As the child’s moral compass noticeably strengthens, the child gains an understanding of behaviour modification. With autonomy comes the ability of the child to take initiative to practise moral behaviour. Research evidence points towards the rapid development of self-regulation in the formative years as children move from being toddlers to preschoolers.
This stage of development moves from trust in their caregivers towards trust in themselves as they gain autonomy and take initiative. In the first stage the child, though theoretically gifted with a moral compass, isn’t aware of its application in controlling or regulating their thought, feeling and behaviour. The child trusts their immediate caregivers to guide them, as a result of which the child is classically conditioned to stimuli and responses. The child learns to repeat conditioned behaviour to get their needs satisfied.
It is in the second stage that kindergarten plays a major role. It is here that children learn to express their emotions and understand the relationship between behaviour and emotion. As kindergartener learns emotional regulation in the school environment through trial and error, they develop an understanding of thought. The kindergartener who in this stage depends on external motivation to understand and perform behaviours is still unable to grasp the interdependent interaction between thought, feeling and behaviour. The facilitation of this percipience is what kindergarten helps in.
It is in the stage of initiative that the child begins to explore their understanding of moral etiquette. The child also begins attributing either thought or emotion to behaviour(s) autonomously as s/he distinguishes between their personal and social morals. Although there is a lack of clarity in boundaries between the personal and social self, the child takes initiative to regulate his/her behaviour according to the environment.
A major contributor to this phase of the initiative is the perception of concepts like conformity (towards rules or norms), obedience (in following instructions) and compliance (towards requests). These concepts allow the child to choose between appropriate and inappropriate interactions and identify that they have the power to agree as well as to disagree whenever they deem necessary. As a result of this, the child begins to discover and perform tasks that they find enjoyable. Here is where preschools encourage children to realise the importance of self-motivation in task performance and personal success. Thus, also ensures the child is able to identify the need for making judgements and taking independent decisions, both of which form the core of all intrinsic motivation.
– Madhumitha Nivi