Creating a success identity
Every child should have the opportunity to create a “Success Identity.” It is particularly important during the 7 to 11-year-old stage of development. My mentor Harvard social psychologist, Erik Erikson described it as “Industry versus Inferiority.”
Children at that age need to create, be industrious, and to experience success in any form and/or activity. If not, they begin experiencing a sense of “inferiority”. This can affect a child’s learning potential as well as intelligence.
They also need to experience a sense of “industry,”. Looming on the horizon is the next critical stage of development called adolescence. Erikson’s stage called “Identity versus Role Confusion.”
A lack of industry or success experiences can develop the opposite sense of self.
One of “inferiority,”.
This can be emotional, intellectual, or social. This is troubling if the lack of abilities or skills make their way into adolescence. In its most negative form “role confusion” develops. This is your standard school dropout – kids attracted to bad role models. oppositional behavior toward rules and laws of society and family.
The first step for the creation of a “success identity” should be a series of assessments.
These can help define your child/adolescent’s academic skills. They can also highlight other strengths and vocational intelligences.
Teens caught in a state of “role confusion” must find a positive identity. Erikson’s next stage (adult) is “intimacy versus isolation.” Adults lacking a sense of intimacy with family, job, and community, feel isolated. Our prisons and our divorce courts fill with such individuals.
The first assessment should measure math, written language, and reading skills. It is imperative that the child/adolescent has the basic skills to succeed in the world. Weak reading and math skills can become weights. This can contribute to a perception of inferiority and role confusion. The second assessment focuses on other strengths. It should measure the child’s preferred intelligences.
Our schools/society focus on left-brain, verbal and logical curriculum. A child whose preferred intelligence is visual sees the world in an abstract way. They could experience a sense of “inferiority or “role confusion”. This is harmful during the critical school years of skill and academic development.
The third assessment should test the child’s vocational intelligence. Bill Gates nurtured his vocational interests in computers in High School. Steven Spielberg nurtured his filmmaking vocation by making family films at age six!
The second step should be for parents to read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers. The book describes what Gladwell calls his 10,000-hour rule. The Mozart’s and the Gates of the world started on their 10,000-success identity early in life. They invested countless hours to reach the pinnacle of success.
The final step should be a consultation with parents and child/adolescent. Describe his/her academic strengths and weaknesses. As well as identifying strength and vocational intelligences. A consultation supported by a detailed report.
The assessment results are then used to create his/her personal “Success Identity.”
Dr David Sortino, Psychologist, Harvard University