Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt – 12 Months to 3 Years

Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt – 12 Months to 3 Years

In toddlerhood, the child is now moving to a new stage in their development. At this point, he has an opportunity to build self-esteem and autonomy as he or she learns new skills and right from wrong.

During this time of the “terrible twos”, defiance, temper tantrums, and stubbornness can also appear. Children tend to be vulnerable during this stage, sometimes feeling shame and low self-esteem during an inability to learn certain skills.

Emotional Development during the first 3 years
Your 1-year-old will begin to try and become independent in many ways. But, they’re also likely to be clingy and seek you for comfort when feeling tired, scared, or lonely.

By the time they turn 2, you’re likely to see some defiant behavior as they insist on doing what they want, even when you say “no.”

What most children do by the age of 1 year:
• Is shy or nervous with strangers
• Cries when mom or dad leaves
• Has favorite things and people
• Shows fear in some situations
• Hands you a book when he wants to hear a story
• Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
• Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing
• Plays games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”

By the age of 18 months most children
• Likes to hand things to others as play
• May have temper tantrums
• May be afraid of strangers
• Shows affection to familiar people
• Plays simple pretend, such as feeding a doll
• May cling to caregivers in new situations
• Points to show others something interesting
• Explores alone but with parent close by

At the age of 2 years:
• Copies others, especially adults and older children
• Gets excited when with other children
• Shows more and more independence
• Shows defiant behavior (doing what he has been told not to)
• Plays mainly beside other children, but is beginning to include other children, such as in chase games

Social and Emotional development at the age of 3 years
• Copies adults and friends
• Shows affection for friends without prompting
• Takes turns in games
• Shows concern for crying friend
• Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
• Shows a wide range of emotions
• Separates easily from mom and dad
• May get upset with major changes in routine
• Dresses and undresses self

The toddler will learn that they are an autonomous, independent person who has control in their world, or they will learn that making independent decisions is something to be ashamed of. This is often a challenging stage for many adults. Our first word is often ‘NO’. Being told ‘no’ all the time leads to feelings of shame and doubt. We need to ensure that we give toddlers the opportunity to make limited decisions.1

Dr Diala Romani,
MD . Pediatrics and Neonatology. Head division of Newborn Service ; Keserwan Medical Center

1-McLeod, S. A. (2018, May 03). Erik Erikson’s Stages Of Psychosocial Development. Simply Psychology.Child Theorists and Their Theories in Practice, Aussie Childcare Network
2-American Academy of Pediatrics. Emotional Development: 1 Year Olds.
3-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important Milestones: Your Child By One Year.
4-Shelov, Sreven P. M.D., M.S., F.A.A.P., et. al. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child Birth to Age 5. Banatam Book, 2009. ​
Aptamil is not the author of this article, as it has been written by Dr Diala Romani who is the owner of the content.

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