Early childhood education (ECE) presupposes a balance between emotionally supportive interaction and pre-academic teaching instruction, and research indicates an increasing pressure on preschool teachers’ communicative competence. This study focuses on the functions of emotions in the teacher–child relationship in a situated context. Such studies are scarce in the research on ECE, which mainly concerns children’s socioemotional learning. Using a micro-sociological approach, characterized by an in-depth analysis of interaction, we explore the ways in which emotions may foster conformity in goaloriented preschool activities. Verbal and nonverbal utterances between a preschool teacher and a child in a video-recorded episode were transcribed and analyzed meticulously. The findings reveal an informal, subtle system of social sanctions within which the emotions of shame and pride have important functions, which leads to social adaptation to goal-oriented expectations. The study also discusses how emotional processes during interaction can be understood in light of the institutional context of current ECE.
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