Last week, we began a three-part series of posts re-capping our Chalk Talk on the topic "What Every Parent Should Know Before Your Child Turns 18." Our first post covered the various modes of learning. This week we were fortunate to have one of our speakers, educational consultant Rajeshri Gandhi, guest blog for us on the topic of self-efficacy. Please enjoy her contribution below.
The Little Engine that Could, a manifestation of self efficacy.
The popular children’s book, The Little Engine that Could, is a great example of the power of a strong sense of self efficacy. Self efficacy, a central component to psychologist Albert Bandera’s social cognitive theory, can be described as one’s belief in him/herself to succeed in difficult situations. Believing in one’s ability to succeed in the face of challenge makes it more likely that a person will actually attempt the future challenge and will be successful in that attempt. Developing a strong sense of self efficacy is instrumental to long term success and achieving potential. People with a strong sense of self efficacy tend to seek out rather than avoid challenges, have stronger investment and engagement to the tasks at hand and demonstrate resilience in the face of setbacks.
In The Little Engine that Could, a small, inexperienced engine helps a broken down train full of toys, food and other goods. This little engine is the fourth one that is asked to help and does so after three seemingly stronger, fitter engines have refused. The main sources of power that this little engine draws upon is her own willingness to try/take a risk, the support of her peers (the toys and dolls that cheer her on,) and her own belief in herself (I think I can-I think I can.) Each of these attributes articulates key components in developing self efficacy.
Children begin developing their sense of self efficacy early in life and parents can foster its strength with consistent and deliberate efforts. In addition to continually giving positive verbal reinforcement, parents should seek out activities that their child can master so that they can know what success feels like. It is equally important to provide children with increasing levels of challenge so that they feel as though they have earned/achieved success as they master more difficult tasks. This confidence will help a child to regroup in the face of failure and try again. A parent’s own success can be inspiring to a child and parents can serve as great role models of success through their actions, their attitudes and how they deal with challenge. If a parent shows confidence when tackling a difficult task and demonstrates resilience in the face of failure, the child will learn the same attitude.
Teaching children how to face difficult tasks is another important step in building strong self efficacy. Sometimes parents tend to have their children avoid situations that might be difficult. While all of us have times in which our confidence is challenged or we would rather not do something out of fear or fear of failure, it is important that we not let that fear overtake our judgment. It is important for parents to know their child’s limits, but use that knowledge to help them learn how to handle challenges and take risks. Risk taking is an important learning experience to help children learn how to overcome obstacles and work towards success, knowing that they may not achieve it initially. The engine in the story was moved by the need for the goods to reach the other side of the mountain and her sense of wanting to help allowed her to overcome her fear of not being successful. She also felt very good about herself because she was successful at a task that other engines didn’t even attempt.
Be aware of what you say and how you say it. Give your child verbal encouragement and always demonstrate your belief if his/her ability to succeed. Emphasize preparation, confidence, attitude and other attributes that a child can control so that the child can use this positive reinforcement to power their actions and learn how to motivate and encourage him/herself. If a child does not succeed, help him/her diagnose what to do differently the next time and encourage another attempt with the belief of success. The engine in the story explained to the toys and goods that she was inexperienced and not sure of her strength, but the encouragement from those toys was enough to get her to try to succeed and in the process, she learned to be her own cheerleader.
Contributed by Rajeshri Gandhi, Educational Consultant