Self-Efficacy and Why it's Important

We want our children to be resilient. Resiliency is the ability to keep on going when life is challenging. When I think of resilience I think of a bobo doll, those big plastic punching dolls that have a weight in the bottom and as you punch them, they keep popping back up.

One key characteristic of children who are resilient is that they have a strong sense of self-efficacy, that is the belief that they are capable, similar to the Little Train that Could, “I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can!”  Self-efficacy is a combination of competence and confidence.

Success breeds success. As children experience small successes, they gain a sense of competence and the more of these successes they have they begin to feel confident that they can float their own boat. They can fall down and get back up, they have resources to call upon to help them get through and keep moving on.  

Children need child size problems. They must experience falling down and getting back up, by themselves, with no help form someone else. We can’t always spare them from pain, frustration, and heartache or they never learn how to deal with these real life challenges, and they become adults who have no coping skills for pain and disappointment…

So what can we do to teach this?

Do we spend more time pointing out strengths and successes or failures?

Do we create clear expectations so student know when they have met them or not? When they have been successful or not.

Do young people get the impression that we think they always mess up? Or am I clear and tell them exactly what I appreciated or did not appreciate?

Am I allowing them to have child size failures and helping them re-frame so they don’t feel it’s the end of the world?

One of my favorite strategies is giving students two options, both of which I’m alright with and letting them choose and then learn consequences from those choices.

When I do try to protect youth from getting hurt, do I help them think through it, or do I send the message that they are not capable of making decisions for themselves?

Do I give general praise or do I praise students for specific actions they take?

Do I hold high expectations for them, helping them to stretch beyond what they think they can accomplish, but offering scaffolding or support?

Do I notice when students are helpful, and show integrity?

Do I point out the hidden gifts they have – things like empathy, tenacity, kindness, patience. If a kid is a good athlete, or an excellent singer or artist, everyone tells them so. Do we help kids with less noticeable, but just as important of a gift, understand how they are gifted?

When we support children as they go through the life experiences that teach them both success and failure, and they learn from those experiences, we are helping to raise young people who will have self-efficacy and grow into resilient and autonomous adults.

Rhoda WolleComment