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Components of Self-Confidence
Seeing self as capable. Seeing oneself as capable and believing that one can do things as well as others are essential components of self-confidence (Bandura, 1977; Pack- Brown et al., 1998). The play therapist in this study fostered a sense of self as capable by encouraging children during their struggle and efforts, rather than just acknowledging their accomplishments (Kottman, 1999; Landreth, 2002; Mosak, 2000). Reflection of internal feelings of pride after children had mastered a difficult task fostered their continued motivation.
Antwan: "The bowling pins keep falling down!"
These successful experiences in the playroom helped Antwan integrate the belief that "I am capable" into his self-concept (Axline, 1947; Rogers, 1951). Seeing self as capable was facilitated during the play therapy sessions when the counselor returned responsibility to the children and provided encouragement through the struggle (Landreth, 2002). Viewing self as capable was also facilitated through the counselor’s patience and trust in the child’s self-actualizing potential. Fostering children’s sense of self-empowerment is essential, so they can master the developmental crisis of industry over inferiority in childhood (Erikson, 1963) as well as move toward a successful adult
Sense of belonging. Feeling a sense of belonging to the group and believing that one is an integral part of the group, rather than viewing oneself as a bother, are essential for building self-confidence (Adler, 1959; Pack-Brown et al., 1998). During the play therapy sessions, children often revealed their desire for a sense of belonging by playing with toy animal families (Landreth, 2002).
For example, one participant played the following scene. The snake and alligator (aggressive animals) took a baby cow (nonaggressive animal) away from the father and mother cow. The baby cow was rescued by other animals and was reunited with the cow family and the rest of the domestic animals. The counselor’s reflections, such as "Something scary happened to the baby, but now it is safely back with the family" and "It’s important for you to belong," validated this boy’s natural desire to be a part of a group.
The counselor facilitated a sense of belonging by building a relationship with and between the children and through the reflection of their desires to belong. Making friends and being a team player during group play therapy were critical tasks for these elementary school boys (Erikson, 1963). Accomplishment of these tasks prepares these boys for their future as successful African American men who are able to work in collaboration and cooperation with others (Lee, 2003).
Optimism about the future. Being optimistic about the future is essential in becoming a self-confident man (Beck & Weishar, 2000; Pack-Brown et al., 1998). Such an individual holds a positive outlook on life, contributes to others, and predicts a bright future for himself (Greenspan, 2002).
Hope was identified by Lee (1985) as an important factor in the actualization of young African American boys. During play sessions in the current study, children’s optimism was illustrated as they played roles of successful people, such as doctors, teachers, policemen, and movie stars. Positive selfdeclarations, such as "I’m going to be a doctor," were frequent within sessions. Their optimism for their future was encouraged by the counselor’s reflection of their desires for success. For example, one African American boy meticulously counted all the play money.
Aaron: "Now that I’m rich and famous, I can buy what I want."
In a later session, the following was said:
For Aaron, who lived in a poverty situation, the counselor’s affirmation of his desire to be an important person and to be a provider for his family reinforced his self-concept of having an optimistic future.
Optimism about the future was fortified within the free, safe environment of the play therapy sessions. As the counselor suspended all judgment, children’s dreams of their future flourished. By acting out the scripts of their desired future, children were acting "as if " it were true, a common counseling method for increasing self-confidence and increasing the likelihood of the behavior (Beck & Weishar, 2000; Mosak, 2000; Wilson, 2000).
Coping with failure. Being able to cope with failure by viewing the experience as an opportunity for learning and growth is paramount (Covey, 1990; Pack-Brown et al., 1998; Rogers, 1951). On the other hand, a lack of action due to a fear of failure could be a major impediment to progress. King (1997) stated, "admitting failure can be a healthy thing if approached properly. It can be employed as a tool for growth and renewal" (p. 32). The counselor’s emotional support and trust in children’s self-actualizing potential were key factors in helping the child cope with failure during play therapy sessions. For example, 7-year-old Marvin could not get the bowling pins to stand up.
Marvin: "I can’t do it." (Bowling pins fell down for the third
The counselor provided emotional support during the time that Marvin experienced a sense of failure by recognizing the difficult task and existential realities that sometimes people cannot make things happen the way they want. Marvin needed time to regroup his emotional strength by accomplishing something easier. Trusting the child’s internal time frame, self-direction, and self-actualizing potential rather than insisting on the counselor’s timetable for him to try again was essential in helping him cope with failure. Otherwise, his sense of failure may have been heightened. Instead, Marvin had a general positive sense of the playroom and a sense that he could cope with failure by finding something else at which to succeed.
The counselor provided support while children coped with failure within a safe haven where failures were accurately processed as part of the learning process, rather than as a reflection of one’s worth. The counselor’s genuine belief in the children helped them internalize the message "I experienced a failure in one task, but I’m not a failure."
Role models. Having the appropriate sources of reinforcement through role models is the final component of self-confidence (Leonard, Lee, & Kiselica, 1999; Pack- Brown et al., 1998). Positive role models with whom African American boys can identify are important to the development of their character (Bandura, 1977; Cose, 2002; Lee, 1996). Such role models are essential for counteracting the impact or the influence of negative forces that these boys encounter almost every day (Jones, 2000; King, 1997; Watkins et al., 2001).
During group play therapy, younger participants frequently identified with older or more mature participants, gained courage, and demonstrated newfound strength and skills. Children who were timid often overcame their hesitancy by watching another child succeed at a task. Merlin, an introverted 6-year-old who restricted himself to playing with the animals, saw Kevin, an extroverted 7-year-old, successfully hit the target with the dart gun.
Kevin: "I got it right in the center."
Through these interactions, younger children received the impetus from their role models and reinforcement from the counselor, while older children began to see themselves as positive influences on younger children. Both having and being a role model are uniquely available within group play therapy. Small-group intimacy coupled with the counselor’s reflection of dynamics allows children to experience the benefits of such a mentoring relationship.
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