Christian Parenting Articles    

Erikson's Stage 3 - Initiative versus Guilt
Preschooler from 3 - 6 years

I am what I imagine ...

Increased muscular, mental and language abilities set the stage for more activities and questions. There is a great curiosity and openness to learning. The favourite word of pre-schoolers is "why." Parents who take time to answer their preschoolers' questions reinforce their intellectual initiative. But parents who see their children's questions as a nuisance may stifle their initiative and cause them to be too dependent on others and to be ashamed of themselves.

Imaginative play is the basic activity of this stage. The preschooler explores and reenacts the different roles and activities of people, both real (home life) and fictional (often based on television).

Questions for discussion

Picture of TV
  1. What are your views about children acting out cartoon or action characters from television? Give reasons for your view.

  2. Does violence portrayed on television influence the attitudes and behaviour of children who watch it?

Questions for thought

  1. What can parents do to reduce the negative effects of viewing television in general and violent television in particular?

  2. If children like to pretend to be Jason, Tommy, Billy, Zack, Kimberly or Trini (the Power Rangers), why can't we encourage them to pretend to be Jacob, David, Ruth or Paul? You and your family can dramatise Bible stories for family devotions.

Preschoolers learn through play. Play is their "work." Children who are given much freedom and opportunity to initiate imaginative and motor play have their sense of initiative reinforced. Parents who inhibit their children's imaginative play or deride them as silly may cause them to develop a sense of guilt over self-initiated activities.

The following guidelines on the adult role in children's play are taken from an ERIC Digest entitled "The Nature of Children's Play" by David Fernie.

  1. Value children's play and talk to children about their play. Adults often say "I like the way you're working," but rarely, "I like the way you're playing."

  2. Play with children when it is appropriate, especially during the early years. If adults pay attention to and engage in children's play, children get the message that play is valuable.

  3. Create a playful atmosphere. It is important for adults to provide materials which children can explore and adapt in play.

  4. When play appears to be stuck or unproductive, offer a new prop, suggest new roles, or provide new experiences, such as a field trip.

  5. Intervene to ensure safe play. Even in older children's play, social conflicts often occur when children try to negotiate. Adults can help when children cannot solve these conflicts by themselves (Caldwell, 1977). Adults should identify play which has led to problems for particular children. They should check materials and equipment for safety. Finally, adults should make children aware of any hidden risks in physical challenges they set for themselves.
It is also during this stage that a rudimentary conscience emerges, regulating their initiative and imagination. His behaviour is guided by concept of "right" and "wrong" as spelt out by his parents. If the parents' expectations are unrealistic or if they punish him too severely for his mistakes then he may develop an oppressive burden of guilt.

Do you agree with the following? If yes, why? If not, why not?

"Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing. Shame is a negative judgment about the core self, which is devastating. In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behaviour ... If we want our children to care about others, we need to teach them to feel guilt rather than shame when they misbehave."

April 19, 2014: The Straits Times
"How to raise a moral child" by Professor Adam Grant
Author of Give and Take: Why Helping Other Drives Our Success

Erik Erikson's Stages - Applied and Made Easy for Parents Jun 1998 Alan S.L. Wong