Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” In parenting research terms, this is referred to as parenting efficacy. In other words, whether or not you think of yourself as a good parent matters just as much as your actual parenting skills.
Research suggests that believing you’re able to provide the social, cultural, and emotional support your kid needs in ways that lead to positive development impacts his or her development.
Parenting efficacy is the extent to which parents feel capable of effectively managing the challenges their kids encounter. Several studies suggest that this parenting efficacy has an impact on whether or not your kid will be able to manage life’s transitions. It involves issues such as how far you are willing to go to solve challenges, your stress levels, how you promote your kids’ self-efficacy, and the overall satisfaction you derive from parenting. Parenting efficacy is also influenced by whether or not you feel supported in your parenting journey, and by the positive relationships and interactions you share with others.
Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy suggests that people with high self-efficacy are more likely to take on difficult tasks and are also more likely to persevere. They are also more motivated. In contrast, when you have low self-efficacy you are more likely to have greater self-doubt, higher levels of anxiety, and avoid difficult tasks. People with low self-efficacy are also more likely to view difficult situations as threats rather than as challenges they’re able to overcome.
High parenting self-efficacy is particularly important in early childhood because this is an unpredictable period during which kids learn most. What’s more, the relationships built in early childhood set the stage for successful parent-child relationships in adolescence and beyond. Several studies have proven that low parenting self-efficacy is associated with problem behavior during early childhood and to issues such as substance abuse and delinquency in adolescence.
Self-efficacy, however, is not a fixed trait. In other words, you can strengthen your parenting efficacy. Here are a few tips to help you improve your parenting efficacy
1 | Don’t stay in the dark
Research confirms what we already know – when you feel competent in your parenting role, you are more likely to be warm, sensitive to your kids’ needs, and engaged in their learning and development. It’s easier to think of yourself as a competent parent when you have the skills to respond to your child’s needs.
Keeping up-to-date with information from reliable sources can help provide you with useful parenting information. That said, not all the information will necessarily apply to your family. It’s important to pick what works for you and your kid. Focus on both your strengths and weaknesses to decide what matters most and how best to get to your parenting objectives.
2 | Monitoring is not synonymous with spying
You’re more likely to feel confident in your parenting skills when you know what your kid is up to. The behaviorist theory suggests that kids imitate the models with whom they identify. These models could be their friends and parents, but they could also be TV personalities or other people in kids’ environment. Several studies suggest that kids exposed to violent models are more likely to be less empathetic, engage in aggressive behavior, or demonstrate fearfulness.
It’s important to know who your kid is hanging out with and what he’s watching, but this doesn’t mean spying on him. Watching his favorite show together at least once, playing video games together, and organizing play dates is an easy way to monitor your kid’s activities without spying.
3 | Work on your stress and depression levels first
Parenting self-efficacy and stress levels are inseparable. Research suggests that parents with high stress and depression levels are more likely to have low parenting self-efficacy. Conversely, the higher parents’ self-efficacy levels, the less likely they are to suffer from anxiety, stress, and depression.
Working on the issues underlying your stress and depression is the first step if you need to increase your parenting self-efficacy. Moreover, you cannot help your kid manage her stress and anxiety if you haven’t learned to manage yours.
Other studies suggest that parenting self-efficacy is also higher when kids are better able to respond effectively to emotional cues. Indeed, there are many occasions on which misbehavior can be explained by kids’ inability to manage difficult emotions. Using appropriate strategies to talk to your kid about emotions is an important step to help her learn to manage those emotions by herself, and this can also help strengthen your parenting self-efficacy.
4 | “Find your tribe”
Finding “your tribe” has almost become a cliché but the more supported you feel in your parenting, the more likely you are to develop a high level of parenting self-efficacy. A strong support network is important and couple support is one of the most important determinants of this self-efficacy. Sharing parenting tasks with your partner reduces the feeling that you’re overwhelmed or stressed, and increases your confidence in your parenting.
Parenting support may also be provided by family and friends. There’s evidence that this support can enable you to deal better with stressful events and to feel that you’re doing a good job as a parent. Strengthening your support network also means knowing whether or not to avoid people who constantly criticize your parenting.
5 | Strengthen your kid’s self-efficacy
Strengthening your kid’s self-efficacy also strengthens your parenting efficacy. There are several easy habits that foster kids’ autonomy. Providing unstructured but creative environments motivates your kid to solve problems by himself and also fosters his creativity.
6 | Multiply opportunities to bond
Strong families make time to hang out together. Creating opportunities to bond will strengthen your family relationship. Start a family ritual. If done right, family rituals can help the whole family connect, reduce sibling rivalry, and strengthen your parenting self-efficacy.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Believe you can and you’re already halfway there”
An earlier version of this post appeared on parent.com