In need of a grandchildren “fix,” I recently drove to Rincon, GA to see one of my daughters and her family. Since their parents couldn’t seem to get much house and yard work done with the four older children around, I volunteered to take them to Dairy Queen for lunch and to the local park for fun. Energetically, they ran from one end of the park to the other and from one piece of equipment to the next before congregating around the monkey bars.
Brooke stood on the platform, poised and ready to reach out for the monkey bars. Her little face was a portrait of concentration. Twice already, she had attempted to cross over from the small platform to the one on the other side, and twice she had struggled right in the middle.
Then a little girl, a stranger, came along. Without appearing to even think about it, Vanessa reached out her right arm, grabbed the first bar, and continued all the way across until she landed safely on the other side. Brooke and I both watched her and noticed that she had a certain swing in her maneuvers. Rather than just reaching for one bar and then the next, Vanessa turned her little body from side to side, motions that seemed to propel her forward. She made it appear effortless.
Soon tiring of the monkey bars, Vanessa scampered away to find other equipment to play on, and Brooke once again ascended to the platform. Standing at the ready, she said, “I can do this.” I couldn’t help but smile, loving her determination and confidence. Again, “I can do this,” this time a little more assured. “That’s my girl,” I said. “You can do it.”
After reciting “I can do this, “ once more, Brooke grabbed the first bar, and imitating Vanessa’s swing approach, she quickly reached the other side. Almost giddy with the sense of accomplishment, she tried it again. After watching her older sister have several successful attempts, Emma clamored up on the platform. I got a little tickled as I heard her say, “I can do this.” Her face scrunched up with determination, she repeated the phrase another two times just like her older sister had done. Since Emma is younger, shorter, and not quite as coordinated as Brooke, I wasn’t quite as certain of her success. Truthfully, her little arms couldn’t even reach the first bar. She was so resolute, however, that I knew I had to help her to succeed.
“Want me to hold you up?” I asked.
“No. Just put me close enough to the first one so I can grab it,” she said. “But don’t hold on to me.”
“Want me to stay close?” I asked, knowing that if I weren’t right there, she’d likely fall to the ground below.
“Uh-huh. And put your hands beside me, but not on me until I tell you to,” she demanded.
I followed Emma’s instructions, and although I pretty much participated 50/50 in the short distance between the two platforms, she did it!
Hands down, my favorite psychological term is elf-efficacy, the belief a person has in her ability to accomplish something. This belief is reportedly more important than a person’s actual ability. If Brooke had had low perceived self-efficacy, she wouldn’t have made it across from one platform to the next despite her physical ability. While I’m on the subject of lessons, Brooke also demonstrated the power of a good example. Because of her determination and success, little Emma gave it a shot. Hmmm. And Emma taught a lesson too: people need support. People need others close enough to catch them if they fall but not too close.
The more I think about that afternoon in the park, a half a dozen situations and their inherent lessons spring to mind. I’ll save them for another day, however. Today, thanks to my granddaughters, I’m working on my self-efficacy.