Youth Need Self-Efficacy!  

Self-efficacy is a term used in psychology, roughly corresponding to a person's belief in their own competence.  We want children to believe that if they try and work hard, they can succeed.

Our own ideas of self-efficacy affect our social interactions in almost every way. Understanding how to foster the development of self-efficacy is a vitally important goal for parents and everyone who interacts with children and youth.  It leads to living a more productive and happy life!

How we  parents can promote a sense of self-efficacy in youth:

~ Teach children to challenge negative thoughts that might hold them back from believing that they can accomplish a task.  To do this, we must first teach children to identify the negative thoughts and then to use evidence to show why the thought is inaccurate. Replace the negative thought with a more positive and accurate one.

~ Teach children to set realistic goals and to use strategies to achieve their goals. For example, showing children how to take a large task and break it down into smaller, more manageable steps is an effective way of helping children succeed at reaching a goal.

~ Teach children to identify successes and then identify how they made a contribution toward the success. One way to do so might to be to create a "success journal" in which the child identifies skills, talents and strategies they used to reach the goal. This example illustrates how children can use strategies to create positive emotions, which lead to creative thinking and better problem solving.

~ Use process praise, positive statements that point out effort and strategies used to bring about an outcome. For example, a parent might say, "You did a good job because you kept at it and tried different ways to solve the problem." This type of praise has been shown to lead to more persistence and achievement for children because we are pointing out effort and not just final achievement.  Emphasizing effort, persistence and strategy helps children focus on things they can control.

~ Provide opportunities for children to make decisions, use and practice their skills, and try different strategies to achieve their goals.  More success leads to greater self-efficacy.


~ Be honest and realistic When a child fails, don’t pretend it didn’t happen.  Acknowledge the setback and help your child identify the strengths that he or she might use next time. By helping children to identify their strengths and determine how to use them more effectively, parents are teaching self-efficacy.

With thanks to the National Association of School Psychologists Communiqué newsletter

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Thanks for all you do!


Community Coalition for Healthy Youth

c/o Tompkins County Youth Services Dept.

320 W. ML King Jr./State St., Ithaca