By Trenna Ahlstrom
Self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief that they will be able to succeed in any particular situation. If your teen has a strong sense of self-efficacy then they are more likely to tackle challenges rather than shy away from them. Your teen is also more likely to persevere when they are confronted with difficulty, and will bounce back faster after they experiences failure. With a strong sense of self-efficacy, your teen will become a problem-solver rather than someone who gives up when things get tough. Your teen’s sense of self-efficacy will have a significant effect on their life, and you can help your teen to develop it.
Telling your teen, “You’re the best!” might build their self-esteem, but it does nothing to improve their self-efficacy. Self-Efficacy may be more important than self-esteem in helping your teen to live a satisfying life.
Do not make generic, general statements. Pay attention to your teen and praise their specific skills. Also, try to focus on praising the process they went through to get the right outcome.
For example, imagine that your teen’s grades have started to improve. Don’t just tell them, “You are so smart!” Instead, tell them, “I am proud of you because you worked hard and didn’t give up!” Praising their hard work increases the chances that they will work hard again in the future.
Look for beliefs that undermine your teen’s confidence. Help them to challenge those negative beliefs and help replace the negative beliefs with more positive and honest ideas.
For example, imagine that your teen believes that they cannot control their temper. Challenge that idea by presenting them with evidence of times that they did control their temper. Try to replace the negative idea with something more realistic. In this case, it may be the idea that while controlling their temper is a challenge, they have the ability to do it. Also, that they can learn skills to make controlling their temper easier.
If you want your teen to believe in their ability to solve their own problems, then you have to actually give them the opportunity to solve their own problems. These opportunities are called mastery experiences. Allowing your teen to have mastery experiences is the best way to build their self-efficacy. Try to guide your teen toward mastery experiences that are on the right level. If an experience is too challenging, it might reduce their perception of their ability to solve problems. If all of their mastery experiences are too easy, then they will not learn to persevere.
Deliberately developing your teen’s sense of self-efficacy is possible, and can have a lasting positive impact on their life. Using realistic praise, challenging negative beliefs, and allowing your teen to face challenges are three strategies that can help build self-efficacy. Having a strong sense of self-efficacy will help your teen to become a problem-solver and to live a successful, satisfying life.