Erikson's Stage 4 - Industry versus Inferiority
Schoolgoer from 6 - 11 years
I am what I can achieve ...
At the school-going stage, the child's world extends beyond the home to the school. The emphasis is on academic performance. There is a movement from play to work. Earlier the child could play at activities with little or no attention given to the quality of results. Now, he needs to perform and produce good results!
The child soon learns that he can win recognition from parents, teachers and peers by being proficient in his school work. The attitudes and opinions of others become important. The school plays a major role in the resolution of the developmental crisis of initiative versus inferiority.
If children are praised for doing their best and encouraged to finish tasks then work enjoyment and industry may result. Children's efforts to master school work help them to grow and form a positive self-concept ... a sense of who they are.
Children who cannot master their school work may consider themselves a failure and feelings of inferiority may arise.
A child may also feel a sense of shame if his parents unthinkingly share his "failures" with others. Shame stems from a sense of self-exposure, a feeling that one's deficiencies are exposed to others.
There is a danger in "I am what I can achieve" ... children may come to believe that they must earn love and acceptance. This thinking runs counter to the gospel of grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Parents need to give their children "unconditional love" that no matter what they do, they are still your children.
How can you accept your children's efforts without placing value judgements about what is accomplished? How can you limit feelings of inferiority?
Here are some things I do to play down comparisons and limit feelings of inferiority. I refrain myself from asking the grades of their (my children) classmates because their grades have no relevance to my children's performance. Moreover, there will always be others with better grades and others with worse grades ... so why compare?
I tell my boys that no one is last in the Wong family ... you are either first, second, third or fourth. I stress that each one of us is different with strengths in different areas. Encourage self-competition and a spirit of excellence to be the best that he can be (that is, in comparison to his potential and not in comparison to others).
Teachers also exert a significant impact on children. Most children in lower primary levels tend to heed the words of their teachers more than their parents. The child who had his sense of industry encouraged at home can have it derogated at school through an insensitive teacher.