacting to a feeling. This is an area I have given much thought after spending many, many years in a classroom trying to educate and motivate many children who quite honestly, often ‘didn’t feel like it’!

By giving children the following information you will de-personalise the situation and help them to think about their actions and what they are developing in themselves.

  • Feelings are not always a very reliable criteria to follow because we live in such an uncertain culture. Feelings are an important guide to be taken into consideration, but cannot be relied upon completely. This is not obvious unless we explain it to them!
  • Feelings act as a barometer of what is happening in and around us so that we can make decisions that are good for us, but they were not designed to understand the 21st century, which isn’t always the best environment for human life and can be misleading. Children over the age of 6 or 7 already see this for themselves.
  • Young children benefit from realising that they are in a development process and part of their job as a ’developing thing’ is to learn to take control of their feelings and not necessarily react to every one. Examples can be given here about what mum might feel like doing – but doesn’t!
  • Every action we make is a signal to our brain of what we want. Children need to know this! If we repeatedly only do what we ‘feel like’, our brain thinks this is what we want it to program in to the automatic systems. After a while, it will become a habit and make it even harder to do what needs to be done.
  • Managing our feelings and doing what needs to be done helps us develop self discipline which is a great thing to develop because it is attached to self respect as well.
  • People who have self discipline can be trusted to do what they say they will do and attract respect from others.

Children love this kind of information that helps them understand themselves and how they work. They find it empowering and, in my experience, they are very keen to rise to the occasion and do what they can to develop positive behaviour ‘from the inside’. After my discussion with the child mentioned at the beginning of this article, he said it would be a lot easier to do his homework now because he understands the process that is happening in him and he has a good reason to change.

  1. As usual Gail hits the nail on the head. Excellent blog

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