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Emotional Functioning: Improve

Infants and Toddlers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to support children’s emotional functioning is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that support infants’ and toddlers' emotional functioning:2
    • Be sensitive and empathetic.
    • Monitor children’s emotions and expression of emotion.
    • Share positive emotion with children by smiling and laughing with them, sharing enjoyment and interest.
    • Help infants to regulate by soothing or distracting them or engaging them more positively.
    • Support toddlers in learning to manage their own emotions by commenting on their emotional state and offering strategies for calming themselves.
    • Identify children's emotional and behavioral "triggers" (e.g., objects, people, or situations that can cause stress and lead to a negative reaction) and seek to minimize them. For example, anticipate situations that will be stressful or frustrating for children and manage the amount of stress or prepare children for the situation. You may also help children identify and avoid overly stressful situations.
    • Be sensitive to children’s fatigue and excitement levels and change the pace of the activity accordingly.
    • Recognize that “quiet alert” states are cues and may be the optimal times for engaging infants.
    • Talk about peers as people with feelings.
    • Talk about the perspectives of others to help children understand that other children have feelings and these feelings may differ from the child’s.
  • In home-based programs, consider identifying and including broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit your planning goals and action steps where you and your coach/supervisor identified a teaching practice you want to work on. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where your coach/supervisor can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Share positive emotion with children by smiling and laughing with them, sharing enjoyment and interest, you might ask your coach/supervisor to focus on whether your facial expressions and tone of voice match the positive emotions of children during an observation period. You might also ask her to note when your affect was flat or not consistent with the positive tone of the children in your setting.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s emotional functioning?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child? Other children?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

Preschoolers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to support children’s emotional functioning is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that support preschoolers’ emotional functioning:3
    • Model behaviors and attitudes that are warm, respectful, and caring.
    • Give full attention to a child who is communicating with you and show interest in the child’s perspective.
    • Show concern when a child is distressed, responding in helpful ways.
    • Demonstrate acceptance of children's feelings.
    • Label children’s feelings and/or encourage them to label their own feelings.
    • Help children understand the link between their actions (causes) and effects (consequences). For example, describe for a child what she did or said that caused another child’s emotional or behavioral response or reaction (positive or negative). You may also describe the effects of a behavior on objects (e.g., throwing a toy in anger broke it and now it must be fixed or replaced).
    • Prompt and guide desired behavior by suggesting specific actions that may help another child in distress, including actions that help other children engage in play.
    • Acknowledge and express appreciation for children’s empathetic responses by drawing their attention to ways their actions helped and providing them with a general principal they can remember in similar situations.
    • Participate in and elaborate on children’s pretend play that includes rescues and caring themes.
    • Read and tell stories that include characters in distress as well as the caring responses of others.
    • Encourage empathy and caring for the natural world, including plants and animals.
  • In home-based programs, consider identifying and including broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit your planning goals and action steps where you and your coach/supervisor identified a teaching practice you want to work on. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where your coach/supervisor can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Label children’s feelings and/or encourage them to label their own feelings, you might ask your coach/supervisor to observe during free play, choice time, or other times of day where conflicts tend to arise. She could note the number of times you label feelings and/or encourage children to label their feelings as part of resolving the conflict.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s emotional functioning?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child? Other children?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

2Sally Atkins-Burnett, et.al., Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions with Infants and Toddlers: The Q-CCIIT Observer Certification Training User’s Guide (Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, 2016), 19, A.2, 53, D.4.

3California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 1 (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2010), 55–56, Social-Emotional Development, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1.pdf

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018