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Harvard University Center on the Developing Child
Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships

“The quality and stability of a child’s human relationships in the early years lay the foundation for a wide range of later developmental outcomes that really matter- self-confidence and sound mental health, motivation to learn, achievement in school and later in life, the ability to control aggressive impulses and resolve conflicts in non-violent ways, knowing the difference between right and wrong, having the capacity to develop and sustain casual friendships and intimate relationships, and ultimately to be a successful parent oneself.”

“…relationships are the ‘active ingredients’ of the environment’s influence on healthy brain development.”

“Relationships engage children in the human community in ways that help them define who they are, what they can become, and how and why they are important to other people.”

“Early, secure attachments contribute to the growth of a broad range of competencies, including a love of learning, a comfortable sense of oneself, positive social skills, multiple successful relationships at later ages, and a sophisticate understanding of emotions, commitment, morality, and other aspect of human relationships. Stated simply, establishing successful relationships with adults and other children provides a foundation of capacities that children will use for a lifetime.”

“ Children who have healthy relationships with their primary caregivers are more likely to develop insights into other people’s feelings, needs, and thoughts, which form a foundation for cooperative interactions with others and an emerging conscience. Sensitive and responsive parent-child relationships also are associated with stronger cognitive skills in young children and enhanced social competence and work skills later in school.”

Heart Start: The Emotional Foundations of School Readiness
Report by Zero-to-Three

“…in the first four years of life, children are experiencing their most fundamental lessons. They are learning to focus, to be intimate, to control their behavior, to be imaginative, to separate reality from fantasy, to have positive self-esteem and to feel deeply connected to the adults in their lives.”

“…through simple, everyday actions beginning in the first days and weeks of life, the infant begins to develop the characteristics that…will strongly influence performance in school. The behavior of the infant’s principal caregivers creates in the infant’s mind and heart capacities and patterns of expectations that will deeply affect her functioning in all realms. The child who experiences attention, affection, mutual communication, respect and generosity will expect to continue to experience such treatment and will feel that he or she deserves it. And the child who receives this crucial “Heart Start” will tend, in turn, to be affectionate, attentive, communicative, respectful and generous.”

The Heart Start report has identified the following characteristics to be essential for a child’s arriving at school ready to learn: confidence, curiosity, intentionality, self-control, relatedness, capacity to control their emotions, and cooperativeness. “These characteristics equip children with a ‘school literacy’ more basic than knowledge of numbers and letters. It is the knowledge of ‘how to learn.’”