Living in the Front Room: The Dopamine Effect.

Attitude is everything!

For children, the attitude they bring to any learning experience has far-ranging implications for their academic growth and success. By definition, attitude is the settled way of thinking or feeling about something. When this definition is applied to learning specifically, attitude is the way a child thinks or feels about a particular curriculum area or bout of learning.

It is human nature to pursue and apply ourselves to what we enjoy or to what we are good at. For many children, the subjects they approach with a positive attitude and an eagerness to engage with are the subjects they enjoy, and they enjoy this particular learning because they have experienced success or growth, or both! In essence, attitude is directly influenced by success, and success directly influences attitude, a codependent relationship that is cyclical in nature.

When a child experiences success it triggers athe recurring cycle of attitude, eagerness, engagement and application, and these stages ultimately leads to success or growth. This behaviour can be attributed to what is known as the science of winning, and the continuous cycle is one that often drives an individual towards pursuing a particular career, study path or hobby.

When a child experiences an "educational win", such as learning something new or achieving success, chemicals are released in the brain that act as rewards. The most important of these rewards is the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a natural part of human brain function, producing the sensation of pleasure whenever one achieves a big win.

This neurochemical release is not exclusive to the childhood brain, and the pleasure sensation produced by the dopamine release is experienced at all ages. Think of the feeling you get when you take a sip of your morning coffee or eat a piece of chocolate. Dopamine is so powerful that it is the neurochemical associated with drug and alcohol addiction.

With that being said, we would be well served to harness the true power of dopamine for the positive effect it can have on learning. Triggering this dopamine response with positivity and a positive attitude towards learning develops children who strive for success and possess the motivation to succeed in all areas of life.

Parents have an integral role to play in the production of dopamine, and can do so by acknowledging the importance of learning growth and academic success. If a child is to develop a positive attitude to any learning, they must experience the dopamine affect that both releases pleasure for what has just occurred and that acts as a motivator for future learning. Children may be acutely aware of their learning wins, but parents play an integral part in the dopamine cycle when they highlight these successes and present a positive attitude to learning themselves.

We must never underestimate the importance of building positive learning dispositions in children so they feel capable of achieving success. The language parents use when speaking to children; be it in academics, athletics, or with regards to behaviour, has a major impact on their attitude to a given pursuit. It also heavily influences their willingness to take risks, and strive to achieve and progress.

This is as true for adults as it is for children. It makes sense that negative language garners a negative response, whereas the use of positive language solicits a response that is positively geared. However because of the societal approach to learning success or failure, we have become culturally predisposed to pessimism, and this, in turn, leads to the language we use in challenging situations defaulting to the negative.

This is not to say that every situation we are presented with when it comes to talking to our children must be framed positively. However, when challenges occur you must be mindful that the actions and language you express are being observed by your child, and the approach you take will often become their's. If parents are conscious of those times when positive language choices are appropriate, they are more capable of responding in a manner that encourages rather than discourages.

When writing on this topic I am reminded of a former coach and mentor of mine who emphasised the importance of "living in the front room". He presented the idea that our brain consists of two rooms; the front room - where positive thoughts and words lead to positive actions, and the back room - where all fear, self-doubt, and uncertainty take over and ultimately lead to failure.

Using positive language and actions when approaching challenges creates an environment for our children to live in the front room. The interesting thing is that when you fill your life, and the lives of those around you, with positive thoughts and words, the size of the front room grows. Soon the front room grows so much that there is little space for living in the back room, and this silences the majority of self-doubt, opening our minds to believe we can achieve, or at the very least give it a go!


Troy Giess


15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Reluctant is a term that is regularly used in education. If you are a parent of a child who struggles with a particular curriculum area there is a high likelihood that their approach to some aspect of

When learning is relevant and authentic it means something! When learning means something it leads to exponential learning growth...