The Power of a Positive Relationship
Perhaps nothing impacts on a child’s development more than relationships. It is through relationships that children learn how to think, communicate, behave, and express their emotions – in fact, relationships are the building blocks of a child’s personality.
With relationships being so important in a child’s early years, it is necessary for parents, teachers and caregivers to, as much as possible, ensure that the relationships they have with children are nothing but positive.
Children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships, and overall such relationships do go a long way towards helping them grow into well-rounded adults.
A positive parent-child relationship
Children normally start their relationship journey with their parents, and it is through this parent-child relationship that they first get to learn about their world. When your toddler gazes at you, makes a facial expression, makes a vocalisation or uses body language to get a message across, they expect a certain response from you.
When they cry because they’re hungry, you respond by feeding them; and when they cry due to tiredness, you sing a lullaby while rocking them to sleep. Interactions like this teach your toddler that they live in an understanding and caring world where they can express their needs and get responses that are predictable.
So, a positive parent-child relationship may be described as one in which the parent consistently responds in satisfactory ways to the needs of the child, and the child feels secure in the knowledge that they will always be taken care of.
In such a secure relationship the child develops a healthy attachment to their parents, and parents in their turn become even more deeply dedicated to the well-being of the child. Strong parental bonding/attachment resulting from a positive parent-child relationship early in life is likely to improve the mental health of the child and make them less prone to behavioural problems in later years.
Another aspect in which a healthy parent-child relationship has a significant effect is in the emotional development of a child. One reason for this is that early parent-child relationships often involve discussions about emotional states.
A number of studies indicate that there are strong links between children’s discussion of emotions with parents and their understanding of emotions – in other words, a parent-child relationship characterised by open communication about positive and negative emotions is key to a child’s emotional understanding and well-being. Such makes a child better able to manage their emotions/feelings.
A trusting and caring parent-child relationship is also the foundation on which a child establishes their sense of identity and develops a high self-esteem; these, combined with a healthy emotional state, promote independence in a child, and make them more willing to explore new things, as well as develop positive relationships with others.
Going further, a positive parent-child relationship helps the child cultivate more of the traits and skills they require to be successful in life. When the interactions between you and your child are warm and loving, they tend to become more confident, resilient, and better able to communicate.
These skills and traits will come in handy as they navigate through life – a confident child can more easily face challenges and take bold steps, a resilient one will find it easier to handle stress, and one that is good at communication will be better at building rapport with other people.
Overall, a positive parent-child relationship that involves spending quality time with your child, caring for them in a sensitive, responsive and predictable way, open communication, and building trust, lays the foundation for your child’s emotional, mental, cognitive and motivational development; it also improves their linguistic, communication, social and other skills.
Infusing more positivity into your relationship with your child
In addition to being available and responsive to their needs, you and your child can experience the full power/benefits of a positive relationship when you also:
- encourage interaction through frequent eye contact, smiles, and warm expressions, and regard every interaction as an opportunity to bond with your child;
- listen to them, acknowledge their feelings, and let them know you understand and empathise with them;
- frequently remind them that you love them, even after scolding them for naughty behavior;
- eat meals together;
- play with them as much as possible; and,
- work with them to overcome challenges.
A positive teacher-child relationship
In a kindergarten setting, there are various ways teachers could build positive relationships with the children under their care.
A teacher could give personalised attention to a child by engaging in one-on-one conversations with them, or getting on their level for face-to-face interactions when necessary; a teacher could also listen to the child, address them in a calm, pleasant and respectful manner, help them understand classroom expectations, guide them towards achieving academic and social objectives, gently correct them when they engage in inappropriate behaviors, encourage their efforts, acknowledge their accomplishments, provide warm and reassuring physical contact (such as hugging or back-patting) when necessary, and follow their lead during play.
Such positive actions as outlined above make it easy for a child to develop a warm and trusting relationship with their teacher.
Positive and secure teacher-child relationships that also take into account their individual, linguistic, and cultural needs can go a long way towards enhancing the academic, social, and emotional development of a child.
A child who has a healthy and supportive relationship with their teacher – as opposed to one whose relationship with their teacher is conflictual – naturally performs better academically, which is not surprising. Various studies have shown that positive teacher-child relationships make kindergarteners less likely to avoid school, promotes their adjustment to school, make them more self-directed and cooperative, and less likely to experience loneliness in school.
Also, if your child has bonded with their teacher, often converses with them, and gets more of constructive guidance and positive reinforcement from them, their desire to learn will increase; they will inevitably behave better in class, show more engagement with academic activities, and strive to attain higher levels of academic achievement as a way of appreciating or impressing the teacher.
Social maturation has a lot to do with relationships, and so a quality teacher-child relationship contributes to the growth of a child’s social intelligence. According to research, a teacher-child relationship that is positive helps children develop prosocial behaviours such as altruism and cooperation; it also helps ensure that classroom misbehaviours including aggression and bullying are kept to a minimum. And when they feel supported by their teacher, a child will tend to be less frustrated and argumentative.
So, kindergarten teachers who build positive relationships with their students directly or indirectly create a classroom environment that is more conducive, one in which the children’s academic, social, and other developmental needs are more easily and adequately met.
On a parting note, positive relationships result to better outcomes, but not only for the child involved. As they endeavour to build positive relationships with children, teachers improve their teaching and interpersonal skills; they also undergo personal and professional growth. Parents, on the other hand, experience a sense of happiness and satisfaction when they are in the best of terms with their children, as this is an indication that they are being successful at parenting.