There’s More to the Picture Than Meets the Eye: The Cognitive Side

Recently Bandura extended his theory to explain our personality functioning and how it changes.  He believes that our expectations on how well we can or cannot produce certain outcomes determines what activities and places we choose to place ourselves, as well as how hard we try and how long we stick with a challenging task.  Healthy children, in his view, have high (but realistic) efficacy expectations, whereas unhealthy children have low and often unrealistic expectations which adversely influence their performances.  There are lots of these kids around.  They resist trying even the remotest challenge, and, if they do, tend to give up easily without a struggle.  For this reason they never get the successes they need to feel more positive about themselves.

Well-adjusted children, on the other hand, thrive on challenge.  They give it everything they’ve got, and keep trying despite temporary setbacks.  These children often set mini goals, which give them an ongoing message of progress.  This boosts their feelings of self-efficacy and improves their chances of attaining their final goal.  A good example of this are people trying to lose weight.  Those who set small day-by-day goals lose weight faster than individuals who set weekly or monthly goals.

Your child’s self-efficacy grows from these four roots:

(1)  The first and most important is her past performance.  Success experiences tend to create high expectations, whereas failure breeds low expectations.  Once children form a high expectation in their minds, it is remarkably resilient to change–a few failures won’t harm it.  By the same token, when children go through one failure after the other, the occasional success story does little to boost their ego.

(2)  Parents and teachers encouragement to help their children believe they can succeed.

(3)  Children seeing or visualizing other people performing well, giving them the sense they can do it too.

(4)  Children’s arousal–when kids anticipate failure they feel nervous and sweaty, however when children expect to succeed they are more relaxed.