Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Exam pressure - helping out the kids

Kids at the age of seven appear to be doing their exams at the moment.

It appears that they are being put under lots of pressure. Parents are reporting to me that their kids are experiencing tantrums, sleepless nights, other words negative emotions and the behavioural results of these, all resulting from the pressure the kids are being put under.

Negative emotions in this instance will include fear (caused by the unknown - the emotion behind the moods of anxiety and panic, and the fatigue of the mind and body we call stress), and anger (caused by personal rules being broken - the emotion behind the moods of frustration, temper and rage). These are two of the seven base emotions. (All other emotions are a 'blend' of these seven).

These negative basic emotions have the physiological reactions of tensing our bodies up, making them work harder (increasing the metabolic rate), and they focus the attention on the source of threat. If attention is focused on the source of threat, it is very hard to divert that attention elsewhere.

As such, if your child is experiencing these emotions they will not be performing well in exams. They won’t be able to pay attention to recalling the information required, nor to carry out any mental processes in order to pass the exams.

Positive emotions have the physiological effect of relaxing the body and allowing focus to be directed where wanted. Positive emotions are behind the state of ‘flow’ (see Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) which is the best friend of top performance.

My advice, as a gross generalisation, is to help your child out. Make the thought of taking exams fun. Don’t place even any mention on failure. Keep everything in the positive. Give them the ‘future memory’ of easily effortlessly being able to do everything they need to do in the exam and it ‘going well’ for them.

Should they have any negative thoughts a classical technique to use is to get them to imagine tying that negative thought to a helium balloon, letting it go, and watching as it drifts up to the left and behind them further and further until it is completely gone. That’s a great technique even for adults!

When the exam results come through just ‘roll with it’ and keep it in the positive. Try not to place importance upon it. Sure, if they haven’t done well, ask them what they could have done better, so they can ‘correct their mistakes’ giving them a better reference experience for the future. Concentrate on getting it better in the future. If they’ve done well congratulate them yet not too much, and again work with them to make it better still in the future. Try and make it fun though!

It is worth remembering that everything in life is learning. Your child’s experiences will provide them with reference experiences, which will guide them for how to act in the future. If you want them to do well in exams, and be happy doing them, then hopefully the advice in this post will help. 

Please let me know what you think!

Here's a picture of little Joe, a client (and friend) of mine from a couple of years ago. Here he is learning how to stand on a Swiss ball. Physically he is learning proprioception, balance, muscle control, strength and more. Psychologically he is learning how to develop a skill. I utilised a sense of 'fun' during the process. He quickly learnt to stand on the ball, and even to walk around on it like he was something out of Cirque de Soleil. Top lad! ;)


  1. Great article, Gary. Thanks for letting people know how important it is to infuse FUN into kids' lives, especially when they are tackling challenges. This makes the difference between a memorable childhood and one that is forgettable!

    1. Thanks Kelley - hey, you're my leading peer in respect to working with kids, shame you're in USA and I'm in the UK - you have a great book - I recommend anyone working with kids in any capacity reads it!

  2. Great Gary, its going up on my wall!

  3. Really good post will definitely use this in the future with my little one, and me tbh I remember my exams....even now I only do well at the tests I enjoy. Cheers Gary - elliot