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“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
We often expect our children and our students to live “up” to our expectations of them, but I think it is important to realise that they can also live “down” to our expectations.
The belief, or lack thereof, that we have in our children and students translates into something very powerful in either a positive or a negative way.
Self-efficacy is the belief we have in our own abilities, specifically our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us and complete a task successfully (Akhtar, 2008) but how does self-efficacy develop?
Parents and teachers can help children to develop self-efficacy by believing in them, giving honest praise and encouragement, helping them to set goals and helping them to understand that setbacks are simply an opportunity to review and learn.
Focusing upon a child’s effort as opposed to ability helps them to develop self-efficacy.
A study on self-efficacy conducted at Columbia University showed that when children were praised for their ability, for example their level of intelligence, this created a fear of failing which resulted in them avoiding challenging circumstances. Conversely, children who were praised for their effort were more likely to take on challenges.
Dr. Albert Bandura, a social psychologist at Stanford University, has greatly contributed to research on self-efficacy. He believes that children with higher self-efficacy display the following characteristics:
Sometimes we want to protect our children and students and this is of course natural, however it is important to remind ourselves that they are often more capable than we realise and are well able to rise to the occasion.
I see examples of this on a daily basis at Aiglon with our students. One recent example was when I asked two of our Student Wellbeing Ambassadors, both year nine students, to make an announcement at the Senior School Assembly. These students had just moved up from the Junior School in September and I was somewhat reluctant to ask them to take on such a daunting task. However, I believed in them. They clearly believed in themselves also because they stood up in front of hundreds of students and made their announcements with clarity and confidence.
Henry Ford summed it up nicely when he said ‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.’
About Ruth FitzGerald
Ruth FitzGerald (contact Ruth) is Aiglon's Wellbeing Coordinator. Her approach to wellbeing combines positive, humanistic and cross-cultural psychology. She is particularly interested in helping individuals discover their talents and fulfil their potential. Prior to joining Aiglon, Ruth worked in the field of wellbeing at American University of Antigua, College of Medicine. She has also worked in the Middle East, Russia and the US.