Building Better Relationships with Children and Students
4 Relationship Styles – One Works!
Relationships are very tricky—husbands and wives, parents and children, teachers and students, employers and employees, friends, colleagues, etc. It matters not; every type of relationship comes with its challenges.
While it seems that relationships can be defined in an endless number of ways, ultimately, every relationship falls into one of four types. Unfortunately, only one of the four is what we at SuperCamp call an equal-value relationship. Equally unfortunate is the fact that many adults incorrectly assume that this equal-value relationship type, called “Big Me Big You,” will not work with children and students (or even with employees).
Here’s a quick look at four relationship styles with examples of possible interactions:
- Big Me Big You: That’s a great idea—let’s explore it.
- Big Me Little You: Your messed up again—better do it my way this time.
- Little Me Big You: I don’t know—you’re the expert. What do you want me to do?
- Little Me Little You: You don’t know? Me neither. You don’t like it? Me neither. Life’s not easy.
BIG ME BIG YOU
BIG ME LITTLE YOU
LITTLE ME BIG YOU
LITTLE ME LITTLE YOU
Now let’s look more closely at these four relationship styles.
Big Me Big You
A Big Me Big You relationship is a positive equal-value relationship. It sends the messages: I value you and you value me. What you want is just as important as what I want, what you feel is just as important as what I feel, and what you think is just as important as what I think. It doesn’t matter what position of authority one may have—parent, boss, teacher—Big Me Big You is the only relationship that is effective in building rapport. It communicates I respect you and I value you. It doesn’t matter how “good” either person is—how smart, how popular, what their position is, or where they live—this relationship is about respect and compassion. Big Me Big You is a win-win relationship, the ideal in all situations—between friends, husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, teacher and student, etc.
Big Me Little You
This relationship is common between parents and children, employers and employees, teachers and students, and sometimes between husbands and wives and between friends. Big Me Little You sends the messages: What you have to say is not as important as what I have to say. What you think is not as important as what I think. What you want to do is not as important as what I want to do. You don’t know how to do things right unless I tell you. All of these messages—whether the result of actual or perceived superiority in position, knowledge, social standing, etc.—have an extremely negative impact on any relationship. Big Me Little You does not build rapport. It is a relationship where the vital ingredient of equal value is missing.
Little Me Big You
This is a relationship where one person forces another into the “big” position. It is often seen with colleagues, friends, and students, where one is better in school or sports, or one is more popular than the other, or one has a higher-level job than the other. The one who is perceived to be “better” may get pushed by the other into the Big You position, which might sound (or infer) something like this: What you do or think is important, what I think doesn’t matter that much. This relationship is also common between students and their teachers and between children and their parents. It is often based on tradition, which should be borne in mind when teachers or parents are attempting to build rapport with a student or child who may not expect the other to really listen to them or to show genuine interest in what they think or say. Obviously, Little Me Big You is not a healthy equal-value relationship.
Little Me Little You
This is the unhealthiest of all relationships. The message here is I don’t value you, you don’t value me, and we don’t value anything. In this type of relationship, the participants feed on each other’s negativity. It is a highly destructive relationship. An example of this type of relationship is seen with students who have a common problem. As they share their problems, the list grows—teachers are bad, school is bad, parents are bad, the police are bad, government is bad, and life is bad. This is never a healthy relationship. In fact, taken to the extreme it can be dangerous. Parents or teachers observing this type of relationship can try to help by finding a way to break it up. It’s sometimes useful to introduce one of the participants to another “friend” who has something positive in common with them in the hope that a healthier relationship may develop. In many Little Me Little You relationships, professional help may be required.
In summary, while parents and teachers may think Big Me Big You will not work with their children or students, they are wrong. Big Me Big You does not diminish authority—it communicates respect and builds rapport, vital ingredients for any positive relationship. Parents and teachers, give Big Me Big You a try. We know you will like the outcome.