I've been invited to teach a workshop at a local preschool on the topic of "Relationship Building with Young Children"; a topic thats near and dear to my heart as the relationship you have with a child is the foundation for success, regardless of your goals for that child. For example, if you're a teacher, the relationship you have with your students will be the foundation for learning. If you're a parent, the relationship you have with your child will be the foundation for who they become as adults. And if you're a therapist, the relationship you have with your clients IS the foundation for all the work you do!
Adults live in their minds but children live in their hearts. In order to reach their minds and affect change we must go through their heart. The tricky part is kids can also sense when an adult does not genuinely care. So, the first part of building a positive relationship with a child begins with the adult.
Take note of your insecurities, faulty beliefs, and fears involving children, or a particular child. Try to figure out what's behind those insecurities and reframe your beliefs. For example, "Kids don't like me the way they like others" could be challenged. Perhaps try, "I'm insecure about the way a child may respond to me, but when I prove I have kind intentions, they'll warm up to me in time". Or maybe, "I don't know how to relate to a child" could be reframed to "Children love to share their interests. I'll let them lead".
Once the adult is confident that children will accept them as they accept themselves and love them when they love themselves, it becomes much easier to build positive relationships with children.
1) Get on their level
Imagine living in a world where everything and everyone is bigger than you. Feeling small causes two reactions. Some people lash out or become defensive when they feel small. Others clam up and feel inferior. By getting on a child's level, the adult sends the message, I'm not a threat. I'm willing to be a part of your world.
2) Use their name
A person's name is a sure fire way to build a connection, regardless of age. It sends the message, you are a unique individual, not just another person. It's YOU I'm taking an interest in.
3) Find an Interest
Toddlers especially make it VERY easy to learn their interests. Whether it's on their clothes or shoes, a toy clutched in their hand, or what they play with, their interests are what guide them. Note: If they're wearing a shirt with Superman on it, they're supporting Superman, but if they're wearing a shirt with the Superman S on the chest, they ARE Superman! These tiny, semmingly insignificant details can make all the difference in making a child feel understood.
4) I noticed...
Children often feel lost in the shuffle, especially in a classroom setting, or a large family. When an adult begins a sentence with "I noticed" the child automatically knows they've been seen. The adult is paying attention to THEM! "I noticed you like cars so I pulled these from the toy bin for you" or "I noticed you sat down instead of play chase today. I'm wondering if you feel tired". This can't be overused. Children love to feel noticed. You may even hear them using it back to you.
5) Make every "hello" and "goobye" a special event
Its not uncommon for me to come out of the bathroom and one of boys will smile, "Mommy I missed you. I love you so much", because this is how I respond to them. They're greeted with warm hugs and love in the morning and at night, when I pick them up from school and sometimes when I stop at the store, I'll show them how excited I am to see them after had my eyes on the road twenty minutes. They know they're loved and they know I want them around. They also know they're missed when I'm away, but they look forward to each return because it's always special.
Stay tuned...relationship building with young children will likely be a series of posts as I prepare for this new workshop I'm offering! Find me on youtube under WholeHeart or click the "videos" tab here and subscribe!
Parenting expert, blogger, inventor, single mom to twins, barefoot nomad, adventure seeker, boho spirit, advocate of play