How many times do you think to yourself “I can’t do this” or “this is too much”? If you answered daily, I am right there with you. However, after everything that happened last year, I like to think that that little voice is a little quieter now. After all, we survived a massive lockdown, global pandemic, toilet paper shortages… and home-schooling. For adults, it is an easy thing to change our “I can’t” to “I can”. For kids – sometimes, they just need a little positive encouragement.

This is called self-efficacy – the ability to believe we can do a task or reach a goal. Failure is never fun for anyone. My partner will tell you that every time I go ahead, and hand-make my kid’s birthday cakes, his eye twitches because he knows I will end up having a breakdown. The third hour comes along, and I am on the floor in the foetal position, admitting defeat and begging him to put me out of my misery. The beautiful thing about it is that every time, I get back up, put on my big girl pants, and carry on.

And damn, they always end up amazing. My point is – besides a small brag about my baking skills – is that we as adults have adapted to that little doubtful voice telling us we can’t and push through. Kids haven’t.

It’s the mindset of if you fall – get back up. If you fail – try again. We need to teach our kids that trying is a big achievement in itself and to praise their efforts. Our belief in our ability to succeed in anything plays a huge role in how we think, act, and how we find our place in the world. Something kids at all ages may struggle with.

Perfect example – my daughter went to school camp last week. She was absolutely freaking out about everything from them making her do scary things to bears eating her feet in the cabin. (For reference, we live in Australia… and in suburbia). There were a lot of activities to do that she was genuinely terrified of due to her fear of heights. We spent most of the time leading up to the camp telling her that it was okay if she didn’t go on them, but she might regret not giving it a go.

She came back last week with the biggest smile on her face. “Mum! I did it! I did the flying fox which was terrifying, and I thought I was going to wee myself, but I did it!” By having that belief in herself, she achieved her goal and had an absolute blast of a time… and can’t wait for the next one.

Self-efficacy isn’t a special skill or ability. It’s a self-constructed realistic belief in their strengths and weaknesses. Psychologists who have studied self-efficacy believe four main sources can influence it:

  • Past experiences – the emotions and reactions tied to it
  • Seeing others succeed – seeing their peers emotions can lead to them wanting the same
  • Encouragement from others – be it family or peers
  • Previous situations where they have managed their stress or fear

Self-efficacy can also determine what goals we chose to pursue and how we go about actually accomplishing them. I studied multiple and random topics before I settled on becoming an editor/writer. Words had always been my strong suit and my passion, but I didn’t have the belief that I was good enough to actually make a career out of it. Turns out, I was wrong, and I am good enough.

So, how can we help and boost our children’s self-efficacy?

Help them gain a realistic view of their strengths and weaknesses: You don’t have to be mean about it but allowing your children to understand their strengths and weaknesses will help them set attainable goals and help build self-efficacy.

Praise for the effort, rather than the outcome: Make a point when you are praising them to focus on the effort – “I am so proud of you for giving it a go!” This can help them be more interested in trying new things in the long run.

Celebrate the small wins as well as failures: When a child faces setbacks, they need to learn how to cope with them and not have us blame or hide failure from them. Encourage them to have another go and to compare past and present performances – not the performance of others.

Talk about your own failures: You are the biggest influence in your child’s life. By showing and talking about your own failures and attempts, they start to see failure as just another try and not the end. 

As parents, it’s our job to provide support, help strengthen and show them love. Helping them with self-efficacy can help them overcome a fear of failure, self-doubt, and the confidence to try something new. Our goals shouldn’t be to mould them to what we want them to be, but to help them become the amazing people they were born to be.

For more information on Developing Self-Efficacy, download ParentalEQ’s BackPack App today. 

Written on the bike by Casey Luxford

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