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The Pyramid Model: Developing Nurturing and Responsive Relationships

What happens in the first months and years of life matters a lot, not because this period of development provides an indelible blueprint for adult well-being, but because it sets either a sturdy or fragile stage for what follows.

At the foundational level of the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning's Pyramid Model, we find nurturing and responsive relationships. Positive, nurturing, and responsive relationships are a central component in children's social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Why are early relationships so important? A large and important literature shows that early positive relationships lead to more positive and less aggressive responses to other children, parents, and caregivers and to improved emotional regulation. Early relationships as well as parenting and care giving behaviors impact peer relationships that children develop both in and out of school settings. Positive early relationships also link to later social adjustments and social competence with peers.

The child's adaptation to school, success at school, and child functioning in the classroom, are all linked to relationships with parents, teachers and peers. Adaptation in school leads to exploration for young children which means more learning, further cognitive development and further exploration. Additionally, competent peer interactions relate to fewer problems, high school achievement, and peer acceptance, even for children who have been labeled by peers and teachers as "problematic children." A child's positive interactions and relationships with teachers can function as a protective factor that buffers children from the effects of known developmental risk factors in their lives.

Children who develop insecure relationships are at risk for lower social competence, social-emotional difficulties, poor social adjustment, and lower self esteem. Insecure relationships relate to conflict. Teacher-child conflict correlates positively with school avoidance and negativity towards school, self-directedness, as well as negative cooperation in the classroom. The years of early childhood present rich opportunities for growth in all areas of development. This is the time in a young child's life when the cognitive and social foundations for later development are established.

Developing Relationships between Children and their Parents
Developing Relationships between Children and their Teachers
Developing Relationships between Children and their Peers