A German psychoanalyst, Erik Erikson, said that all human beings must go through a series of eight stages of development
between birth and death. Keeping in mind the speed of development we see in our own children, it is not surprising that of the 8 stages, 5 take place before we reach adulthood.
In our younger children, the notable early stages are:
1. Infant (Hope): Trust vs. Mistrust ; 2. Toddler (Will) – Autonomy vs. Shame; 3. Preschooler (Purpose) – Initiative vs. Guilt
Those with a toddler in the home will not be entirely surprised that this particular stage is labelled ‘Will’. Anyone who is in, or has survived the so called ‘terrible two’s’ will already be only too acutely aware of the wilfulness of a toddler, particularly in a crowded supermarket or another such inconvenient place.
In order for both the parents and the child to survive this developmental stage unscathed, it is important to understand what is happening with the child inside, and why they react the way they do. Erikson described this stage as autonomy vs. shame: The child is learning to do things for himself and is developing a sense of pride in themselves. However, at the same time, the child is realizing that not everything is possible. Some skills are harder for them to master, and they hear that awful word ‘no’ much more often than they would like. This feeling of low self-esteem, or ‘shame’, often manifests itself in the temper tantrums we closely associate with this stage of childhood.
In order to help your child get through this stage of life as an emotionally balanced and confident individual, these pieces of advice will help you to help them.
- Let your child be their own person and make their own choices
- Allow mistakes to happen, as this is how they learn
- Strike a balance between being ‘over protective’ and not letting your child get into seriously dangerous situations
- Don’t be overly critical when things go wrong, such as spills, breakages and other accidents. Help them understand where things went wrong and allow them to learn from the experience