As an educational psychologists I often consult with parents that feel that their child has the academic ability however, they are just not living up to their expectations. This often leaves families frustrated and adds pressure on the whole family system. During the final years of school students are faced with questions about their future and parents want the best for them. So how do you support your adolescent to grow closer to their potential? Greater self-efficacy might be the key.

Psychologist Albert Bandura has defined self-efficacy as a personal belief in his/her ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task. Your child’s sense of self-efficacy can play a major role in how one approaches goals, tasks, and challenges. The theory further elaborates specifically on academic self-efficacy. Academic self-efficacy refers to your child’s self belief (conviction) that they can successfully achieve at an expected level on an academic task or attain a specific academic goal.

This implies although your teen might have the academic ability but,  a very important factor that contributes to their performance is their self confidence that they can achieve their academic goals. Your teenager’s belief in their capacity to perform to their potential is important. Paraphrasing Bandura, it is not enough for your teen to possess the requisite knowledge and skills to perform a task; they also must have the conviction that they can successfully perform the required behaviours under typical and, importantly, under challenging circumstances. Building up to their final exams your child’s ability is as important as their conviction to perform under the pressure of Grade 12. By increasing their self efficacy you can increase their self confidence to face the challenges of matric.

The Five sources of self-efficacy

The five sources of self-efficacy beliefs are:

  1. Mastery of experiences
  2. Social modelling
  3. Verbal persuasion
  4. Emotional and physiological state
  5. Imaginal experiences

Mastery of experiences:

This implies that a person needs to have the experience of overcoming obstacles through perseverance. It is also important to note that if a child only experiences easy successes they will expect quick results and will then be easily discouraged. Therefore fostering resilience, is essential from this source of self-efficacy. Reframing failure and managing it as an informative process is crucial to avoid it becoming demoralizing.

Social Modelling

People learn from one another through observation, imitation and modelling. Thus, a source of your child’s self-efficacy is from the people they interact with on a daily basis. Therefore, seeing and interacting with people that your child can relate to, that overcome their obstacles in achieving their goals will increase their aspirations and beliefs in their own capabilities

Verbal persuasion

Encouragement and persuasion to believe in themselves during difficulties help people persevere through their difficulties. By persuading your child to persist will aid them in finding a solution to their problem and will increase their chance of success. Additionally, a key component is communicating to your teen that success is a process of self improvement rather than triumph over other.

Emotional and physiological state

A factor that contributes to your child’s self efficacy beliefs is their physical and emotional states. For instance, their efficacy beliefs are strengthened by their ability to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Building physical strength and stamina also creates a stronger conviction in their abilities. Lastly, their ability to accurately interpret  physical and emotional states does have an influence as well

Imaginal experiences

Let’s say I ask you to write a mathematics paper tomorrow. What is the first image, thought or memory that pops up? What does this thought say about the likelihood of a successful outcome? These imaginal rehearsals and automatic thoughts do have an influence on their self confidence as well. By changing being aware of changing these imaginal processes can positively influence their self efficacy as well. This is where cognitive behavioural therapy can help greatly.

Moving forward

So moving forward and reflecting how do you think you can influence these 5 sources of self-efficacy beliefs to help your child flourish in their final years in school. Over the next few weeks, I will be providing some practical advice specific to each domain. Follow me on Facebook for more articles and in this series.

Hannes is a therapist and educational psychologist in Cape Town & the Northern Suburbs.