Building positive relationships with young children is an essential task and a foundational component of good parenting and teaching. All children grow and thrive in the context of close and dependable relationships that provide love and nurturance, security, and responsive interactions. A positive adult-child relationship built on trust,understanding, and caring will foster children’s cooperation and motivation and increase their positive outcomes in life.
The protective factors promoted during relationship building can and do function to reduce many challenging behaviors. As such, taking the time to do relationship building may save time that would be spent implementing more elaborate and time-consuming assessment and intervention strategies. Second, as adults build positive relationships with children, their potential influence on children’s behavior grows exponentially. That is, children cue in on the presence of meaningful and caring adults and they seek out ways to ensure even more positive attention from adults.
Read more: Stop teaching your children
A metaphor for building positive relationships that is particularly helpful is that of a piggy bank. Whenever teachers and caregivers engage in strategies to build positive relationships, it is as if they are “making a deposit” in a child’s relationship piggy bank.
Conversely, when adults make demands, nag, or criticize children, it is as if they are making a relationship withdrawal. For some children, because there has been no prior effort to make deposits in their relationship piggy bank, nagging, criticism, and demands may be more akin to writing bad checks! It may be helpful to reflect on the interactions you have with an individual child and think to yourself, “Am I making a deposit or a withdrawal?” Or, “Have I made any deposits in the piggy bank today?”.
1Talk to them about non-school related subjects
Ask them about their close friends, new cars or phones in the market, the artist/musician/actor they like or their favourite past time.
2Let them teach you about their interests
Teaching & learning has to be a friendly & mutual affair. Letting kids teach their teacher or care giver can be very empowering for them. This may also help them develop further interest in their hobbies and you may never know when hobbies may turn into careers!
3Respect their individuality and autonomy
Autonomy is characterized by a feeling of being free. People are happier and healthier when they feel autonomous. This sense of well-being is maximized when young people behave in a way that’s consistent with their internal values and wishes, as opposed to the values and wishes of others. Support for autonomy also promotes empathy. When our need for autonomy is satisfied we’re more likely to feel positive.
Let the children choose what to do and when, as long as it doesn’t infringe on another person’s rights and bring harm to them, physical or mental. Treat them like human beings, with as many rights as everyone else in the house and help nurture their unique individuality.
4Involve them in decision making
Involving children in decision-making means they can influence some of the things that affect them, and offer a different perspective from adults. It helps adults understand children’s issues, helps make sure the household is in tune with children’s needs, and acknowledges children’s important role in faamily. It also helps children and young people to gain new skills and knowledge and build their confidence in other processes.
5Remember things about their lives
During a lesson, activity, discussion, or just interaction, bring up something that you remember about the child. Ask them how their team did during the game over the weekend, strike up a conversation about the last book the child read. These small gestures remind kids that you really know and care about them.
6Share about your own life
This is one of the strongest ways to build connections early on. Share about your family, pets, vacations, and activities. Share funny or even embarrassing stories. This really helps kids to see you as a real person. These real-life stories are also great to bring up when you need to get kids’ attention or shift the energy in the room.
It’s important to keep boundaries, of course, but a balance can and should be done.
7Engage in activities with them
If you see your kid painting, pick up a paper and start painting as well. It’s fine if you can’t paint. Kids won’t care about that. Instead, they will love that you joined in. Maybe they can even give you tips.
I know parents are busy. Note that you don’t have to stay the whole time or dedicate yourself to leading one of these activities. Just stopping in and showing you care will help strengthen those relationships over time.
8Do silly things
Don’t be afraid to do something different or wild to get kids attention! Stand on a table or chair while giving important directions, sing a song or start beatboxing. These experiences will stand out for the kids. It’s fine if you’re not super comfortable going all out. Start with just one thing outside your comfort zone!
9Use their interests in your lessons and activities
Sometimes this takes a little bit of planning but can go a long way! If the child is interested in race cars, discuss the energy used in a race car for a science lesson. If the child is interested in cricket, talk about the percentages of shots someone on a cricket team makes.
10Apologize when you mess up
Making mistakes does not make you a bad teacher or care giver. It happens to everyone however, we do need to own up to our mistakes when we make them. Really apologize when you make a mistake. For whatever reason, sometimes adults don’t like to do this, but it truly goes a long way in building trust.
If you want the kids to be apologetic then be apologetic. It also helps them accept mistakes much easier and become more tolerant of others’ missteps.