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Developing Relational Themes

What is it? Relational themes help the child understand the roles you can and do play in his/her life. Themes involving you as a helper, unconditionally available, a source of safety and comfort, and a resource for problem solving are common to most teacher-child relationships and can be illustrated for the child using the interactions taking place in Banking Time.

Why is it important? Developing relational themes helps you and the child to define your relationship and, in turn, facilitates the child's knowledge of how to use the relationship as a resource throughout the school day. With time, as the child actually experiences these themes in interaction with you, he/she will begin to pair words with meaningful experiences so that, eventually, words can substitute for these direct experiences. For example, a child who frequently gets very upset by any change in routine may be more easily soothed by a few simple words from you such as, "I am here to help you" from you, once these words have been consistently paired with your attention and concern during four of five Banking Time sessions.

How is it accomplished? Simplicity is a key and consistency of expression and enactment of these messages is important. It is essential to choose messages that you can follow through outside of Banking Time sessions and during everyday classroom interactions. Work with the consultant to identify two or three themes that are relevant to your relationship with the individual child. Additionally, you should discuss with the consultant ways in which these messages can be communicated to the child.

Weaving Relationship Themes into Interactions with Children . . .

Sample themes...

Banking Time examples...

Classroom parallels...

I am interested in you.

Convey through careful use of observation and narration.

Take a few minutes out of prep time to watch the child during P.E., her forte.

I accept you.

Maintain Banking Time sessions even after he misbehaves.

When the yard duty brings him to you for starting a fight on the playground for the second time in a day, make an effort to communicate your frustration with compassion and calmness.

Adults can be helpers.

During a Banking Time activity say, "I am here to help you with that if you need me."

During an activity that you know is hard for him, make a point of telling him before he begins that if he is having trouble you are available to support him.

I am consistent.

Inform him of the Banking Time schedule and make sure to keep it.

Tell him that you are always around for the last five minutes of lunch recess if he needs to talk. Make sure you are there.

I am safe.

Create a Banking Time environment in which he knows it is OK to make mistakes and share feelings, even difficult ones.

He comes to you in tears because other children are teasing him. You listen, provide support and take appropriate action to prevent a reoccurrence.

You have competencies.

When selecting activities from which he can choose, include at least one thing he can do well.

Praise him the first time he is able to sit through circle time without being asked to keep his hands to himself.

I will be here even when things get tough.

Maintain contact and composure (calm, soothing voice) even when he is extremely upset or angry.

Make a point to listen to his side even when he is to blame for starting a fight with a classmate.

Your signals to me can be read and responded to.

Conveyed through appropriate use of labeling techniques.

Notice when he comes in more quietly than usual from recess and take a moment to ask how he's doing.


Consultant:_______________ Child:_______________ Teacher:_______________


Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5







Key Themes


Child's primary affect


Your thoughts and feelings



- Changes in child behavior

- Changes in your perception of child

- Ideas for theme changes

- Problems



Teacher: Child:


How many Banking Time sessions have you completed?

Do you feel Banking Time sessions have been helpful to you and this child? Why or why not?

What problems have you encountered in Banking Time sessions with this child? Think about scheduling and implementation problems as well as problems with the child behavior. How have you addressed these problems?

What themes did you choose to address in Banking Time sessions? Do you think these were appropriate? Are there other themes that you feel might be more relevant at his point?

What changes have you noticed in the child's behavior during Banking Time sessions?

What changes have you noticed in the child's behavior outside of Banking Time sessions?

Recall a time recently when the child misbehaved. Describe it briefly and then describe you reaction. How were you and the child feeling during this interaction? Is this different from similar incidents in the past? If so, how?

Recall a time recently when you really clicked with his child. Describe it briefly. How were you feeling at the time? How do you think the child was feeling?

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