By Chris Bartlett

Cooperation is a basic life skill that allows children to make friends and work successfully with others. The definition of cooperation is simple enough – combining energies to work toward a common goal. But teaching it can be a challenge as it requires a combination of character attributes, such as respect, honesty, patience and thoughtfulness. Every parent wants their child to exhibit these skills, but they are tricky lessons to teach since young children are naturally focused on themselves. The good news is that cooperation can be learned over time through purposeful activities and frequent encouragement from parents and caregivers.

We know that children learn character mainly through imitation. They listen, observe and learn cooperation skills by watching the words and actions of their caregivers and parents. When your child sees you working happily with others, he will sense the joy you feel and want to experience that joy too. By practicing cooperative skills in front of your child you are teaching behaviors that will ultimately help your child succeed. Here are some ways you can model cooperation:

» 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. Start at home with family conversations that allow everyone time to talk.

» Compromise on serious conflicts.

» Do your part of a shared task and do the very best that you can. When you complete your task, ask others how you might help them complete their work.

» Show appreciation for what people 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.

In addition to serving as a role model, it’s important to be intentional about teaching cooperation to your child. Use the following everyday activities as opportunities to encourage your child to cooperate with family and friends:

» 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.

» Schedule household chores at times when all family members can work together to finish them. Praise your child for her attempts to help, and refrain from redoing the chore when she’s finished. Help her 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 it alone. Point out how cooperation with chores allows for more time for family fun.

» “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.By taking advantage of these moments and creating learning opportunities for your child, you will help him understand the importance of cooperation. Working together becomes fun for children as they develop an understanding of the skills and techniques needed to achieve a common goal. n

Primrose Schools is a national family of accredited, early education and care schools serving children, parents and local communities with a purposeful, balanced approach to nurturing Active Minds, Healthy Bodies and Happy Hearts®.  For more parenting tips, visit our 360 Parenting blog at www.PrimroseSchools.com/360Parenting.

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