Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Assignment 1
Academic integrity reading response; Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

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Throughout much of our history, children were seen as small versions of adults. As such, the progress of their cognitive, physical and language development as well as development of their personality was largely ignored (Peterson, 2010, p.15). It was not till the early 20th century when psychologists developed an interest in child development. Since then, many child development theories were formed changing our ways of viewing children. Eric Erikson, the creator of one of the best known theories of psychosocial development, suggests that personality develops in a series of stages, and is largely influenced by social interactions. During stage two, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, toddlers learn new skills for themselves including self-toileting. Interaction with the environment may either help the child to build a sense of autonomy or bring on a feeling of shame and self-doubt consequently, loss of self-esteem (Kinservik & Friedhoff, 2000). Toilet training of a 30 month old toddler, the topic of this assignment, can be for parents an anxiety-producing experience due to the normal behavior of a child of this age; the terrible two??™s. Parents often seek help. Nurses having knowledge on Erikson??™s theory can support parents with strategies that can help them with this task.

Erik Erikson developed Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development. According to him, at every stage of life, the individual has to encounter new challenges. Each stage builds on successful resolutions of the earlier stages??™ challenges, and for each challenge the individual needs to be ready (Kinservik & Friedhoff, 2000). Toddlers that are encouraged by their rapid motor and language skills, work towards gaining control over themselves and the environment in order to become a fully autonomous individual. Each time they successfully resolve new challenges, learn to master new skills, they develop not only a deeper sense of autonomy and sense of self but also gain more confidence in their own ability to succeed (Peterson 2010, p.184).
Toilet training is one of the many challenges that toddlers encounter during their toddlerhood, and one of the more difficult to successfully resolve. For a 30 month old toddler this difficulty lies in her/his cognitive and psychosocial abilities. A toddler of this age can remember events, put thoughts into words, and ability to speak in short sentences however, she/he is unable to assume the view of another and as such is very egocentric. The moral development also just begins so she/he does not have an understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Toddler??™s egocentrism and strong will often exhibits in negative behavior when frustrated with parental restriction and control, or trying to get her/his own way with parents. Frequent temper tantrums and non-compliance earned the name for 2 years old toddlers, the ???terrible two??™s??™ (Crisp & Taylor 2001, p.192-195, Candlin 2008,). Considering the above, toilet training can be an anxiety producing experience for both, the toddler and parent. Erik Erikson (cited in Kinservik & Friedhoff, 2000) states that ???toilet training is a battle-ground of the wills??™. Both, parent and the child, try to exert control during this time; parents by controlling the time, place, frequency and length of toilet/potty sitting, and a child by deciding when to do what the parent wants. He also emphasizes the role of psychosocial influences on personality development. If toilet training becomes a ???battle of wills??™ between the parent and child, it may not help the child to built sense of autonomy but on contrary it may bring a feeling of shame and self-doubt. Nurses who provide support to parents with their 30 month old child??™s toilet training need to consider both, the typical behavior of this age children including tantrums, negativity, stubbornness, and the goal of this task, which is to achieve a child??™s independence with toileting while minimizing shame and doubt. As such nurses??™ advice for parent to be firm but not too demanding or pushy, and to be tolerant but not too permissive and overprotective, would be appropriate. Erikson (cited in George Boree, 2006) states, a balance is required so ???the child will develop both self-esteem and self-control??™. Nurses also need to stress that parent??™s encouragement, support, consistency and patience is crucial for a child??™s successful toilet training. Encouragement might include making toileting ???fun??™ for a while by singing together or reading a book to the child while she/he is sitting on the potty, or by giving an example by letting the child to observe or sit on the potty whenever the parent is using the toilet, toddlers love to copy adults. Offering help, giving credit for trying even if she/he does not make it to the toilet in time, and assuring that accidents do not matter are not only ways of making sure that a child feels supported in her/his efforts, but also ways of fostering the child??™s autonomy and self-esteem (Better Health, 2008). Asking frequently if she/he wants to use the potty, and acknowledging the importance of the child??™s current activity before asking, would not only support the child??™s independent initiative but also might help control the situation without the child having a tantrum. Being too strict and forcing a child when she/he refuses to use a potty/toilet instead waiting and trying when a child is ready; and getting angry or punishing a child for its incontinence or stubborn retention instead staying calm and positive may introduce the child with the sense of shame and doubt and reluctance to further attempts of toilet training (George Boree, 2006).

In conclusion, during stage two, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, toddlers learn new skills for themselves including self-toileting, and have an opportunity to develop autonomy and self-esteem. Interaction with the environment may either help the child to built sense of autonomy or bring on a feeling of shame and self-doubt consequently, loss of self-esteem. As such parents of a 30 month old child, need to be reassuring but also firm during the time of her/his toilet training in order for a child to develop both, self-esteem and self-control.

Boeree, G. 2006, ???Personality Theories; Erik Erikson 1902-1994??™ [Online], Available: [10 April 2010].
Candlin, S. 2008, Therapeutic Communication, A life span approach, Pearson Education Australia, Frenchs Forest, NSW.
Crisp, J. & Taylor, K. 2001, Potter & Perry??™s Fundamentals of Nursing, Harcourt Australia, Marrickville, NSW.
Kinservik M. A. & Friedhoff M. M. 2000, May 2000, ???Control Issues In Toilet Training??™, Pediatric Nursing, [Online], Available: BNET Australia, http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m0FSZ/is_3_26/ai_n18610055/pg_3/ [10 April 2010].
Peterson. C.C. 2010, Looking Forward Through the Lifespan, 5th edn. Pearson Australia, Frenchs Forest, NSW.

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