by Erin DelRegno
“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.” – Dr. Seuss
When discussing the importance of building positive relationships with children during training sessions, I usually ask providers if they ever heard that for every negative interaction, five positive interactions should occur. Interactions have an incredible impact on children’s development and learning. For some children, they have positive interactions with others on a regular basis and have stable relationships with multiple people in their lives. Their balance of positive to negative interactions provides them with so much to fill their buckets; it’s wonderful! I wish all children had that.
For some children though, they are on their 13th negative interaction this morning (comment, look, etc.) … and they know a positive isn’t coming anytime soon. Even in a typical household, maybe the focus from adults is on what hasn’t been done yet or what was done wrong. Maybe they are the child who is surrounded by others who are very busy, so interactions are mainly neutral as they quickly move from one routine task to the next; positive interactions are limited in these situations, with maybe not even a smile. Or maybe they are the quiet child who fades into the background and doesn’t interact with anyone at all; they are their own support system.
Negative interactions and inattentiveness from others stick with you. When you reflect on your childhood it is sometimes easier to remember the negative things that were done and said to you. So, if a child only has those types of interactions, the strong impact they have on them is not healthy. Think about the children that don’t have a reliable, positive relationship with anyone – will they be a happy person, will they have self-esteem, will they be very trusting of others? A quote from Peggy O’Mara really resonated with me and I think it needs to be shared here; “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. ”So, when you are working with children, it is important to understand how these experiences affect them. Focus on building positive relationships with them and make sure to show an interest in EACH child you work with. Think of the child who is shy in your classroom, who is not very social or talkative…. are they compliant and behaving so you don’t interact with them much? What about the child who misbehaves to get your attention… what types of interactions do they usually have with you? Do you ever wonder about their reason for doing this? Do you make sure you have many positive interactions with this child as well? They probably need you the most.
During my training sessions, I also like to share the following personal story about a person I knew when I was younger. I only saw her every now and then, but she was always kind and would check in with me. I know that seems so simple and may not appear like much to some people, but to this day, I treat her like a part of my family. I didn’t have any positive female adults in my life, so it meant more to me than she could ever understand. Now think back to a person in your life. How did they make you feel? What did they do that made you feel special? In what ways did they make a positive difference in your life? No matter how small the interaction it can have a lasting effect on a child.
As a teacher, you have such an opportunity with the children in your care. They each deserve to have someone that cares about them, respects them, believes in them, and lets them know that they are important. It only takes one person in a child’s life. Be that one person for a child…. or for many children. It will mean just as much to each one. They will remember and it will make a difference for the child, the classroom, and you!
“Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson, Educator
The first two videos were the inspiration for this article and the others are just as powerful. They are heartwarming, inspirational, and make you think. The world needs more people like this working with children… not seeing a problem but looking for a reason and appreciating all that they are.