Self-efficacy: the belief that one is capable of executing certain behaviors or reaching certain goals
Self-regulation: the process of setting goals for oneself and engaging in behaviors and cognitive processes that leas to goal attainment
Both self-efficacy and self-regulation contribute greatly to the success of any behavior or intervention plan. As any parent (or teacher) will tell you, unless the child wants to do something, it is very difficult to enforce meaningful change in behavior. Yes, we can make/prod/require students to do x, y, or z, but when it comes to he student's making a choice to perform a certain action or act in a certain way, the choice is largely up to them. The key is for the child to be motivated to do it, to believe in her/her power to do it, and to know how to do it.
Some ways that we can encourage children in their own self-efficacy and self-regulation are to:
- Name a strength. Help the child gain some self-confidence by focusing on a strength. As the child starts to believe in himself in some areas, that can-do feeling can carry over into other areas. Similarly, try to deliver constructive feedback constructively, positively, and gently. At our house, when we have to deliver something negative, we try to use a strategy we call "stroke-kick-stroke" - something not-so-good sandwiched between two positives. For example: Wow! You did a great job getting your spelling homework done. I see a couple that you missed with the -ing suffix. Let's fix those. Thanks for working so hard on it!
- Be specific. Often a child either is unaware of a problem or has no idea how to fix it. We can help them by naming behaviors (both desired and undesired) very specifically, and providing very specific guidance and feedback about how to do something appropriately and when it is being done appropriately. with practice, a child can learn to do these action for himself, and learn how to set attainable goals for his own behavior and learning.
For more information, see Self-Efficacy: Helping Children Believe They Can Succeed, from the National Association of School Psychologists. They have an excellent page of resources for parents as well as teachers.