All behavior has meaning. Take a moment to pause and let this message take hold in your body. Kadija Johnston grounds us in this powerful idea, reminding us, “We can’t at all expect that the behavior will shift if we haven’t understood what underlies it” (First 5 Santa Clara County, 2020). If we think about it from the child’s perspective, we can imagine that the child is communicating, “I have a need that is not being met. I might not know how to tell you that need in words, but I do know that I need you, I really need you to pay close attention to me, not just to my behavior, but to me, to my thoughts and my feelings. And I need help figuring out how to get this need of mine met.” 

Caring for young children is emotionally evocative work. Although early childhood teachers are tasked with supporting young children’s social-emotional development and well-being, often, little attention is paid to the social-emotional well-being of early childhood teachers themselves (Virmani et al., 2020). Many early childhood educators feel they are supposed to check their emotions at the door and enter the classroom ready to receive the children in their care unencumbered by their own emotional needs. But, can we expect early childhood teachers to attune to the emotional needs of young children if they do not attune to their own emotional needs first?

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