Erikson’s Initiative Versus Guilt

Another one of Erik Erikson’s theories is the concept of Initiative Versus Guilt.  I think this theory is very important because it explains the new and exciting change in a child’s development.  When a toddler grows into the preschool age, he will develop an initiative, or curiosity to socialize and achieve common or new goals.  Guilt is introduced when a parent scolds a child for his actions, resulting in the child feeling guilty or at fault.  Later, I will explain these concepts in detail.

When a child develops an initiative to be more social or complete new tasks, many of these ideas come from watching the parents or older siblings.  We can apply this theory to everyday situations.  Children can pretend to be a cook, doctor, or hair stylist by using props.  Children in other countries also pretend to perform the jobs or actions of their culture.  This imitation of everyday events can open up a new door for a child’s development.  Aside from just imitating the parents’ roles, children can learn from siblings as well.  They may join in during games with fellow preschoolers after playing those games with older siblings.  These behaviors can teach children about themselves as well as their social surroundings.  After learning how to socialize and interact in different activities, children can pick up an interest to play sports on a team.

When a child is imitating the actions of the parents, he/she tends to form a superego with the same-sex parent.  This means that the child follows the gender-role standards of their society.  For example, little Suzy would probably be more likely to help her mother cook dinner in the kitchen than she would be likely to help her father change a flat tire.  It is said that children tend to form this superego in order to avoid punishment, or what I’m referring to as “guilt.”

When a child disobeys the standards or performs the simple task in the wrong way, parents can cause them to feel a sense of guilt.  There is a fine line between correcting a child and making them feel guilty about their actions.  Parents must correct wrong behaviors of simple tasks in order to teach children for the future.  When a simple task is learned or observed, a preschool-aged child is likely to remember it.  This is a reason why people avoid using profanity in front of children.  They can easily pick up the words, or even repeat it, thinking it is appropriate.  If a child is feeling guilt from being corrected in the wrong way, he/she may not interact or socialize so much in the future.  In my opinion, parents should talk in a calming manner, and they should suggest for the child to perform the task in a different way.

Self-efficacy ties into this concept because it can be described as an ambition or confidence to reach a number of different goals.  When a child has a high amount of self-efficacy, he/she will be more outgoing and confident about individuality.  A low amount of self-efficacy can result in shyness, avoidance, or even mistrusted relationships, which we talked about earlier.  I believe I have a medium level of self-efficacy.  I do work my hardest and strive to reach my goals, yet I never give myself enough credit for my work.  I wouldn’t blame my parents for this, but I would blame myself.  As a shy child, I was not interested in sports or groups until around the age of 10.  As I have grown older, I feel that I have developed more self-efficacy because I am involved in different sports and groups.

Although everyone has different levels of self-efficacy, I believe it is very important to believe in yourself, no matter who you are.  People need confidence and guidance to succeed.  Whenever I feel upset or too overwhelmed with school, my mother is always there to remind me about “footprints.”  Footprints in the Sand is a poem written by Mary Stevenson.  To summarize the poem, my mother tells me to remember footprints because when the footprints left in the sand aren’t there anymore, God is there to carry you to the next set of footprints to follow.  In the future, I will give others advice to be confident.  In order to make your dreams come to life, all you have to do is look beyond the outer.  Look away from the obstacles you may face, or the road blocks that may try to stop you from reaching your destination.  I will help others develop the confidence, or initiative, to reach their dreams in life, as others have helped me.

As captain of the swim team, I led my team to victory in winning the section title for the 6th year in a row.


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