Relationships are broadly defined as the state of being connected or related. This can mean an association by blood or marriage, a kinship or the mutual dealings, connections, or feelings that exist between two parties. It is also recognised as a type of dependence or alliance in the way that we behave or regard one another. When considering the National Quality Framework QA5 (Quality Area 5 Relationships with children) the research reflects that positive interactions are central to children developing more clarified self-esteem, resilience and acceptance skills (KidsMatter Early Childhood).
The types of relationships we role model can either support or hinder an overall higher thinking and functioning capacity for children into the future. By promoting responsive relationships, we are providing a platform for a deeper level of understanding – for others and their challenges, and therefore are better supporting inclusive practice and encouraging more positive outcomes for all stakeholders.
A great way to start unpacking relationships and to help us better understand our professional obligations is to honestly explore our service and personal philosophy (Early Childhood Australia). Most mention inclusion, respect, equity, and promote a clear vision for guiding practice. I remember an educator was once quoted as saying that “it’s the document that explains why and how we do things”. This is a very clean and simple way of interpreting the beliefs, values and attitudes that are intended for children, families and the greater community via our service delivery.
Some great questions to ponder with your team:
- What is important to you when supporting others wellbeing?
- How does the service you work for live out their promise to support children, families and staff?
- What types of strategies are you currently using to ensure your service philosophy is a living document that is actively being practised each day, for every child?
Respectful relationships are paramount for supporting inclusive practice at a service and individual level. A major component of healthy relationships is the ability to form positive connections (healthy attachment), interact in a way that communicates our needs, and knowing that these are well-received. This is where reading cues and intentional teaching strongly come into play via our choice of response. It’s in the way we role-model and support children to understand each situation they find themselves in, all the way up to sharing individualised strategies with families and peers.
Our direct responses to children are incredibly important and can be easily misguided by using inappropriate body language, words, facial expressions and movements – we are of course only human. But the more we critically reflect and change these patterns of behaviour ourselves, the better shot we have at supporting the next generation to do the same. It is critical that in the early years of life we have “bigger, stronger, wiser and kinder” caregivers who respond intentionally with children’s best interests, and their developmental needs at heart.
Child psychiatrist Dr Kaylene Henderson explains that when your child has a secure relationship with you, he is able to use you as a secure base from which to venture out, explore his environment and learn about the world and his place in it (A Dose of Awesomeness – Understanding Attachment).
The Circle of Security (COS – bigger, stronger, wiser and kinder) is the underpinning relationship/attachment theory for many parenting, school and early childhood intervention frameworks in the western world. It is widely recognised as being the most clarified and accurate information available to date and is proven to be a successful “roadmap” that is well utilised by parents, educators and teachers alike. The COS assists you to see past the child’s behaviour and guides you to respond in a way that supports you both to understand emotional and relationship needs better. It provides a basis for observing what children are doing, from a relationship perspective, and can assist you to pinpoint better ways of meeting their needs.
I was fortunate enough to attend the 4-day intensive COS course delivered here in Tasmania by the founders themselves Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman, and Bert Powell. During this time I unpacked the importance of our interactions, how it influences others, especially children and why it is important to face reality, in order to highlight genuine relationship needs. We also explored why we are personally ‘triggered’ at certain times and how this can cause us to hear that dreaded shark music in our head at specific times. We also looked at why this changes the way we think, feel, act and respond, as well as how this flows on to directly impact outcomes for the children we support.
I strongly urge anybody who has direct contact with children (specifically professionals) to become familiar with the Circle of Security theory. Further information and resources can be found at https://www.circleofsecurityinternational.com/
The National Quality Standard 5.2 states that each child is supported to build and maintain sensitive and responsive relationships with other children and adults.
What does this look like in your early childhood setting?
- Element 5.2.1
Each child is supported to work with, learn from and help others through collaborative learning opportunities
- Element 5.2.2
Each child is supported to manage their own behaviour, respond appropriately to the behaviour of others and communicate effectively to resolve conflicts
- Element 5.2.3
The dignity and the rights of every child are maintained at all times
Things to think about:
- How are you currently communicating with children?
- What type of responses are you role modelling?
- In what ways do you support children and staff to build close, secure relationships with people of all abilities, genders and backgrounds?
- How is a culture of respect, equity and fairness encouraged and communicated to educators, children and families? (ACECQA – relationships with children)
Did you know that educators who view children as competent, resourceful and curious learners are more likely to provide a ‘child focused’ and stimulating program? They are most likely to be practising in a more genuine, kind and fair way, all the while possessing the assertiveness to lead. They regularly demonstrate the reflective capacity to understand when they are not sure or and have the ability to recognise their own triggers. These types of educators are known for acknowledging children’s interests more accurately and are often noticed modelling the passion for learning alongside the children practically. From my experience, this is clearly reflected in the outcomes achieved for all.
This guest post is written by Education and Care Connections
As an Early Childhood Teacher I am very pleased to read such an important and meaningful article. Well done.