How to support your child’s development of self-efficacy – Part 2

There are several strategies you can utilize to support children’s sense of efficacy.

Adults can model self-efficacy through learning opportunities such as baking bread.
Adults can model self-efficacy through learning opportunities such as baking bread.

There are many strategies we can use to support children’s sense of efficacy. First, let’s look at how we treat children in general. Adult responsiveness encourages self-efficacy by helping children connect what they are doing with how the world is reacting to their behavior. When a child cries and an adult responds immediately, they feel a sense of self-efficacy. When infants begin to recognize they have an effect on their environment, it supports the development of their sense of self.

When they begin to understand they are differentiated from their environment and from other people, the process of establishing a sense of self emerges. Self-efficacy further develops as their early exploratory and play activities provide opportunities for enlarging their repertoire of basic skills. The child thinks, “I can crawl that far and I want to see what is there.”

Another strategy to use is modeling self-efficacy ourselves. Children observe how we approach tasks. Have you tapped your hand on the table and had an infant tap the table in response? Have you used a word and later heard your 4-year-old using that same word? These are examples of simple things that children learn from you or their environment. Now think about how our behavior can support or model belief in one’s self or self-efficacy. Do you become frustrated and just quit trying to finish a task or do you look for a different way to do it?

Do you have an interest in learning how to make bread? As you develop bread baking skills, do you experiment with different types of bread? Do you view your failures as learning opportunities? You are your child’s favorite model for behavior and for skills like problem-solving, and the ability to innovate. More information about early childhood and brain development can be found at The Science of Early Childhood Development at Harvard University.

A third strategy to use is ways of shaping tasks for children that are age/stage appropriate so that children have an opportunity to pursue success. Try these specific strategies:

  • Giving children choices and encourage new explorations.
  • Giving children responsibility, an opportunity for success.
  • Giving children an enriched environment at home, childcare and in school.
  • Giving children time to repeat experiences and hone skills.

Encourage mastery, competence and high quality outcomes, even if the outcome is flat bread. You and your child can view this as a high quality outcome because you learned something new about making bread. Seeing the flat bread as a positive outcome as a learning experience, talking about the processes and trying again is an example of self-efficacious behavior.

If you would like to learn more about self-efficacy and development of self-esteem, access the online archive of early childhood development articles at the Michigan State University Extension website. The research and writings of Frank Pajares provide more information about self-efficacy. Finally, the Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Pre-Kindergarten from the Michigan Department of Education refers to strategies to develop self-efficacy in young children.

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