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Positive Relationships: A Key to Quality
October 11, 2023
Here's to the bridge-builders, the hand-holders, the light-bringers, those extraordinary souls wrapped in ordinary lives who quietly weave threads of humanity into an inhumane world.
-L.R. Knost, American author and child-development researcher
A Working Paper on Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child website is called, “Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships.” The paper makes the following point about the importance of supporting adults who work with young children:

“‘Quality’ in early child care and education…is often defined in terms of adult-child ratios, group size, physical facilities, and, more recently, cognitively oriented curriculum. But ‘quality’ is perceived differently when we view child care as a prominent feature of the environment of relationships in which young children develop. The importance of ensuring that relationships in child care are nurturing, stimulating and reliable leads to an emphasis on the skills and personal attributes of the caregivers, and on improving the wages and benefits that affect staff turnover.”

In the Exchange Reflections, “Affirm the Child, Not the Behavior,” Daniel Gartrell discusses how informed educators understand children’s behavior so that close relationships are nurtured:

“New early childhood professionals sometimes hear from others that some children ‘just want attention. They will misbehave to get any attention they can, even negative attention.’ Providers who hold this view tend to believe that children know how to act better, but ‘out of selfishness’ they demand more of the adult’s time than they ‘deserve.’ A related idea is that providers who give ‘too much attention’ to individual children are showing favoritism and are ‘spoiling them.’

Hopefully most providers move past these outdated notions. These professionals know that at a deeper level than attention, young children want and need personal affirmation as worthwhile individuals and worthy members of the group. Since Maslow’s writing in the 1960s, many have come to recognize that affirmation as worthwhile individuals and worthy members of the group are basic needs that children must meet in order to grow and be healthy. This second set of providers is right.”


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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Nancy Rosenow · October 11, 2023
Lincoln , NE, United States

Thank you, Karen, for sharing these valuable ideas.

Karen N Nemeth · October 11, 2023
Language Castle LLC
Allentown, PA, United States

Yes! And let's think more about how we are preparing and supporting teachers and care providers to build these critical relationships just as well with children who don't speak their language. We have to be careful that linguistically diverse children don't get less of these relationships than children who speak the same language as teachers. Some ideas: trainers, writers, and professors can include nonverbal relationship supports in their teachings and writings, teachers can practice Powerful Interactions strategies like pausing to be fully present with each child so they have your attention even if you don't understand each other's words, and using picture communication boards for all kinds of purposes throughout the day.

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