Teaching cooperation

Sometimes we wonder why our children can’t be more helpful, why they don’t cooperate better. The reality is it is a skill they need to learn. Here is a piece from The Growing Child newsletter distributed by Lifestart about how to help them learn these important life skills.

Teaching Cooperation

Why do some children seem willing to cooperate while others do not? In fact, children learn to be cooperative and helpful. They do not become that way automatically. They have to learn to work with others to accomplish a job and to help others by sharing materials and information.

Children have to learn how to make someone else’s work or play easier. This learning takes place slowly, but the foundations can be laid early life. Here are some things that parents and caregivers can do that will set the stage for the development of cooperation:

1. Be a model. This is one of the best ways to teach cooperation because children imitate the actions of people who are important to them. If young children see parents and other adults cooperating with others, they will be more willing to do the same. When a parent helps out a neighbour or takes a casserole to the new family next door, he or she is setting an example that is seen by children and recorded for future reference.

2. Provide other models of good behaviour. Children are exposedto lots of models other than parents, including television, movies, books, toys, recordings, smart phones and video games.
Make an effort to screen these media and choose those that show good friendships, unselfish giving, or acts of kindness.

3. Give suggestions and reasons. One of the reasons adults sometimes fail to help is that they do not know what to do or how to do it. Don’t expect a child to automatically know how to do anything without specific, concrete suggestions. For example, tell a five-year-old: “Joan,
push the door and hold it open for Mrs. Stanley. She’s having trouble doing that and pulling the grocery cart at the same time.” You are more likely to get help from a four-year-old if you say: “I
want you to help me set the table for dinner because I have to finish the salad. Here are the plates. Put a napkin and a knife, fork and spoon next to each plate—like this.” Giving reasons along with suggestions helps children understand why another person needs their help and makes them more willing to cooperate.

4. Assign real responsibilities that are age-appropriate. We usually get what we expect from children,and they need to know that we expect them to take an active part in the work
of the family. Parents can convey expectations of cooperation and helpfulness, not by preaching, but by giving children real chores to do, and by showing them how to do the chores, when

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