Self-efficacy is an important trait for children to develop, starting at a very young age. Self-efficacy is defined as the belief in oneself, that one can independently complete tasks successfully and with confidence. In addition to self-efficacy, self-sufficiency is another key developmental trait. Self-efficacy involves having the ability to take care of one’s own needs and provide for oneself independently.
It is important to instill values of self-efficacy and self-sufficiency in children at a young age to build an autonomous, resilient youth. These two traits help our children believe in themselves and approach responsibilities with confidence. It starts with our belief in them. As such, we are tasked with providing our children opportunities to foster these traits through activities, skills, and responsibilities.
When children feel efficacious and sufficient, they act as contributors of the family. This allows them to feel like an important, integral part of the family. This can have huge implications—less stress, stronger connections, among others. However, we cannot expect our kids to believe in themselves unless we demonstrate that we believe in them. This involves providing them with opportunities. Providing our children with opportunities means that we embrace the opportunity to fail. Failure, especially in a first attempt, is an important learning opportunity that leads to empowerment and growth.
There are many ways to provide children with opportunities to develop self-efficacy and self-sufficiency. Of course, there are age and capability limitations, however, there are opportunities for such learning at every age.
For preschool children, look for moments where you can encourage them to do things on their own while setting them up for success. Examples of this include things like getting dressed for the day, brushing their teeth, using utensils at the table, among others. In addition, offer them responsibilities and chores that fit both their age and ability. Ask them what they would like to do. Do they follow you around and show interest in something you are doing, such as emptying the dishwasher, separating the whites from the darks for the laundry, matching socks, or preparing dinner? These are all great opportunities to empower your preschooler, including them in these tasks.
For elementary-aged children, it is important to give very specific instructions that they will understand. At this age, children are capable of much more independence. However, it is important that we offer encouragement and support as we allow them to make decisions. Examples of opportunities to promote self-efficacy and self-sufficiency include asking them to help with folding the laundry, helping in meal planning or prepping, among other things. It is important to emphasize the process rather than the outcome. Don’t worry if the laundry isn’t folded neatly or the way you’d like it, it likely will not be. It is about the process, not the outcome.
With middle schoolers, there are many opportunities for autonomy and fostering self-efficacy and self-sufficiency. One thing that not only contributes to self-efficacy but also critical thinking skills is giving your children an opportunity to problem-solve. Ask them questions, such as “what do you think or want to do differently? What seems like a good idea to you?” Offering our kids an opportunity to share their thoughts promotes independent thinking and validates their voice. Additionally, giving them responsibility for a household chore is another example. With household chores, it is important to offer them choice and control by asking them what they would like to be responsible for. The last example I offer is ordering for themselves at a restaurant. This contributes to confidence in situations where children need to advocate for themselves. While these are just a few examples, there are many opportunities to empower your middle schoolers.
COVID-19 has offered us greater time at home, which has resulted in more time with our children. This is a wonderful opportunity to invite your children to help out with household tasks while simultaneously building a sense of self-efficacy and self-sufficiency. During this time period where parents are wearing more hats than usual, why not use it as an opportunity to empower our children with real-life tasks and responsibilities? While this takes a bit of time and patience, it is important that our children believe in themselves and learn that they are capable of successfully meeting the tasks, challenges, and problem-solving that they will face in everyday life.
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