Children and ‘self-esteem’ is heard regularly in the media, however “self-efficacy” is the term used in psychology and refers to a person’s belief in his/her own competence. It has nothing to do with being boastful or proud, but rather having a healthy view of one’s own characteristics or abilities and what one can offer the world.
Children’s sense of self is still forming, but one good reason for encouraging development of self-efficacy would be to grow children that end up as resilient teens and adults.
We are more aware that by actively building self-efficacy, we can assist our children to develop a barrier against issues such as teenage depression, eating disorders and of course social skills difficulties.
How do we know if our children think poorly of themselves?
What to watch for:
• Acting out or disruptive behaviours (Negative attention still acts as a reinforcement for being noticed)
• Internalising behaviours (A child becomes more quiet, contemplative or self-focused than usual)
• Struggling with friendships and social skills
• Always putting themselves down
• Refusal to try new things for fear of failure or looking silly
What can we do to encourage development of self-efficacy?
• Provide many opportunities to discover capabilities by enrolling in sports and activities. (Gentle pressure may sometimes be necessary, for uncertain children as a fear of failure may try to keep them from being willing to risk giving something a go – our belief in them and encouragement to “just give it a go” could jolly them through such resistance).
• Encourage children to make decisions & seek alternatives for themselves (Don’t always give the answers but rather support them through a process of thinking through the possibilities, working out the positives/negatives, and then coming to a decision)
• Engage in pre-planning, healthy debate and problem solving discussions at home (This can reduce the stress around tasks and teaches your child the skill of working such things through / model a process they can use for themselves)
• Provide kind feedback on how to accept weaknesses or learn from mistakes (Everying is a learning opportunity – if something didn’t go as planned or didn’t work out, what can we learn from this that will help us next time?)
• Teach the importance of self-praise (Not reliance on parents, teachers or friends to feel good about something they have done, but one’s own sense of valuing or appreciating our own qualities or abilities or efforts)
• Pursue occasions to give to the community (looking outward takes the focus off of the ‘self’ and also put one’s own struggles or difficulties into a bigger context – there will always be others who have it worse. Secondly, making a difference or contribution to some one else returns a lot of satisfaction and pleasure)
Is there anything that we could avoid doing or saying?
• Don’t take away natural consequences for poor choices
• Don’t do everything for your child all the time – encourage help around the home
• Don’t re-do their jobs e.g. re-make their bed if it is not ‘perfect’
• Discourage use of ‘victim’ language; I’m so dumb, no-one likes me, it always happens to me.
Develop a family habit of praising the process rather than the end result.
Based on an article by Collette Smart, Posted on www.generationnext.com.au