If Relationship Is Key, Why Is It So Hard To Build One?

There's a look I give my kids when their behavior isn't quite up to standard. 

The glance, maybe coupled with the tilt of my head or even my breathing pattern conveys, without words any number of sentiments. The reaction in my kids is almost always the same.  They stop and think about what is the next best move. 

This look wouldn't work if given by a random stranger because it's function is based not on the my actual facial expression, but on the relationship that I have with my children. 

The truth is, rules don't govern behavior, relationships do.


This simple fact is why I am so adamant about educators banking on relationship above all pedigogy and technology.   As humans, we are hard wired for relationship.  Although we can individually need it expressed in different ways, we all have a need to feel connected, attached even.

Over the years, I've coached and trained teachers, foster parents, even birth parents to make healthy connections with children who have been damaged in the most horrific ways and I still believe it to be the best investment of time, talent and treasure when it comes to the work we do.

But then why it is so hard?

The truth is, while we naturally crave connection, we've got some natural barriers too.  First, and maybe most challenges, we don't all have the same life experiences, communication preferences or even perceptions of relationship.  Differences in culture can cause conflicts or distance.  Even a slight difference can mean the difference between feeling completely in touch and feeling ignored.

Second, our modern lifestyle doesn't necessarily support building strong relationships. We're more distracted than ever, overwhelmed by chronic stress and at times barely able to manage our won needs, let alone recognize needs in others.

Rules don’t govern behaviors, relationships do.

But there is hope. The sheer fact that you've read to this point, shows that you see the value of relationship and being aware that there are obstacles means that you are more likely to work at overcoming them.  Here, I'll share a few of my favorite ways of building relationships with your students.

Speak first. Make the first step to speak to your students each day, greeting them by name and recognize them as often as you can when you see them in the school.  There is evidence that just thinking that you know their name can have a positive impact on the effort they make in class.  Do your part by simply saying hello.

Seek the good. Make a point of praising your students often, but not just the ones who always do well.  Work your way through the roster, choosing one or two students each day who you will purposely praise. I've found when I look for the good I see it.

Share a piece of yourself. Do you remember when you realized that your teacher actually had a first name? Knowing that you are a real human that watches trash tv or lives for Oreo cookies helps your students see you as human.  Even if they prefer Chips Ahoy, the conversation shows that you're personally interested in them which goes a long way.

For more simple ways of connecting, check out this handy printable full of 10 minute ways to build relationships.