Improving Your Teen’s Confidence and Perseverance: Building Self-Efficacy


“I’m just no good at this.” That’s probably a statement you’ve heard your teen say at least once, if not several times. It may have happened while solving word problems for math, while reading a complicated passage of text, or even while struggling to beat a level in a video game. Children sometimes doubt their ability to perform hard tasks. In those moments, they lack self-efficacy, which is an individual’s perceptions about his or her capabilities to perform at an expected level, achieve goals, and complete moderately challenging tasks. There are things we can do to help our children increase their self-efficacy. This 4-minute video introduces the concept of self-efficacy, its definition, and some examples of how to support your teen’s self-efficacy.




When teens give up easily and don’t stick with things, it is probably because they lack self-efficacy in that situation. As parents, we want to help our children believe in their abilities and increase their self-confidence. Listen as Dr. Pattie Noonan, Associate Research Professor at the University of Kansas, explains self-efficacy, clarifies its definition, reviews the components, and discusses how we can apply these components at home.



Children who develop their self-efficacy reap many benefits. They have more confidence in their abilities, increased willingness to take on and persist in challenging tasks, and the ability to see mistakes and constructive criticism as opportunities to learn.

McKenzie, a high school senior, worked on raising her self-efficacy in several areas of her life, including academics, sports, and employment opportunities. Listen as she defines self-efficacy and explains the two components. Consider showing your teen this video and discussing the concepts.



There are specific ways your child can increase his or her confidence when it’s lacking. Listen as Izzy, another high school senior, explains the four sources of self-efficacy (also known as four ways to increase your confidence).


Izzy did a thorough job explaining the four sources of self-efficacy and giving specific examples of how she has used them to grow her confidence in things like managing her emotional reactions and improving her writing and swimming efforts. You might view this video with your teen and then discuss the concepts.  Later, remind them of the ways they can grow their confidence.

As a parent, it’s important to frame mistakes in a positive way, whether you or your children make them. We can help change mindsets about making mistakes and not understanding information right away by modeling positive reactions to mistakes. The following video explains the concept of neuroplasticity and how making mistakes helps to grow our brains. When you see your teen struggling with learning something new, refer to the content in this video.



We can create an environment in our homes that supports and reinforces the belief that ability grows with effort. Dr. Noonan explains how to support your child in understanding the concept that ability grows with effort through a list of expectations you might adopt and refer to regularly.



Another way to focus on our effort and progress is to harness the power of the word, “yet.”  Watch as Dr. Noonan explains this powerful strategy for perseverance.


When we examine the component, focus on your effort, progress, and learning, several key points might be highlighted. The first is to focus on your effort. Many times, we look at others and see their success and think they must just be inherently “smart;” however, we need to remember that success comes with effort. Additionally, reminding ourselves of past accomplishments can increase our confidence in our abilities. Students can benefit from reflecting on accomplishments and the effort and progress involved in those accomplishments. Listen as Dr. Noonan explains how you might use a Mastery Log to help your teen focus on how effort and progress leads to learning.



Now let’s get Izzy’s ideas on how she uses the Mastery Log and how she focuses on effort and progress to help keep her self-efficacy high. Show this video to your teen and discuss the key concepts.



All of us appreciate praise when we accomplish something that was difficult. However, listen as Dr. Noonan discusses some important things to keep in mind when praising your child’s effort and progress.



Next Steps


Now that you have learned about self-efficacy and how it can increase your child’s ability to persist through challenges, consider using the following steps to support your teen in understanding and developing self-efficacy.

1. Show the student videos explaining self-efficacy, the four sources, and the mastery log to your child and discuss the concepts. Refer to these concepts as the topics arise naturally. Share situations when your self-efficacy was low and how you worked to increase your self-efficacy through focusing on your effort and progress.

2. Use the Growth vs Fixed Mindset chart to explain to your child that intelligence is not fixed, but can be grown with effort. When your child tells you that he or she can’t do something or isn’t good at it, ask why they think that. Focus on your child’s past learning, and add the word “yet” to your child’s fixed mindset statements (for example, “I can’t do this—yet”).

3. Talk about the brain as a muscle that grows stronger with exercise. Statements like, “I know, I was never good at math,” or “Our family is good at a lot of things, but math isn’t one of them,” reinforce negative, fixed mindsets. However, reinforcing the concept that ability can grow builds self-efficacy, which helps your child take on and master challenges.

4. Show the Fixed Vs. Growth Mindset video and discuss how mistakes help us learn and improve. Encourage your child to consider why mistakes are an important part of learning; ask them to think about specific challenges they are facing and discuss how a growth mindset could help.




Other resources for home learning are available when you download the Self-Efficacy Resources for Home Learning from the website.