Back Talk #1

One of the greatest gifts we give our children, especially when it comes to “monster-proofing” is a strong sense of themselves.  Psychologists call this self-efficacy…

A study, published in 2007 involving 225 families of developmentally delayed children concluded that parenting behaviors have a greater impact on children with developmental delays.  This is an important factor considering a lot of the kids we see have developmental delays of one kind or another as well as our “neuro-typical” children.  How do children learn self efficacy and learned mastery?  More importantly how do we teach this?

First, self-efficacy and self-mastery work hand-in-hand but in order for anyone to believe they can master anything, they must have a good sense of who they are and their ability to achieve anything (a good self-efficacy).  They achieve this by having experiences that reinforce their abilities and/or having someone mirror to them their ability to do things and do them well.  This begins in infancy – as a child is learning any new skill, the “mirror” (or mirrors – that would be us, the parents) show the child with their expressions and support that they can do anything.  When they fall down when trying to walk, the parent supports the child by encouraging more walking, “You’re getting it…look at you go!”  Instead of “Oh, poor baby, you fell down and got hurt.”  Treating the child as a champion of his or her own life instead of a victim begins very early.

Important tips in fostering healthy self-efficacy:

1)    Recognize and honor the child’s current functionality – what are they capable of?

2)    Do not do for them what they are capable of doing.

3)    If it’s difficult, offer encouragement or ways of breaking down the task so that the child can complete it by his or her self.

4)    Reframe “failures” into “that’s just one way not to do it…let’s try another way.”

5)    Provide positive feedback and insight.

As a child grows into the belief that they truly can do anything, they will automatically move into great self-mastery because they now have the functional capacity and the foundation of a healthy sense of who they are to carry out the task.

Lastly, we must be “mastering” this in our own lives.  We cannot teach, what we ourselves do not know.  Our children watch us and model our behaviors.  As humans, we are continually growing, reaching new heights, exploring new territories and stretching ourselves.  May we continually be challenged to grow our own capabilities too!

“My father never told me how to live.  He merely lived and allowed me to watch.”


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