Importance of Building the Virtue of “Purpose” in Children

During developmental years, children learn to make decisions independently, taking steps and charting their pathway as a part of progressing in life. 

If you hold a glass of water in your hand for thirty minutes, your arm starts to ache; after two hours, the arm goes numb. The more time is spent holding the glass of water, the more damage it does to the arm. Ironically the weight of the glass of water plays the role of catalyst, i.e., the more the weight, the faster the impact. Similar is taking the initiative to develop the virtue of purpose for your child. Erik Erikson’s expertise provides further insight into why developing initiative in early childhood is essential.

The process of building initiative:

The importance and ways to develop this virtue are further elucidated by understanding the concept. Erik Erikson emphasized that from three to five years of age (preschool period) is the time to inculcate the virtue of taking the initiative in a child. During this time, children display self-control with independence as they plan activities, explore through play, form social bonds and interactions.

Let’s explore the dynamics of what happens if the virtue of purpose is not developed. Those who can exert control and initiative lead others, while those who fail to build it experience guilt, self-doubt, and a lack of confidence. Erikson further explains the crucial role of parents, caregivers during this stage. Suppose the caregivers react to the children’s ideas and curiosity negatively, such as dismissing, shaming, or disapproval. In that case, the child will develop feelings of shame for coming up with something new. In other words, a sense of guilt can be developed in a child if their ability to take the initiative is met with criticism. It is troublesome if the child begins to associate initiative with shame as they will fear leadership and become dependent on others to make their own decisions. If a child doesn’t develop the virtue of purpose, they face a constant dilemma of “Am I good or bad?”.

What can a caregiver do to ensure a child doesn’t develop feelings of guilt? It is of utmost importance to encourage initiation of, participation in, and exploration into various activities, such as playing with peers, coming up with different games to play, new activities to do, etc. They start to decide which friends they want to play with and come up with new approaches to different tasks. 

Thus, a caregiver provides the pathway, guidance for a child to try new things, make mistakes and learn from them.  This is the stage when parents teach their children to make good decisions, and it can be helpful to use modeling and reinforcement for the same. To further explore how to achieve that, you can get in touch with our experts at MyTalkWorld Wellness, who would discuss the optimal way of helping your child grow into healthy, secure individuals.