Building Relationships with Kids

Interactions with others help develop our sense of who we are and influence how we relate to others in the future. Positive relationships with kids, with their families, and with our colleagues benefit everyone. Through our relationships and interactions with kids, we contribute to the kid’s need for attachment, self-regulation, social competence, protection, and healthy role models.

We have gleaned from research that close, positive teacher-kid relationships are essential. Kids have higher language, literacy, cognitive, and social abilities. They show reduced anxiety, depression, and stress. Your relationships and interactions with kids influence their development and learning in powerful ways. Here are some recommendations for building close relationships and positive interactions.

Spend time with the kids

Think about the relationships in your life. Can you recall how those relationships were nurtured and developed? You probably spent a lot of time with those people. If you want to build relationships with kids, spend as much time as possible with groups of kids and with each kid. The more time you spend with other people, the more you come to understand and appreciate them.

Share experiences with the kids

Can you recall some important experiences you have shared with family or friends? Recall the stories that you often tell when you get together. Shared experiences help us build and strengthen our relationships with others. With your kids, find ways to celebrate the experiences that you cherish. Take photos, record individual and group stories, recall past experiences during conversations.

Be an optimist

Do you want to develop a relationship with someone who frequently criticizes or ignores you? Probably not. Kids are no different. Make sure that your comments and responses to kids are positive. Sometimes you have to look hard for positive things, but you and the kid will benefit if you consciously focus on the positive. Remember that negative experiences are associated with less optimal brain development.

Be curious

People are interesting, and kids are interesting. Allow your curiosity to help you discover a better understanding of each individual kid.  Instead of punishing or resenting a kid’s challenging behavior, get curious. Curiosity can be a tool for building positive relationships with kids.


Suppose a close friend is describing a parenting dilemma. Think about how the way you listen to that friend. You are focused on the friend, attempting to understand what is being said. You are not doing other things while listening to your friend. Kids have valuable thoughts, ideas, and feelings. They deserve our best listening skills! Look at kids while they are speaking. Make responsive comments and ask open-ended questions.

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