Excerpted from Powerful Interactions: How to Connect With Children to Extend Their Learning by Amy Laura Dombro, Judy Jablon, & Charlotte Stetson, 64-66. 2011.
Being Trustworthy with Children
Trust is the foundation of positive relationships and learning. When children trust you, they feel safe letting you know how they feel and what matters to them. There is a connection between you that allows children to explore and take risks as they learn about the world.
Here you will see how Janice, a teacher at a child care center, uses the daily routine of morning arrival to further her relationship of trust with Sophia.
This morning traffic was heavier than usual, and Janice got to the center a little late. She feels stressed.
Then 3-year-old Sophia arrives. Standing in the doorway with a shy grin on her face, Sophia glances down at her new red sneakers, then over at Janice.
Noticing the child’s expression, Janice puts down what she’s doing and joins Sophia at the door. She kneels down:
“Sophia, you have new red sneakers! They are red like your daddy’s jacket and your favorite color. Your feet have been growing so fast. Your old sneakers got too small for you.”
Sophia lifts one tiny foot to give Janice a closer look at her sneaker. Janice smiles, and the memory of the traffic and her stress fade away. ... Her day with the children begins. understood.
Tips for Keeping Trust Growing
Watch children carefully, and tell them what you see and hear. This lets them know you’re paying attention. Janice did this when she noticed Sophia’s grin and went over to admire her sneakers.
Listen and respond so children know you care about them. Sophia “spoke” to Janice without saying a word. Janice “listened” and responded to Sophia’s facial expression and body language. Other times, a child may be more vocal with a request for your attention.
When Sara calls, “Come see my block building!” you might say, “I can’t wait to see it! I’ll be right over after I finish playing this game with Justin.”
Talk with children about their families so that a child feels connected to her family members when they are apart.
Later that morning, as Janice takes Sophia and a few other children on a color walk, she says, “This apple reminds me of Sophia’s red sneakers and her daddy’s red jacket.”
Keep the promises you make so children can depend on you.
Say to 2-year-old Jack, “I promised you that we would read Goodnight Moon. So let’s read it now!”
Let children know what to expect so that they feel safe and secure.
Lisa, a family child care provider, says to the children, “Tomorrow Rashani’s mother is bringing a special snack, but she can’t come at our regular snack time, so we’ll go outside before snack instead of after snack. That will feel different, won’t it?”
Acknowledge and accept children’s emotions so they can learn that it is safe to share their feelings. Let an upset child know you are there to help by giving her a hug, holding her on your lap, or sitting close by and speaking softly.
How’s It Going?
Look for clues that you are connecting with children and that trust is growing.
A child may
- Share feelings with you
- Tell you what matters to him
- Explore new objects and materials
- Take risks to try new activities
- Come to you for comfort
- Laugh with you
- Ask you for help
- Imitate your actions and words
Family members may share more, too, as they sense their children’s comfort with you.
You may feel energized by your growing connectedness with children, and you may learn new things about them.
Your program setting may feel more relaxed for children, family members, and you.
I had one very quiet child. She cried often and would rarely speak. Since I started doing Powerful Interactions with her, she’s really opened up. Now she gives me a hug and starts conversations. She initiates play with me. She responds to my questions and shows excitement at getting my focused attention. She’s more relaxed, and it seems she has an easier time being herself. And, boy, do I see how much she really knows and how much she can really do. I don’t think I would have noticed so much had I not used Powerful Interactions.
— Darice (a preschool teacher)
Remember: As trust develops between you and the children in your setting, your relationships grow stronger. As they work, play, and learn, children will be more likely to deeply engage with you and one another.
Excerpted from Powerful Interactions: How to Connect With Children to Extend Their Learning by Amy Laura Dombro, Judy Jablon, & Charlotte Stetson, 64-66. 2011. This book is available for purchase in the NAEYC Store.
Copyright © National Association for the Education of Young Children.