Will The Basic Strength of Early Childhood

The basic strength of will or willfulness evolves from the resolution of the crisis of autonomy versus shame and doubt. This step is the beginning of free will and willpower—but only a beginning. Mature willpower and a significant measure of free will are reserved for later stages of development, but they originate in the rudimentary will that emerges during early childhood. Anyone who has spent much thne around 2-year-olds knows how willful they can be. Toilet training often epitomizes the conflict of wills between adult and child, but willful expression is not lhnited to this area. The basic conflict during early childhood is between the child's striving for autonomy and the parent's attempts to control the child through the use of shame and doubt.

Children develop will only when their environment allows them some self-expression hi then control of sphincters and other muscles. When then experiences result hi too much shame and doubt, children do not adequately develop this second important basic strength. Inadequate will is expressed as compulsion, the core pathology of early childhood. Too little will and too much compulsivity carry forward into the play age as lack of purpose and into the school age as lack of confidence.

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