Given that change, with accompanying losses and hardships, is an inevitable part of life, it is crucial to learn how we can increase our capacity to rebound or spring back after painful life events, a capacity called resilience. Although we know that some aspects of resilience are inborn (related to temperament as explained in another blog), others aspects can be learned and practiced. Just as children are vaccinated to avoid physical disease, parents can help by inoculating them for the challenges they will face throughout their lives.
This can be done by teaching kids to have a resilient mindset or a positive lens through which they see themselves and the world. An example of this is teaching young children that mistakes are an inevitable part of learning new skills and are actually helpful rather than something bad to be avoided. An essential building block of resilience is a high level of self-efficacy. Although I have a pet peeve against fancy words when simple ones can do just as well, I think that it is important that parents, teachers, and therapists learn about self-efficacy: what it is, why it is important, and how to build it in ourselves and others.
Self-efficacy is defined as a person’s belief (whether true or not) in his or her ability to succeed or manage in specific situations or tasks. It is what helps nurture effort, perseverance, resilience, serenity, and optimism in the face of adversity. Do you remember the children’s story, The Little Engine That Could? When the little blue train has to pull a load of toys over the mountain, she succeeds only when she tells herself, “I think I can, I think I can, and then delights in her success by saying to herself, “I thought I could, I thought I could!” The little engine is a model of high self-efficacy.