Lesson 3: Creating Positive Goal – Oriented Relationships


  • Define positive goal-oriented relationships.
  • Identify important considerations for developing positive goal-oriented relationships.
  • Explain what having strengths-based attitudes might look like.
  • Reflect on how to apply relationships-based practices.


From the beginning of life, families nurture their children to be healthy and to develop the capacities they will need to be ready for school and successful in life. Program staff share these goals and collaborate with families as they work toward these goals. Equity, inclusiveness, cultural and linguistic responsiveness, and positive goal-oriented relationships have been identified as important drivers for these outcomes.


Positive, goal-oriented relationships develop over time through interactions between programs and families. These relationships
● are fueled by families’ passion for their children,
● are based on mutual respect and trust, affirm and celebrate families’ cultures and languages,
● provide opportunities for two-way communications,
● include authentic interactions that are meaningful to those who participate in them, and
● often require an awareness of one’s personal biases and how those biases can affect mutual respect and trust.

Positive, goal-oriented relationships improve wellness by reducing isolation and stress for both families and staff. When these relationships focus on shared goals for children, staff and families can experience the support that comes from knowing that they all are on the same team. These relationships support the aims of equity, inclusiveness, cultural and linguistic responsiveness.

Why Do Positive Goal-Oriented Relationships Matter?

Positive Goal-Oriented Relationships support progress for children and families. These relationships contribute to positive parent-child relationships, a key predictor of success in early learning and healthy development. Through positive interactions with their most important caregivers, children develop skills for success in school and life. They learn how to manage their emotions and behaviors, solve problems, adjust to new situations, resolve conflicts, and prepare for healthy relationships with other adults and peers.

Healthy relationships between parents and children develop over time through a series of interactions that are primarily warm and positive. There may also be brief disconnections or misunderstandings in relationships. For example, there will be times when parents and children are not perfectly in sync. A toddler may be laughing and playing with her mother and be surprised when her scream of delight is met with her mother’s raised voice, telling her to be quieter. An older infant may be enjoying his breakfast of rice cereal but he may be confronted by an unhappy face when he smashes the cereal into his grandmother’s work clothes. These temporary disconnections are natural and necessary, and they build a child’s capacity for resilience and conflict resolution. As long as interactions are primarily positive, children can learn important skills from the process of reconnecting.

Disconnections and challenges can occur in our relationships with families and colleagues as well. A father arrives to find his toddler finger-painting and immediately becomes upset with the caregiver. He is in a hurry and doesn’t have time to change her clothes. A mother is frustrated that her child is not making more progress learning her numbers and letters and blames the caregivers. Imperfect interactions help us learn how to tolerate discomfort and how to resolve challenges. These are important skills for building strong partnerships.

Positive relationships between parents and providers are important as families make progress toward other goals, such as improved health and safety, increased financial stability, and enhanced leadership skills. Strong partnerships can provide a safe place where families can explore their hopes, share their challenges, and let us know how we can help. Staff, community partners, and peers can be resources as families decide what is important to them and how to turn their goals into realities. Parents help us enhance their children’s learning and healthy development. When we focus on families’ strengths and view parents as partners, we can work more effectively to support parent-child relationships and other outcomes for families and children.

Everything we do is intended to give families the emotional and concrete supports they want and need to reach better outcomes. When a family makes progress, parents have more capacity to give to their children. For example, a family may be struggling financially and constantly worried about where the next meal will come from. The parent may be overwhelmed or embarrassed, unsure of how to ask for help. If the parent trusts the program or a staff member, the parent might share their distress and worry. The program can work with the parent to find and access food and nutrition resources in their community.

As the family stabilizes, the parent might work with staff to identify how to improve the situation in the long term. The parent may decide to go back to school to increase his or her earning potential or might join a group to talk with other families about educational goals. The parent might work with the program and peers to find and access educational resources. As families take steps to reach their goals, they can engage in relationships with their children. Strong relationships between parents and caregivers contribute to better outcomes for children and families.

Recognize What Families, Staff, and Children Contribute

Building a relationship is a dynamic and ongoing process that depends on contributions from everyone involved: families, program staff, and children. Families have a set of beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives that affect relationships with staff. Likewise, providers have a set of beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives, both personal and professional, which affect our relationships with families. Children live and learn in specific environments and are influenced by the parents, families, and other adults and peers in their lives. They also bring their own unique contributions to relationships in the form of behavior, temperament, emotion, and stage of development.

Understand and Appreciate Differences

Successful partnerships are created when families and staff value the perspectives and contributions of one another and care about shared goals and positive outcomes. Programs can partner with parents to understand the child’s and family’s strengths, goals, interests, and challenges. In each interaction we can learn more about each other and about ourselves as professionals. When we understand and appreciate the family’s perspective, we are more likely to set aside our own agenda and create a shared agenda with the family.

Building and Maintaining Positive Relationships with Children

Teachers build meaningful relationships with children during ordinary, everyday interactions. A mutual gaze with a four-month-old baby, a moment of eye contact with a twelve-month-old child scooting across the room, the acknowledgment of a two-year-old’s interest in his image in the mirror—such actions occur every day in early childhood programs. In one instance a child feels more secure, in another a child becomes more willing to explore, and in a third a child gains a stronger sense of self. Teachers who are responsive as they develop relationships with young children appear to work magic. But underneath the magic are a compassionate interest in each child, careful observations, a commitment to children and families, and a thoughtful approach to supporting development and learning.

Texas Director