An attitude is a way of thinking or feeling about someone or something that is often reflected in a person’s behavior. Our attitudes create a frame of mind that shapes how we behave in our personal and professional life. Attitudes are shaped by experiences, beliefs, and assumptions. When we begin our interactions with positive attitudes, we tend to see families in a more positive light, giving us a strong foundation to build an effective partnership. In contrast, when we approach our interactions with negative attitudes, we are more likely to see fault, make negative judgments, and expect a negative outcome. Adopting a positive attitude does not mean avoiding challenges and only talking about positive observations and ideas. Instead, it includes adopting a frame of mind that begins with a family’s strengths. We begin with Strengths-based Attitudes to express our belief that all families can make progress and that we are ready to strive for better outcomes together.

When you engage with a family, you help strengthen the partnership with that family. There are six Relationship-based Practices that can help promote family engagement. These practices are intended to guide what we say and do with families to support open communication and promote better understanding. Reflecting on how we apply Relationship-based Practices can improve our efforts to strengthen our relationships with families.

  1. Observe and Describe the Child’s Behavior to Open Communication with the Family


“You and Elizabeth are always ready when the bus arrives. We really appreciate that.”

“I saw that Victoria looked at you and grabbed onto your shirt as I came into the house.”

“I’ve been watching Abdul explore with paint and get used to the different brushes. He also tells stories about his paintings. You told me you want him to paint more realistic paintings. I wonder if he’ll begin to do that once his painting skills catch up to his ideas. Abdul is really sticking with it, and he loves it! I think we both want to help him work toward the same goal.”

“I notice that Christina often pats other children when they are crying.”

“I notice that every time you begin a conversation with me, David begins to tug at your arm.”

2. Reflect on the Family’s Perspective


“I wanted to talk with you about Michael’s progress in learning to get along with the other children. I’ve seen a lot of changes. I wondered what you’ve been thinking about this.”

“Jacqueline is working so hard to learn to do things by herself. This morning she wanted to put her coat on all by herself. She got very frustrated and started to cry. I wanted her to be successful and, at the same time, I needed to go outside to help supervise the other children. She was very determined. I want to learn from you about what you do if you see Jacqueline struggling with this. We’d really like to work together on this with you. What do you do at home?”

“Last month you mentioned that you were going to learn more about the community center in your neighborhood. I’m curious if you found any programs that your family is interested in?”

“I wanted to follow up with you on our conversation about toilet learning last week. Can you tell me how you think it’s going for Felipe?”

3. Support Competence


“You are doing a great job navigating the bus system to get Teegan to school. Would you be willing to share what you’ve learned with other parents?”

“I noticed that while we were talking, José and Leila worked together to separate the crayons and markers by color. Look how they separated them into four piles—blue, yellow, green, and red. I remember when they started at the program it was important to you that they be successful in math and science. You must have been working on sorting things with them at home.”

“I noticed Christopher gave a make-believe cupcake to another little boy who was sad because he had fallen and scraped his knee. It reminded me of when you brought me flowers when I had been out sick. You both are so thoughtful of others.”

“Last time we met you said you wanted to get your General Educational Development (GED) and we came up with some ideas for making that happen. Your husband mentioned that you seemed excited about these ideas. Is there anything I can do to support you in your progress?”

4. Focus on the Family-Child Relationship


“I noticed when I arrived that Sam ran over to you and hugged your leg. I can see he is really connected to you.”

“I understand you are concerned that when you pick Abdullah up at the end of the day, he often seems upset or angry. I wonder if it is his way of saying how much he missed you all day. He manages his emotions all day and then gets to let go when he sees you. Maybe it’s his way of saying how glad he is that you’re back.”

“Since you have been reading stories at bedtime together, Sara is spending more time with the books I bring on our home visits. Today she chose the book about dinosaurs. Would you like to borrow that book to read at bedtime this week?”

“I think Fatuma knows that school is important to you. She sees you going back to school, and it makes learning that much more exciting for her because she wants to be like her mom.”

5. Value a Family’s Passion


“It is so important to you that Jack succeeds. All of these small successes with toilet learning don’t always seem like enough when you are still facing wet laundry at the end of a long day. I want Jack to succeed too, and we can work together to make sure it happens!”

“You certainly want what’s best for Jayda. What about you? Are there things you would like to do?”

“Last time we talked you were very concerned that Hiromi is not learning the alphabet as quickly as the other children in her classroom. I wonder if you have thought more about that.”

“I can see that you’re upset that the bus was late this morning. You’ve told us that it is important to you that Madeline gets to school on time so that you can get to your class at the college on time.”

“I understand why you are upset about Francesca getting bitten today. We’re sorry she was hurt and want to reassure you that no skin was broken. We cleaned the area and put on a bandage. We gave her lots of hugs. We know her safety is the most important thing to you.”

6. Reflect on Your Own Perspective


“Sebastian’s family says it’s our job to teach him letter recognition and they don’t have time to do extra at home. They want him to read by the time he is four and that’s just unrealistic. I want to partner with them and I’m angry they won’t work with us. Can you help me think about how to approach this?”

“I’m excited for Julia to learn English and Spanish, her family’s home language. Her family is concerned that learning Spanish will affect her English negatively. I’d like to find a way to share my passion for multiple language learning and the positive effects it has on brain development and still honor their concern.”

“I’m so frustrated with Rebecca’s family. They tell me all the time they are going to follow through on the referrals I give them, and then they always have excuses. It feels like a waste of time to be working with them on this. I don’t understand what they want from me.”

“David had a really hard drop-off again this morning. If his mom would just get here earlier and read with him like I suggested, the transition wouldn’t be so difficult. She is always running late, and it just makes it harder for him and for us. I don’t know what to do.”