have you conditioned your child to feel certain ways?

Have you conditioned your child to feel certain ways?

The Dangers of Children’s Conditioned Emotions

From The Secure Child set of talks and materials


We all feel powerful emotions throughout our lives. And negative thoughts and emotions are a necessary and natural part of this process.  But through the experiences you offer and the responses you model, you could have conditioned your child to feel certain ways. And this may be happening long before it has any positive impact.

The right level of fear when approaching something dangerous, is an automatic response that may well save our life. However, too much fear and a predisposition towards anxiety may start to develop. 

Feeling anxious about the first day of school is only natural. But felt for weeks in the lead up to it can fill your child’s body with response hormones; long before they are required for any positive effect. 

If a tendency to react negatively goes unchecked, cycles of anxiety and anger can establish. 

Every time your child experiences the same thoughts and emotional reactions, they become conditioned to that emotion. With less and less conscious control over the emotional reactions they slip into.  If negative thinking repeatedly cycles into negative feelings, these destructive cycles impact how your child thinks about future experiences.  Affecting the actions they then take, and the person they are becoming. Conditioning their responses until it simply becomes a part of who they are.

If this is happening in your child, you might see an ingrained temperament such as a tendency to whine. Alternatively, they may be quick to cry or quick to resort to aggressive responses. 

When negative thoughts continue for hours, or even days we might call it a mood with no permanent damage.  However, if a bad mood goes on for weeks or months it becomes more deeply ingrained and becomes a temperament. 

If this continues unchecked for months or years, then an emotional predisposition or a personality trait will establish. All the while being fuelled through the continual chemicals they are introducing into their systems. 

From persistent emotional reactions, your child will become conditioned to feel and respond in certain ways

They may seem fearful or self-conscious; they may appear nervous or anxious. Or they may rubbish their efforts if they cannot attain a level of perfection. These are behaviours that may be confused by a diagnosis of ADHD and the like; with medications all too quickly prescribed. 

Behavioural and emotional problems are being seen more and more amongst our young children. Diagnosis of anxiety, depression, conduct disorder, attention deficit disorders, and hyperactivity are becoming common.  And with suicide rates on the rise in many Western countries, we need to sit up and take note. 

By understanding how behavioural and emotional health problems develop in our children, we can better address the issue; at a time when we can actively help them to manage it 

Without intervention these feelings are likely to escalate over time. As this cycle continues, it will begin happening automatically; leading to mental health issues that may stay with them for a lifetime. 

It is then so important that we reframe the situation. Helping our children to make different choices as we encourage the release of positive chemicals. And see the positive emotions being felt. 


Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.   www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk

DEVELOPING EVERY CHILD’S POTENTIAL

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How to understand the science behind your child’s emotions

Embracing all your child’s emotions – even more dramatic ones

Can you help your child to establish a greater emotional intelligence?

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