Relationships, Interactions, and Guidance

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About this Competency

This competency area describes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that early childhood educators are expected to demonstrate in their relationships and communication with young children. Whether children’s development is supported or compromised by their participation in early care and education programs is determined in large part by the quality of their social–emotional experiences in those settings, including their relationships with adults and peers (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine 2000). Developmental and educational research has suggested that efforts to promote children’s school readiness should focus on supporting their social–emotional development as well as their cognitive development. Interactions and guidance are a fundamental part of the learning environments and curricula of early childhood programs (Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning [CSEFEL] 2009 and 2010). Thus, this competency area is closely linked to the Learning Environments and Curriculum competency area.

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Watch the Video Overview for this Competency

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies Wheel

Framing Questions

Framing questions identify some of the major themes in this competency. They provide you with a starting point. As you explore this competency, add your own framing questions for issues you want to further examine.

  • How do we get along with one another?
  • What does social competence mean?
  • What are children saying through their behaviors?
  • What meanings do the behaviors have and how do I interpret them?
  • How do we create a community where each member contributes and is "known" and valued?


Keep these dispositions in mind as you explore the Framing Questions. If you mindfully adopt these dispositions, you will realize the Desired Outcomes for Practitioners and for Children.

  • Genuinely interested in and supportive of children's feelings, perceptions, behaviors, and interactions, and seeks to understand them.
  • Aware of and takes responsibility for one's own feelings, emotions, reactions, and biases.
  • Respects children's expression of all emotions.
  • Respects the family's role in a child's sense of well-being.
  • Trusts children to try to solve their own problems.
  • Understands that all behavior has meaning.

Desired Outcomes for practitioners

If I have these dispositions, then I will…

  • shift from seeking rote techniques to cultivating dispositions.
  • value conflict as a learning opportunity.
  • reframe the notion of "managing" to "growing" the group culture/community — where members are "known".
  • understand my power and how I use it.
  • find the meanings in children's behaviors.
  • experience joy in learning and relationships.

Desired Outcomes for Children

If teachers and caregivers have these dispositions, then children will…

  • know how to solve problems.
  • feel valued and feel that they are seen.
  • feel powerful and know how to make and be friends.
  • know that their friends may have different ideas and feelings than theirs.
  • talk about their feelings and ideas.
  • feel safe and loved.

Keys to Reflection and Inquiry

The CompSAT Keys to Reflection and Inquiry offer you a protocol to use in whatever setting you work as an early childhood educator. Learn how you can integrate the six Keys into your work. Select one of the Keys below to practice reflecting with questions related to the competency area of Relationships, Interactions, and Guidance.


Choose from one of the Keys below to view additional information related to this Competency!

Build Your Portfolio

Journaling — A very personal statement of growth.

Portfolio screenshot

Journaling is a great way to record your experiences, keep track of your questions, and make sense of your choices and their outcomes. Journaling lends itself nicely to portfolio work. It's largely a narrative format, but can be enhanced by the addition of photos, sketches, and doodles. Journaling can be done on the computer, or can it can be done using plain, blank notebooks, a pen, and colored pencils.

View the Video  View the Portfolio Sample

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