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The Importance of Building Positive Relationships with Children
Posted Sept. 21, 2012
By Jackie Guzman
UNL Extension Educator
Through trusting relationships with adults, young children learn about their world and their place in it. They learn the world is safe and responsive to their needs. They learn to form satisfying relationships with others, to communicate, to face challenges, and to experience and regulate their emotions.
Supporting a child’s healthy social and emotional growth takes commitment from all primary caregivers in the child’s life: mothers, fathers, grandparents, child care providers and other key adults. Young children observe caregivers’ relationships, and this shapes their expectations for how people treat each other. This is called social emotional development.
Young children attain social emotional competence when adults have positive interactions with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in their care. Repeated interactions lead to fairly predictable relationships, because the infant or young child begins to know how the caregiver will respond to him or her. This pattern of responses creates the emotional connection the child has to the caregiver.
Therefore, the key to building positive relationships with young children starts with establishing a pattern of positive interactions with the child.
Children who develop secure attachments to one or more adults are more likely to develop positive social and emotional skills. They know they can rely on adults to meet their needs, to respond to them, and to comfort them. They feel important and begin to develop a sense of competence and confidence.
There are several opportunities to learn more about children’s social emotional development:
Western Nebraska Early Childhood Conference Committee and Lied Scottsbluff Public Library will host an evening for parents and their children with Carol McCloud, author of “Have You Filled Your Bucket?” and “How to Fill a Bucket.” In her books she teaches parents and children how to make sure they fill children’s “emotional buckets” with positive interactions.
McCloud’s presentation is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the library at 1809 Third Ave. For more information contact Deb or Nancy at 308-630-6250. Admission is free, but children must be accompanied by a parent or adult family member.
McCloud will be in town for the 24th Annual Western Nebraska Early Childhood Conference Oct. 5-6 at the library. For more information call the Scotts Bluff County Extension Office at 308-632-1480.
Extension will be offering sessions entitled “Making a Difference: Building Positive Relationships with Children.” Dates and other details are still being worked out. For further information contact Guzman at 308-632-1475.
UNL Extension also has many resources available at its Early Childhood Education site, www.extension.unl.edu/web/child.
Here are some ways to build positive relationships with children, from Tonia Durden, assistant professor and early childhood education specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has written a curriculum for parenting classes in building positive relationships with children.
Positive interactions occur with infants and young children when adults:
- Use a warm, engaging, and comforting voice, and make eye contact - not only soothing for young children, but also to model appropriate verbal and body language queues.
- Are responsive to a child's needs and cries by comforting and holding a distressed child. The child will trust that the caregiver will meet his or her physical and emotional needs, causing less anxiety and stress for young children.
- Speak to and respond to the child’s vocalizations. When infants coo and babble they are mimicking the sounds they hear and communicating. When a caregiver responds, this affirms the child’s efforts and they continue to build their communication skills.
- Keep in mind good positioning with infants, so the child can see your face and have opportunities to interact with you.
As infants grow into toddlers and preschoolers be certain to:
- Acknowledge their efforts.
- Find out what interests the child and read it to them.
- Use descriptive, encouraging comments.
- Play with them and follow their lead.
- Let your child make “All about Me” books and share them.
- Give hugs, high fives, and thumbs up upon accomplishments displaying positive behaviors.
When communicating with young children:
- Use encouraging and positive words to tell the child what to do instead of what not to do.
- Be specific and keep it simple (try to avoid combining encouragement with criticism).
- Use enthusiasm to encourage the child.
- Use positive comments and encouragement in front of others.
- Make time to engage with children in a fun environment. This doesn’t have to cost money; just taking time to play and interact is all that the child wants from you.
- Remember you double the impact with plenty of hugs and cuddling.