Bridge the gap and build relationships

July 30, 2010|By LISA PREJEAN

Building a relationship with a child isn't always easy. Sometimes the initial contact starts off on the wrong foot.

A child disobeys to test the water. An adult disciplines the child to establish boundaries. The child becomes angry with the adult. The adult becomes frustrated with the child.

Once that division occurs, it's hard to patch things up.

That's not an ideal way to start a relationship -- whether it's principal-child, teacher-child, coach-child, etc.

The adult doesn't want to appear soft and allow the child to feel like he or she is in control. At the same time, the adult doesn't want to appear as a dictator who doesn't care about the child.

Before the rift goes too far, there are some things an adult can do to bridge the gap:

o Make the child a "helper."


There is a sense of importance that goes hand-in-hand with performing a task. If a child feels like he or she has ownership of a program, he or she will be more cooperative.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were working with a large group of children. Prior to the start of the program, a few of the boys became rambunctious. My husband immediately asked them to help retrieve more chairs for our growing group. They obliged, and the activity helped to settle them down for the program.

o Pretend like nothing's wrong.

This may seem callous, but at times it is the best remedy for a pouting child. Go on with your program, be enthusiastic and make it clear that those who aren't participating are missing out.

o Ask questions.

Have some time with a small group and need a conversation-starter? Ask each child their favorite color, animal, sport, etc. Most children will talk about themselves, especially if that is what everyone else is doing. Connections will help melt any tension, too.

Here are things a child can do to bridge the gap:

o Be respectful.

So you got off on the wrong foot? You can turn things around by your obedience from this point onward. Try it, and you will be surprised by an adult's positive reaction.

o Learn what is expected and meet (or exceed) those expectations.

Part of growing up is learning to respond to various authority figures. The sooner you learn how to read a leader, the better off you'll be. This skill also will help as you step into leadership roles and need to respond to the people who are following you.

Both adults and children can benefit if they:

o Expect great things.

The give and take in any relationship requires effort. However, people (especially little people) typically perform as they are expected to perform.

Set your sights high as you're working with others. You'll be surprised at what can be accomplished.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a column for The Herald-Mail. Send e-mail to

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