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Relationships with Adults: Improve

Infants and Toddlers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to support children’s positive relationships with adults 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 help infants and toddlers develop healthy relationships with important adults in their lives:1, 2
    • Use children’s names in a positive context.
    • Talk with children at eye level, as culturally appropriate.
    • Use non-verbal strategies for comfort and support; as culturally appropriate for each child. For example:
      • Hugging, stroking, holding, or rocking the child
      • Gently placing a hand on or patting the child
      • Allowing children to sit close
      • Smiling
      • Using kind and calm tones
    • Listen carefully to what children say and demonstrate interest in verbal and non-verbal ways.
    • Comment on what children are doing and saying.
    • Play responsive social games with children (e.g., peek-a-boo).
    • Consistently scan the room and respond when children need help.
    • Acknowledge children’s temperamental traits (e.g., "I know you like to watch for a while before trying something new.").
    • Use positive or neutral descriptors (e.g., assertive, persistent, watchful, observant, takes her time with new people, excited, energetic) and avoid the use of negative labels for children’s temperaments (e.g., loud, aggressive, stubborn, scared, shy, fearful).
    • Wait for children to respond to a verbal or nonverbal communication before acting. Match your response to the child’s emotions.
    • Adapt your schedule, behavior, energy level, and pace of interaction in response to child’s state, emotional expression, and/or temperament.
    • Prepare and inform children about transitions and facilitate rituals for routines (e.g., eating, sleeping, arriving, departing, diapering, toileting, dressing). Provide information to parents about why rituals are important.
    • Provide quiet and active spaces with easily accessible materials children may choose.
    • Reassure children who go off to explore that you (or other adults) are close by if needed.
    • Spend one-on-one time with each child in your primary care.
    • Reconnect with a child through a smile, hug, kind word, or other meaningful gesture after having a challenging interaction.
    • Identify child behaviors that “push your buttons” and develop strategies for dealing with situations when children’s behaviors frustrate you.
  • 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, Consistently scan the room and respond when children need help, you might plan for your coach/supervisor to observe during free play and note the number of times you pause to scan the room, or the number of times you intervene or offer redirection to support a child before problems occur. Working with your coach/supervisor, you can identify the most effective use of the focused observation to support your goal.
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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 the skills and knowledge to support children’s positive relationships with adults 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 help preschoolers develop healthy relationships with important adults in their lives:3, 4
    • Often stay in close physical proximity with children and freely join their activities without taking them over.
    • Match children’s affect, showing an appropriate level of excitement and enthusiasm when they do.
    • Appear genuinely interested by looking at the child, getting down to his level, asking follow-up questions, and using an interested tone of voice.
    • Respond to a child’s efforts and participation with positive comments, such as “You worked really hard on that!”
    • Demonstrate respect by establishing eye contact when speaking, as culturally appropriate.
    • Use a warm and calm voice.
    • Use language that communicates respect, such as “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome,” and call children by name.
    • Pay attention to children in positive ways at times when the children are not engaged in challenging behavior.
    • Let children know when transitions are happening and individualize transition warnings as needed.
    • Give children clear directions that are stated positively, choices when appropriate, and acknowledge children’s behavior in positive ways.
    • Establish and enforce clear rules, limits, and positive and negative consequences for behavior.
    • Use positive feedback and encouragement.
    • Identify child behaviors that “push your buttons” and develop strategies for dealing with situations when children’s behaviors frustrate you.
  • 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, Use language that communicates respect such as “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome,” and call children by name, you might ask your coach/supervisor to choose a time of day to observe and count the number of times you use children’s names versus your nicknames for children (e.g., “bud” or “guys”) or pronouns when talking to children during your interactions.
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?

1 Sally 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), 21, A.3.

2 Lindsey T. Allard, Amy Hunter, and Kate Anderson Simons, “Inventory of Practices for Promoting Infant and Toddlers’ Social and Emotional Competence,” CSEFEL Infant/Toddler Module 1, Handout 1.6 (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University, 2011), 4, 6, 7, http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/resources/inftodd/mod1/1.6-1.pdf.

3 Robert C. Pianta, Karen M. La Paro, and Bridget K. Hamre, Classroom Assessment Scoring System Manual, Pre-K (Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes, 2008), 26, High Positive Climate.

4 Vanderbilt University, “Inventory of Practices for Supporting Children’s Social Emotional Competence,” CSEFEL Preschool Module 1, Handout 1.2 (Nashville, TN: Author, 2013), 3, 5, 6, 7, http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/resources/training_preschool.html.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018