Albert Bandura, a renowned psychologist, proposed the Self-Efficacy Theory. In simple terms, this theory states that if you believe you can do something, you’re more likely to engage in it, stick with it, and eventually succeed. This success breeds a sense of accomplishment or ‘mastery,’ which strengthens your belief in your abilities and boosts your self-confidence.
Backing Bandura’s theory, research shows that even small victories can help improve our belief in our abilities. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology demonstrated that these minor successes foster a sense of mastery and, by extension, self-confidence.
In a related vein, a comprehensive review of various studies, a meta-analysis, conducted in 2013 found a significant positive relationship between self-efficacy and academic achievement. This means believing in one’s abilities and achieving mastery in certain tasks can lead to better performance in school.
When it comes to children, having them participate in activities that they can master—like playing an instrument, building a sandcastle, solving a puzzle, or playing a sport—can significantly boost their self-confidence. A study in the Journal of Early Adolescence further supports this, finding that kids who felt competent in their abilities, due to mastery experiences, performed better academically, valued school more, and had fewer school-related issues.
Helping children develop self-efficacy is a vital role for parents and caregivers. Here are a few strategies to help foster self-efficacy in children:
Encourage Effort and Persistence: Praise your child’s effort, rather than their innate abilities. This helps them to understand that it’s their effort and persistence that leads to success. Instead of saying, “You’re a natural at this,” say, “You’ve worked hard and it shows.”
Provide Opportunities for Mastery: Encourage activities where your child can experience success, and gradually increase the challenge as they improve. This could include sports, arts, academic activities, or any other hobbies. Encourage them to stick with it until they master the task, promoting the idea that abilities can be developed through dedication and effort.
Promote Problem-Solving: Encourage your child to solve problems independently. This helps them develop the confidence that they can handle challenges on their own. If your child is stuck, guide them through the problem-solving process, rather than just providing the answer.
Model Self-Efficacy: Children learn a lot from watching their parents. Show them that you also face challenges, make efforts, and sometimes fail. Share how you handle failures and frustrations, demonstrating that these are opportunities for learning and growth.
Provide Positive Feedback: Constructive feedback helps children understand what they are doing well, reinforcing their sense of competence. Even when they make mistakes, frame it as a learning opportunity.
Help them set Realistic Goals: Setting and achieving goals can boost a child’s self-efficacy. Help your child to set goals that are challenging yet attainable, and celebrate with them when they achieve these goals.
Maintain High Expectations: Believe in your child’s capacities and express your belief in them. This can be a powerful motivator for children. However, ensure your expectations are realistic and not pressuring, to prevent the possibility of self-doubt or anxiety.
Remember, developing self-efficacy is a long-term process, and each child is unique. What works for one might not work for another. Patience, consistency, and understanding are key as you guide your child on their journey to enhanced self-efficacy.