Understanding Our Children’s Development

Have you ever read something and it just clicks, you completely understand it and you can see the validity of it?

I found this happening often when I was in grad school for counseling and mental health in 2018.  Particularly in my Counseling Interventions class my first semester, we’d be talking about a theory that I have never heard of and I would think “yes, I’ve seen this and I’ve done this!”

See, I had never taken a psychology course before but I have always been interested in self development and wellbeing.  I did yoga for the first time when I was twelve and asked for a yoga VHS for my birthday, and yes you read that correctly, A VHS tape. That tells you something about how old I am 🙂

I discovered this yogi on some tv network back then and planned on being awake at some ungodly hour to catch his class, it was only on at this horribly early hour and there was no TeeVo. I remember waking up feeling happy and calm, ready to try something new.

When I was sixteen I went on a women’s retreat with my mom, I was the youngest person there but felt totally comfortable there. All the women were welcoming and warm, we were all there to discover parts of ourselves.  We did something called rebirthing, we drew an image from our childhood to discuss, and made vision boards.  I felt lucky to be there, to have the opportunity to experience something many don’t at my age.  I’ve always felt like an old soul but at the same time behind in so many ways. I feel like I have taken the long road to find myself and discover things on my own. As I said earlier there were some theories that sounded all too familiar to me.

A Stand Out

One of these is Erik Erikson’s stage theory of psychosocial development. Erikson was a student of Freud’s but broke off from his work to develop his own theories based on social factors. He believed our personality doesn’t stop developing after Freud’s last stage in his psychosexual theory known as the genital phase (puberty to adulthood), becoming the very first theory to span the entirety of our lives. Unlike Freud, Erikson believed that experiences later in life can heal or ameliorate early childhood problems.

Psychosocial vs Psychosexual

Psychosocial theory takes into account the influence social factors have on one’s mind or behavior, and to the correlation of behavioral and social factors in developing our personalities.  We are not driven by sexual drives but by social conditions. At each stage we have to successfully navigate the “crisis” in order to gain healthy coping mechanisms to help us in the next stage of development.

His stages are as follows:


Psychosocial Crisis

Basic Virtue



Trust vs. Mistrust


0 – 1½


Autonomy vs. Shame


1½ – 3


Initiative vs. Guilt


3 – 5


Industry vs. Inferiority


5 – 12


Identity vs. Role Confusion


12 – 18


Intimacy vs. Isolation


18 – 40


Generativity vs. Stagnation


40 – 65


Ego Integrity vs. Despair



Source: https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

On the other end Freud’s psychosexual drive theory states personality is developed through a series of childhood stages in which pleasure seeking energies from the id become fixated on certain erogenous zones. The llibido is described as the driving force behind behavior. The five psychosexual stages are as follows:


Age (years)

Erogenous Zone


Adult Fixation




Dependency or Aggression

Drinking, smoking, nail biting, eating




Toilet Training

Messy, wasteful, or destructive vs orderly, rigid, obsessive




Elektra or Oedipus Complex

Vanity or over ambition




Sexual desires are pushed to the background, focus is on social and intellectual pursuits

Communication skills and self confidence solidify



Potential Sexual Partners

Sexual desire returns – seeks to connect with others

Problems from previous stages are carried over

Trust vs Mistrust

This is the first and  most fundamental stage in life. Infants are utterly dependent on their caregiver. It’s tantamount in this stage to develop trust which is based on the dependability and quality of the child’s caregivers.

Infants are completely dependent upon their adult caregivers for everything they need to survive which includes food, love, warmth, safety, and nurturing. If a caregiver is unable to provide adequately, the child will come to feel that they cannot trust or depend on the adults in their life. They will feel fear and believe the world is inconsistent, unpredictable, and unsafe. On the other hand if the caregivers are able to adequately meet their needs at this stage the child will develop trust for the adults around them and feel safe and secure in the world. Of course no one is perfect, it’s about finding balance between trust and doubt.

Autonomy vs Shame

The second stage of Erikson’s theory is focused on children developing a greater sense of personal control. At this stage it is important to have patience with children, they are learning how to do everything for the first time.  They don’t know how to put a shirt on or use a spoon.  It’s important to strike a balance between giving them space to do things on their own and helping them do it.  They start deciding what they want to wear, eat, or play with and it’s important to allow them these freedoms to some degree.  Too much failure or freedom is anxiety producing and should be mitigated by healthy boundaries and a helping hand when they are struggling.

By allowing kids to make choices and gain control, parents and caregivers can help children develop a sense of autonomy.  If they are denied independence they become too dependent on their caregivers and experience feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. 

Understandably this is a hard stage for all as caregivers have time constrictions and children have no sense of time. It’s important to give kids limited choices and time boundaries in order to ameliorate anxiety for both you and your children.


Back to my yoga story, you know what ended up happening. Nothing, I did yoga that one time because I didn’t feel confident in myself to keep it up on my own.  I didn’t open that VHS tape till years later because I thought I had broken it and felt ashamed that I had heard it crack when I kicked my bag to fit it in somewhere. I felt it in my bones when I learned about these theories, though nothing is perfect. I could look at my past and see where I may have not been able to successfully work through a stage and how to move through these stages with the help of a therapist and my own inner work.

The point is I experienced both trust and mistrust, autonomy and shame in my life. It’s not one or the other sometimes, it’s both and. Which is one of my favorite takeaways from grad school, it’s both and.

Reach out to learn more about parenting therapy.

Yours truly,

Natalie Czaplicki, M.S.Ed. & M.Phil.Ed

If you’re interested in learning more and finding your true self contact me at:


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Resources and Other Fun Things:

wikipedia.org – Erik Erikson

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development

Simply Psychology.org – Sigmund Freud

9 Ways for Parents to Take Care of Their Mental Health During Covid-19

Trust vs. Mistrust: Learning to Trust the World Around Us

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