From business leaders to scientists to sports stars, you would be hard-pressed to find a successful adult who does not constantly exercise the art of cooperation. From the moment we learn this valuable skill as children, it gets put into action in almost every aspect of our lives.
As educators and parents, we can help children start to exercise this cooperation muscle at an early age. Here’s how.
Modeling Cooperative Behavior for Children
You know that saying, “Children are always watching”? It’s true; children learn character mainly through imitation. They listen, observe and learn cooperation skills by watching the words and actions of their parents. When your child sees you working happily with others, they sense the joy you feel and will want to experience that joy, too.
What are some ways that you can model cooperation? The following tips may seem like common sense, but by deliberately practicing these skills in front of your child, you are teaching behaviors that will ultimately help your child succeed — and make you proud when your child imitates you on the playground:
- Listen carefully to others so that you can understand what they are saying.
- Share or take turns when more than one person wants the same thing.
- Compromise when you have a serious conflict.
- Do your part of a shared task and do the very best that you can.
- Show appreciation for people for what they contribute to a group or team.
- Encourage others to do their best.
- Include everyone and make everyone feel needed. Help your child recognize that everybody has something valuable to offer in a group.
Look for Opportunities to Teach Cooperation
In addition to serving as a role model, it’s important to be intentional about teaching cooperation to your child. Every day there are boundless opportunities to point out what cooperation looks like:
- When you read a story with your child, point out times when the characters cooperate with each other. Discuss how the characters feel and how much easier it is to accomplish the task when they work together. You can also point out when characters are working against each other and how that can lead to problems and hurt feelings.
- Plan a family project that includes a task for each family member to complete, even the youngest member of the family. You can start a vegetable or flower garden, cook a special meal, clean the house, paint the family room or play a game. Then talk about how much fun it was to work together and the important role each person played in getting it done. Emphasize how everyone’s role was necessary and valuable.
- Schedule household chores at times when all family members can work together to finish them. Praise your child for their attempts to help, and refrain from redoing the chore when they’re finished — at least not in their presence. Help your child see the fun of working together to accomplish a goal. Talk about how much faster the chores were completed than if Mom or Dad had to do them by themselves. Explain that cooperating on chores allows for more time to have fun as a family.
- “Catch” your child sharing or helping someone and show your appreciation. Encourage the behavior but refrain from giving material rewards; they are not necessary. Children should learn the joy of helping others without expecting something in return. This ties to our Primrose value of giving without expectation.
At Primrose Schools®, we believe who children become is as important as what they know. Learn more about how we build character:
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