Erikson’s First Five Life Stages and the “Good Enough” Parent

3 Sep

Erikson came up with seven life stages and what the goals were to accomplish in each stage. Five of these stages take us from infancy through the teen years. If you’ve been worried about whether your parenting makes the mark, take a look at these descriptions of each of the five first stages and see where you fit in!

Trust vs. Mistrust (12 – 18 months of age): The superparent attempts to care for the infant, run the household, be social director for the couple, be a professional, etc. This person does not make an allowance for self-care.

The good-enough parent lets go of some outside responsibilities to spend time with the infant; feels it’s OK to take FMLA; it’s OK to “date” partner and leave baby with a trusted caregiver.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (18 months to 3 years): The superparent takes it as a personal failure if the child is not toilet-trained by 2 – 2 1/2 years; s/he rearranges the house so it won’t be necessary to say No to the child.

The good-enough parent demonstrates flexibility with toilet training; s/he works around the No saying to sometimes give the child what s/he wants in fantasy.

Initiative vs. Guilt (3 – 6 years): The superparent expects more from the child than s/he is capable of. This parent may say, “You’re acting like a baby,” and will discourage the child from playing with finger paints. The child must appear acceptable to others.

The good-enough parent teaches responsibility, such as by asking the child to pick up his/her toys and to share. However, the good-enough parent allows the child to be a child.

Industry vs. Inferiority (6 – 12 years): The superparent pushes the child to belong to “X” number of groups and activities, all the while modeling perfectionism. This person displays a whirl of busyness but does not model self-care.

The good-enough parent allows the child to dabble in a variety of hobbies and leisure-time activities. This parent refuses to play the martyr, so the child will not be forced into feeling guilty. At this stage, the parent lets the child make mistakes and experience “humanness” by modeling it and by allowing the child to experiment and sometimes fail.

Identity vs. Role Confusion (12 – 18 years): The superparent makes sure the child has a tutor for the SAT exam; s/he will pump the teen for information or get involved in extracurricular activities as a “band parent.” S/he may also go in the opposite direction and neglect the teen in a bid for career enhancement.

The good-enough parent makes an effort to attend some sports events and other activities. S/he LISTENS, OBSERVES, AND ADMITS HIS/HER OWN MISTAKES!

Have questions? You can respond to this post or contact me through my website,

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