What is the Gas that Runs the Motor that Feeds the Meter?

Scales Aren’t Just a Fish Thing

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What is the Gas


that Runs the Motor


that Feeds the Meter?



Building a good self-image in students seems to be the desire of parents and teachers.  Why not?

It’s important,  right?

They try to achieve this by



pats on the head,

or even presents,

yet, with all that, the child….

‘student’s’ self-image doesn’t improve.

Their motivation might change, but their self-image isn’t easily duped.



Because praise


without legs


will not feed self-esteem.


Unless the student believes the ‘praise’ and believes that he or she is worthy of that praise, it is not believable and does not to encourage self-image. Clapping when a child bows is fun for a while but it doesn’t take long before even a three year old realizes that they can do more and that the praise just isn’t important anymore.

Self -image is, in essence, only the


for what is going on inside.

The challenge is to dig deeper and find out what the motor that is being reflected in the meter actually is.

And then, we need to discover what the gas that runs the motor that feeds the meter is.

The Meter


Let’s start with the meter.  How a child looks at themselves ends up being the meter.  It is simply a meter that measures something within.  But what?

Some of the reflections of the meter are posture, joy, cleanliness, and being well-prepared.

These are all tell-tale expressions of the ‘meter’ – or self-image.

The Motor

The motor is self-efficacy. I did not coin this one.

It is an important word we hardly ever hear.

Here is what it means.

Do they (the child – student) think they can do it?

Are they capable of the task before them, in their own eyes.


The meter = self-image (reflection)

The motor = self-efficacy (can I do it?)


The Gas

If you peel back the ‘onion’ of our self-esteem

far enough ,
The gas that runs the motor that feeds the meter is ….
And gas eventually runs out.
We all have a limited amount of ‘willpower’.

Emotional exertion or thought exertion are the two big gas guzzlers and willpower ‘wickers’.


Any mental engagement wicks your limited reserve.
Test yourself….complete a crossword puzzle or Sudoku and then immediately try to write an essay.

It won’t happen.
You will meander around,
opening the door of the fridge once or twice because you really weren’t registering what was in there the last time you opened it,
and then you’ll go and fold clothes for a while.
You need to refill the tank before you have the ‘willpower’ to do something meaningful again.

As adults, the shift is easy.

We’ve worked with this elusive loss of momentum for so long that we have a ‘plan’ in place.
….even though we don’t realize it.
But kids don’t have that history yet.
And their tanks,
though full of physical energy
aren’t full of the ‘willpower-gas’ that is needed to accomplish excellence in what they do.
All they have are tears.
You have a schedule to keep and they have to work with it.
I get it.
Been there, done that.
But I was fortunate because I had an awareness that there was something more important than my schedule.
Kids live lives full of ‘willpower- wickers’.
Again, my language so just run with me on this.
If you step back and look at life from your child’s shoes,
even the task of getting up,
books in bag,
pencils sharpened,
well, ….simply going to school is potentially a ‘wicker’.
Then you’ve got the challenge of the tests,
the expectations of the teachers,
and the immaturity of the other students.
The kids have no clue what to absorb and what not to absorb.
‘Is this other kid cool and creating a new hand signal or is he just weird?’
It all takes emotional energy that makes the gauge on the willpower tank go down.
Children come home
– hurray –
the safe haven of unconditional love and encouragement –
family time around the table,
discussions about the day,
That’s healing.
….but…homework, practice, lessons, and then bed are sometimes the routine.
Half the time they are out before the bedtime story.
I teach violin so I’m on board with music lessons…..
When do they experience the ‘bon vivant’ of life?
Just saying….


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