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The Third Psychological Stage by Erik Erikson

The third psychological stage discussed by Erikson deals with initiative and guilt; it commonly occurs during the time children are 4-6 years old (UGA Social Work Student, 2009). Kids start to initiate activities, holding the leading role that gives the power to make decisions. It is significant to give children an opportunity to reveal and develop their initiative. If such behavior is not encouraged, they will suffer from a sense of guilt (Slavin, 2014).

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Extreme criticism and control expressed by parents and teachers can make children a follower for the rest of one’s life. Constant punishment and restrictions will make kids consider that initiative is bad. If parents are tying a child’s shoes, they save time and help one with a complicated activity but also make the kid believe that it is beyond his/her abilities.

At this age, children are willing to get to know more that is why parents and teachers who pay attention to the lack of knowledge can develop their sense of guilt. For example, when a child asks why the sky is blue, it is critical to provide some imaginary if not true to life answer. If adults start embarrassing a kid, claiming that one asks stupid questions and is a nuisance, a child will feel guilty for such behavior.

As a result, one will be afraid to communicate with others, believing that they will consider him/her to be not good enough. Both initiative and creativity will be affected adversely, which will cause problems with the course of time. In a case, when a child is learning how to write, modern parents may find it more advantageous to give one a computer and let type letters and words, as this process is easier and fewer mistakes can be made. Still, it is better to let the child write on paper, as one will have an opportunity to make personal decisions, for instance, regarding the tool used (pen, pencil, crayon, etc.).

However, it cannot be denied that children should experience some guilt. It can help them to develop self-control and act consciously. Thus, it is critical to maintain a healthy balance. For example, kids may conduct risk-taking behaviors, such as crossing the street in inappropriate places. That is why parents are to encourage initiative but pay much attention to the choices and purposes for them to be realistic and healthy.


Slavin, R. (2014). Educational Psychology theory and practice. New York, NY: Pearson.

UGA Social Work Student. (2009). Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. [Video File]. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'The Third Psychological Stage by Erik Erikson'. 24 December.

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