How does it happen, that when comparing two children of the same potential ability that one child will persist and conquer a task while the other will not?
We constantly encourage our children….. take that next step into the water, try the next maths task or have a go at writing a little story, but sometimes with little success.
Often it comes down to what social scientists call a child’s self-efficacy or belief in themselves to complete the task or succeed in specific situations.
One’s self-efficacy can play a major role in how a child approaches challenges.
What is self-efficacy? How can parents foster this?
If we want our children to be good learners then we want them to have a strong sense of their ability to succeed, in other words, a strong sense of self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy, although somewhat similar, is distinct from self-esteem in that self-esteem refers to a more general level of self-confidence and feelings of adequacy.
Self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief that he or she can successfully perform a specific task (Gist, Schwoerer & Rosen, 1989) (L7, p.5).
Identified by psychologist Albert Bandura (Bandura A. 1977) in the 1970s, preschool to high school teachers, recognise that it is an important aspect of a child’s attitude towards learning It has a huge impact on students’ success.
At school, teachers ensure that lessons are planned at the child’s ability level or a little above, so that ongoing success in learning can be achieved.
Teachers continually reinforce and build on strategies which the students can use to support their learning. This helps the students to grow in their independence and confidence to learn.
Can home help children grow in confidence and independence too?
Parents can build their child’s self-efficacy in simple ways as well.
Helping a child to build a skill incrementally, step by step, with each step building on the one before is one of the most effective actions.
Once a skill has been achieved, or mastered, then it important to talk the child through such a success. Talk about how this idea could be transfered to another task or experience. “If you can stand in front of your class and tell them about your holidays, we can practise so you can talk in front of the school assembly!”
Teachers tend to shudder when they hear parents say things such as, because they were not good at maths then they do not expect their children to be good either.
We know this particularly happens with our girls.
Research has shown that many girls do not feel confident to enter into the engineering, science, mathematics or technology areas when they leave school. This sadly may well have been part of their belief system all the way through their schooling.
It has never been as important as it is now in our rapidly changing world to break these self-limiting beliefs in our children.
Building self-belief in their ability to complete the task will assist children to perform better at school.
Parents who support their children through set-backs and encourage them to believe that most things need work, will build resilient young people who do not give up easily.