Instilling Self-Efficacy In Kids During Tough Times Nurture in your children the belief that they can overcome and deal with challenges

These are tough times we are going through. Coronavirus has changed the landscape of our world. For our kids, this period may remain etched in their memories and shape how they deal with any future challenges.

What’s more, the one single factor that will influence their later coping skills is how mom and/or dad dealt with and handled this challenging time. This intrinsic belief that one can overcome and manage a challenging situation is called self-efficacy.

Teaching Kids Self-Efficacy During Tough Times
Mastery in a hobby/skill is a great way to develop self-efficacy

Parental self‐efficacy (PSE), or parents’ belief shapes and influences their child’s sense of self-efficacy. Tough times don’t last but they can be a source of resilience building.

Why Self-Efficacy Is Important?

Self-efficacy affects every aspect of human endeavor. It shapes our beliefs with regards to our capabilities and our confidence to deal with any situation.

Psychologist Albert Bandura first posited the concept of self-efficacy in his  Social Cognitive Theory.  Bandura defines self-efficacy as the innate belief in one’s capabilities to manage a situation and handle challenges. It is about having the guts and drive to push through despite the odds while not being disheartened by failure. It means having a never give up,  can do it attitude.

Now, the concept of self-esteem ( how I view myself), self-confidence (how I feel about myself in relation to the world) and self-efficacy ( what I believe I can do) are interlinked. However, self-efficacy is the magic ingredient in every success story.

Believing that we are in control and can change things creates a state of openness to challenge. No matter what, we will persevere  That’s what separates the successful from failures. They keep trying until they succeed because they believe they can do it. Self-efficacy and grit go hand in hand while, self-doubt is the antithesis of self-efficacy.

People who have high self-efficacy bounce back from failure. They approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong.

 Effort, Practise, and Perseverence Develop Self-efficacy

However, self-efficacy cannot be instilled with just pep talks. It is something that is imbibed within the core of our being through effort, persistence and small doses of failure and success.

Self-efficacy does not develop from parental coddling, helicoptering or unbridled praise.

Effort, practice, and perseverance are crucial to developing self-efficacy. You only know what you are capable of when you do something. Small successes with intermittent failure are the best way to instill self-efficacy in children.

Failing too is important, it teaches a child, setbacks are a normal part of life, nothing to be ashamed of. What matters is picking oneself up and moving on, believing that they will overcome.

And this time is the opportune time for instilling self-efficacy in our children. Instill important lessons that will last their lifetime,

How Parents Can Encourage Development of High Self-efficacy

According to Bandura self-efficacy can be instilled through 4 ways:

1) Mastery Experiences- Small Successes Lead To The Belief That Anything Is Possible

Now is the time to teach your child new skills. Make them fun activities that they like doing. However, don’t nit-pick, intrude and expect perfection. Let them do their thing till it’s complete.

You could suggest they prepare a dish for dinner. Or create a decorative wall-hanging for the living room or paint the porch handrails or plant some herbs or bake some cookies.

Most importantly give them choices – what they’d like to do and when and how they would like to do it. You too can layout your rules.  Don’t expect perfection.

On the other hand no need to over-praise. A few words of encouragement and some positive suggestions will go a long way in building that inherent belief that they are capable of doing things.

Small successes foster confidence to try bigger challenges and thus higher self-efficacy.

2)  Vicarious Experiences  – Work The Mirror Neurons

The second source of efficacy comes from seeing, hearing about how others overcame the odds and succeeded. Watch inspiring movies and reading uplifting stories some significant ways to tweak those mirror neurons into making your child believe that they too can do great things.

My family’s all-time favorite movie is Life is Beautiful, we just love the end when the little protagonist shouts ‘we won, we won. Sure it is fiction but inspirational media does recreate within us the emotions felt by the characters we watch or read.

Alternately, tell your kids stories from the past when granddad shot a bear and lived to tell the tale.

Fill your child’s mind with stories of brave heroes and tales of courage during this time. The brain is a wonderful organ that fortunately can be tricked into believing anything. As a parent, you hold the magic wand to your child’s mind. Make them believe that they can be heroes too.

3) Modeling Experiences – Becoming High Self-efficacy Role Models

Kids grow up observing and mimicking the significant people in their lives – parents, siblings, or whoever is on their immediate radar using their mirror neurons. Your child learns through imitation.

Children observe how we approach tasks. Now does your behavior model belief in one’s self or self-efficacy. Or do you become frustrated and just quit when the going gets tough?

Studies have shown even small babies observe and replicate parental behavior. They learn the value of persistence by watching grownups stick with a challenge

Children learn without being taught. If mom or dad is handling this crisis without constantly lamenting and being proactive and busy, kids too learn to do this. Parents need to remember that they are kids’ first role models and there is no day off from this tough parenting challenge.

 4) Emotional & Physiological States – Letting Them Vent

Our present mental and physical states influence self-efficacy to a great extent.

At times like this, it is easy to get overwhelmed due to financial difficulties, lack of provisions, and numerous pressing needs. But losing your cool at a whining child is not going to help. Don’t expect them to grasp the actual reality. They are kids, their brains are not capable of handling drastic changes and unpredictability.

When your child throws a tantrum or is being difficult, get down to his level and listen to what he is feeling, you may be surprised to know the real reason why your child is throwing a tantrum.

Remember, emotions are data about their internal thought process. So do interrupt what you are doing and listen rather than ignoring or worse throwing a tantrum yourself. Be calm but firm what they can get or do and explain why. Or whether it is possible later.

Being able to deal with our emotions, the good, bad and the ugly is the single most important factor that influences every aspect of our life. And teaching, no allowing our child space and opportunity to feel their emotions powerfully impact their sense of well-being and confidence.

If they believe they have some control over their environment naturally they will grow up to have high self-efficacy.

5) Imaginal Experiences – Let Them Pretend Play

Psychologist James Maddux has suggested a fifth way to self-efficacy through ‘imaginal experiences‘ – the art of visualizing yourself behaving effectively or successfully in a given situation.

Rather than stressing on school-work and becoming dictatorial headmasters, let your children do their thing – play. Left loose most kids slip into their imaginary world where the impossible becomes possible.  They become policemen, fire-fighters, supermen, Madonna

Let them pretend play and while you can enjoy the fun from afar. Please don’t interfere and intrude in their play-acting. If they ask you to join in, do so but as a little child and follow their instructions.

When your child engages in pretend play, he is actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, he learns how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve. Pretend play builds critical skills for later years.

All successful athletes use imagery and visualization exercises as an important part of their training. They visualize themselves winning the race or game before they go out for the actual events. It increases their confidence and improves their chances of winning. Belief does play a big role in healing and life.

This Too Shall Pass But The Lessons Will Not Be Forgotten

I am optimistic that this too shall pass. After all, I have dealt with so many challenges and survived.

Recently, Queen Elizbeth in her broadcast to the nation briefly revisited the difficult time during theWorld War II and how they had overcome that dark period.  In just 5 minutes she was able to reassure the people of Britain, that they would overcome Coronavirus like they did the Nazis in the war.

And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths and of none are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect in prayer or meditation.

If we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.

Yes, we will overcome and beat the virus while teaching our children important lessons of faith, courage, and tenacity. These lessons will remain with them forever, long after this crisis has passed.

Image Source: Pixabay

Ref: Parents’ Influence on Child Social Self-Efficacy and Social Cognition

Further Reading:

Rising Strong Brené Brown  

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4 years ago

Hello Cheryl, may I ask your credibility? And what I could put you as in my speech? (ex: Child care and parenting expert, Psychologist, etc.)