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Building Relationships
March 7, 2013
The best smell is bread; the best savour, salt; the best love, that of children.
-George Herbert
"To say building relationships with young children is important seems so obvious as to be hardly worth mentioning — and that is the problem. It is so obvious that we don’t give it much thought; don’t go into what it really takes to build relationships, and so, don’t often try to fully understand what it takes to build relationships with children."

This is the caution offered by George Scarlett in his article, "Building Relationships with Young Children," which is one of ten classic Exchange articles in the new Exchange Essential: Friendships. Here are two exceprts:

"...Adults need to understand that attachments are fostered by a variety of small acts other than by making physical contact. That is, in early childhood, attachment is not simply or mainly about physical contact and being held. It is about someone noticing what a child is doing and understanding a child’s goals ('I see you making a green curvy line!'). It is about providing help when help is desired and needed ('You want help tying your shoes? Okay, but let’s do it together.'). It is about being an ally when trouble arises ('You say Billy took your marker. Let’s go have a chat with Billy.'). Fostering and maintaining positive attachments with young children means, then, doing a variety of little things we may normally do but without thinking of them as fostering attachments....

"With respect to communicating better, today’s diverse classrooms require teachers to become much more adept at communicating differently depending on the child. Some children take a friendly and reasonable way of communicating as a license to misbehave. Others take any hint at sternness as an indication that an adult is mean. Today’s teachers need, then, to figure out what their ways of communicating mean to each and every child — and adjust their ways to meet the needs and meanings of each child. When it comes to communicating and relationship building, one size definitely does not fit all."

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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Marcia Lieberman
United States
03/08/2013 06:14 am

Hi George - Your writing about toddlers and young children always strikes the right chord with me and I often post excerpts for our teachers. The examples you give are lifted directly from the daily experience of teachers and parents and bring us back to the basics despite the myriad of regulations and other concerns.

Linda Gillespie
Washington, DC, United States
03/07/2013 08:35 am

I so agree with this author but would have loved to see some examples for infants and toddlers. For example, taking time to respond thoughtfully to an infant's cries or coos. Noticing an infant's reaction when you give them a new food, "oh, that's something different, isn't it?" Repeating what you think a toddler said or meant when he pointed and cried when his dad left that morning-"Oh, it's hard when people leave, I can see you are sad, I will sit with you until you feel better." And of course developing comforting rituals and routines that help infants and toddlers feel safe and know who they can depend on.

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