Early childhood educators engage in complex and emotional work in their professional role educating and caring for children aged from birth to five years. The aim of this paper is to promote autoethnography as a most suitable method of understanding the role emotions play in the actualisation of young children's participation rights in early childhood education services. The author is a practising educator and draws upon a specific auto-ethnographic account of practice, the story of Sarah, as the focus of this paper to explore the emotional intensity of relationships in early childhood education. Autoethnography is discussed as a method to sit alongside ‘traditional’ ethnographic research to provide a deep understanding of the role of the educator embracing and enacting a rights approach in their work and what influences their decision making. In conclusion the author suggests autoethnography is a useful reflexive tool for educators to consider the role of emotions as a catalyst for change to ensure the actualisation of children's participation rights in daily practice in early childhood education.