Saturday, August 28, 2010

Self-Efficacy (Is Self-Esteem Overrated?)

Is Self Esteem Overrated?

Good self-esteem without appropriate boundaries, sense of accountability, empathy, self-control, and some genuine humility can be dangerous. There are lots of criminals and corrupt politicians, who think highly of themselves. Many of us know, may be related to, and have probably worked with jerks who seem to have great self-esteem.

Sometimes people without self-efficacy and self-control have a tendency to try to control others. This is frustrating and stressful for everyone. Sometimes an over emphasis on self-esteem can teach a child that s/he should expect to feel good about doing bad (i.e. bullying, steeling, lying, swearing, etc.).

Help a child develop self-efficacy (the belief s/he has the power to accomplish or do something), good character, appropriate boundaries, empathy, responsibility, accountability, and self control, and appropriate self-esteem will almost always follow. Teach children skills. Help them accomplish things. Teach them to learn and do on their own. Help them develop self-efficacy.

We all fail. Children fail; but those who learn to fail forward will find success. Abraham Lincoln lost seven political races before he became president. During the Civil War he experiences frequent failures and setbacks; however, he had developed resiliency and self-efficacy.

An overemphasis on self-esteem may limit or eliminate the appropriate loving feedback most children need to prepare for life.  (Loving feedback builds and encourages children to do better, emphasizes the positive, while still providing truthful carefrontation when necessary.)

Help children set goals and accomplish them (but let them do as much on their own as they possibly can). It doesn’t have to be formal, it can be very informal and in in small increments such as letting them help with the vacuuming or dishes when they’re young and excited to help, giving more and more responsibility without over doing it.  Helping them, providing the right tools, and instructing them until they can do it on their own. Encourage and allow them to come up with and carry out their own solutions with appropriate oversight for the situation and age of the child. Remember, it’s a lazy parent who does everything for their child.

My youngest son was born towards the end of August, making him one of the youngest in his class. He struggled in school and with speech articulation, requiring the assistance of a speech therapist for a time. I remember when he was young in scouting (one of many great programs to include 4-H which can help children build self-efficacy) he was struggling to memorize something. I was speaking with him, trying to help and encourage him and told him I knew he was capable. His reply shocked me. He said: “mom doesn’t think I’m capable.” As soon as I possibly could, I had a conversation with my wife, his mother. She then had a conversation with our son. Today he is an Eagle Scout, getting all A’s and majoring in bio-chemistry.

It wasn’t just these two short conversations, we worked hard with him to help him succeed and build self-efficacy. We read together almost every morning before school and continued through the summer. Every year as other children would lose ground in reading; we would continue to read almost every morning as a family. We encouraged him and gave him opportunities to succeed.
Self-efficacy provides confidence and calmness even in the presence of adversity. Almost all children can develop self-efficacy.

“Persons who have a strong sense of efficacy deploy their attention and effort to the demands of the situation and are spurred by obstacles to greater effort”. – Albert Bandura

“The content of most textbooks is perishable, but the tools of self-directness serve one well over time.”– Albert Bandura

Supplemental Materials:
Self-efficacy information
Self-Efficacy Beliefs as Shapers of Children's Aspirations and Career Trajectories
The Costly Pursuit of Self-Esteem
Bad Parenting -- Why Americans Need To Toughen Up

For additional information use the Google Parenting and/or Google Scholar search engines below to search for: Children Self-Efficacy

Additional Resources

Child development: The right kind of early praise predicts positive attitudes toward effort


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this article. I work with kids who are not allowed to fail, witness humility, and not show empathy. These kids expect us childcare providers to reward every action they make, but when we do not reward them there is a backlash.

Joseph Sherrod

amber said...

I think self esteem does matter. If a person has low self esteem they are more likely to make bad decisions that could hurt them. They feel bad about themselves and that could hinder their growth. It's harder to keep a kid motivated to do something if they don't even like themselves. I think how a person feels on the inside affects what that person does outside.

CR Petersen said...

Self Esteem matters; however, self-esteem without what Joseph mentioned is not enough.

Gwenevere said...

Empathy isn't just the ability to notice & relate to how others are feeling (sad, lonely, angry). It's also being able to recognize how our emotions or behavior effect other people. Recognizing that we may be taking out our frustrations on an innocent party that, then feels hurt or responsible for why we're upset.
I have yet to meet a narcissistic individual that is also empathetic and have noticed a pattern of not being accountable or responsible for their behavior and trying to control others with manipulation.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this article. Working with young children on developing social and emotional skills I Can tell you that the children who's parents have taught them self esteem and self efficacy are more likely to be able to have competence in social and emotional skills than those who do not.

Jen Ar said...

i agree with this article. Self esteem is important but one can have much esteem but still get nowhere. Self efficiency allows the child to keep going. keep trying. moving ahead to attain the goals in life.

Sheri Hartman said...

Great article -
When I was raising my children I used the word self esteem instead of self efficacy.
I easily see the difference.
My goal is to teach the children to be independent and to think "I can do it"