Developmental task: Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt

Children of 18 months to 3 years starts gaining control over eliminative functions and their motor abilities become better and stronger with every passing day. This is the time when a toddler starts to explore his or her surroundings. This time, the child’s mental and physically abilities are enhancing at a remarkable rate and he constantly tries to explore his environment and learn different things. This can be regarded as the child as an autonomous being. However this new phase of a toddler’s psychosocial development is facilitated by the encouragement and patience of parents. It is worth mentioning here that at this stage of development extra care is required to prevent child from engaging with dangerous items.

With the development of mental abilities child starts to develop different interests. He may show interest in playing with a ball or in listening to music. The type of environment also has strong effects on child’s developing interests. For example, if parents frequently take child outdoor then child may develop interests in animals, birds and plants.

If parents behave overly restrictive the child may develop a sense of doubt and hesitation. He may become reluctant to try new things. In the meantime when the child is gaining better control over his body he starts showing better muscular coordination. Parents may observe their toddler doing difficult tasks successfully. Similarly, child starts to fulfill his basic needs autonomously. Toddlers begin to feed themselves and develop neural control over the processes of urination and defecation.

If the motivation is lacking on the part of caregivers or the environment is not that conducive then the child may develop the sense of shame and doubt. His self confidences falls and he becomes reluctant in trying new things. Parents must keep a tight balance between encouragements and restraint. So, on one end the safety of child is ensures and on the other end child has optimum chances of learning from his environment. Provision of more complicated toys and initiating different outdoor and indoor activities help a lot in this regard. Criticizing the child for committing minor accidents like soiling, spilling and breaking things can have strong negative effects upon his mind and reinforces the sense of doubt and shame.

Furthermore, parents must keep in mind that toddlers start to identify themselves as a person with his own desires and abilities, that is – independent. He likes to do things without the help of his caregivers. So, parents must give the young kid chance to learn and practice new things. This would not only help in improving his physical capabilities and strength but also helps in mental development and building of self esteem. In addition, it is advised to become clear and specific in explaining different things to them. The Incorporation of negative concepts or colloquial speech must be avoided also.

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Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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