Few children, if any, are born with the desire to share or cooperate with others. Cooperation is a trait that needs to be taught. The home environment is one of the best places to start.
Teaching young children to cooperate and share can be a challenge. Strong-willed children have a mind of their own and sharing is not usually one of their greatest virtues. Learning this trait, however, will greatly benefit kids as they grow and will be of great value once they transition into adults.
Most dictionaries define cooperative behavior as ‘the ability for people to work together so everyone can benefit.’ In the home, siblings can learn to cooperate together in cleaning their room, doing home chores or sharing the use of items such as TV, computer, etc. Toddlers and preschoolers can be taught to share their books, toys or time with mommy and daddy.
In school, children may be asked to cooperate on a school project, homework or classroom responsibility. In order for cooperation to work, everyone has to commit to do their part and follow through on their commitment.
What Does Cooperating Really Mean?
Before you can teach your kids how to cooperate with others, it is important they understand what cooperating really means. People who cooperate are expected to:
- Listen to others without barging in
- Consider others’ opinions and ideas
- Encourage others to participate
- Be willing to lead or follow
- Be respectful of others
- Recognize the abilities of others
- Calmly work out disagreements or problems
- Follow through with the work they agree to do
- Share the load
Cooperation is a trait that can benefit kids at home and in the school environment. The earlier you introduce this concept to your kids, the sooner they can begin putting it into practice. The home environment offers children many opportunities for cooperative learning. By taking advantage of these opportunities, you can help your kids incorporate this trait into their daily lives.
Cooperation at Home
Whether you have one child or many, your family can benefit from learning cooperation. Learning to work together as a team can help reduce sibling rivalry or friction between you and your kids. Picturing your family as a team that needs to get a job done is a good way of helping your kids understand the definition of cooperative. Explain to your kids that every member of the team, from youngest to oldest, is important to the success of your mission. By sharing some of the benefits of cooperating together and what’s in it for them, you can give your kids greater motivation to do their part.
Team-working makes it easier for a home to function with fewer problems. In order for it to work, you may need to establish some guidelines or rules for everyone to follow. Getting your older kids and teens’ input on these rules will make it easier for them to obey them. Such rules could include:
- Respecting one another
- Respecting others’ space and property
- Doing their share of the work willingly and on time
- Working out problems without arguing or fighting
- Spending time together, as a family
- Sharing family assets
As a family, you may have different ideas and ways of putting cooperation into effect in your household. Because families vary in size, background, culture, religious beliefs, financial status, etc., it is important for parents and kids to come up with a plan that’s within their best interest and works best for their personal situation. Cooperative learning and living can help you and your kids enjoy a happier, more productive home lifestyle.
Cooperation in the School Environment
Most schools have rules that support cooperative learning within a safe and controlled school environment. Many teachers also adopt rules for their individual classrooms to encourage their students to work together in unity. Rules make it easier for children to practice sharing and working together. Cooperative learning also opens the door for kids to learn such values as:
- Diligence and
There are many ways kids can practice cooperative skills in school. Younger children may be asked to work together in group activities or class projects. Kids may need to cooperate in sharing classroom resources. Teens may be divided into groups to complete science lab projects, research reports or give a presentation to the class. All of these examples offer opportunities for children and teens to practice cooperative skills.
Sports, games and playground activities during recess also present opportunities for students to cooperate and share. Kids learn the importance of taking turns, preferring others, helping others learn how to play a game or master a skill and working together to achieve their goals. Learning cooperation is a process and kids will make mistakes along the way. Teachers can help by emphasizing the need for patience, understanding and fairness during play. By establishing a few basic rules for games or playground activities in advance, students will be forewarned of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. This can encourage more cooperative play.
Teaching Young Children to Share
Sharing is an important aspect of being cooperative and a vital skill to learn in life. By learning early, toddlers and preschoolers will have more fun playing with their siblings and friends. Sharing is a must in a preschool environment as resources are limited and kids will need to take turns to partake of what’s there. Here are some tips for teaching your kids to share to prepare them for the school environment.
- If your child has a bad habit of being selfish with toys, you may be tempted to avoid situations where he or she would be called on to share. While doing so can provide temporary relief in that you will not have to deal with tantrums as a result of asking your child to share, you are in fact doing yourself and your child a disservice. Kids need to learn how to share and the only way they will learn this important skill is by being in situations where they have to share even when they do not feel like it.
- Talk with your child about sharing. Explain in simple terms how it works and what the rewards are for sharing. For instance, you can tell your little one, “When we go to your friend’s home, your friend shares his or her toys with you. Do you like playing with your friend’s toys? (Yes.) Now, when your friend comes over, you need to share your toys with him or her. That makes your friend happy. It also enables you to play games together and that is more fun than always playing on your own.”
- Praise your child when he or she does well. Every single child loves praise and it is always better to praise a child for his or her good behavior than it is to punish the child for bad behavior. If your child shares a toy, make a point of noticing it and praising him or her for it. Chances are your child will repeat the desired behavior.
- If sharing is a continual problem for your child, you may want to make a chart and give the child a sticker every time he or she shares a toy. After the child gets a pre-determined number of stickers, offer your child a prize of some sort. While bribing your child into sharing may seem like a bad idea, this tactic works well with young kids who are just starting to form this all-important habit.
- Read about sharing. You can find numerous books about sharing at a local bookstore or library. The book does not solely have to be about sharing so long as it includes instances where the characters share their toys or other possessions.
Sharing and cooperation are two important skills that every single child should learn at a young age. When teaching your child how to be cooperative, start by providing a clear cooperative definition and then talking about examples of what cooperation means. Praise your child for exhibiting cooperative behavior and showcase the good results of cooperating with others.
Sharing is more clear-cut than cooperation, as every child clearly understands what sharing means. You can help your child learn to share by giving him or her opportunities to do so on a regular basis. You will also want to praise your child for sharing to encourage him or her to do so again in the future.
Sharing and cooperation are not skills that are learned overnight, so do not get discouraged if your child acts selfishly or in an uncooperative manner from time to time. Instead, remind him or her about proper behavior, impose consequences for inappropriate behavior as warranted and then give your child a chance to try again. Over time, your child will learn these all important skills and you will see that the time and effort you put into teaching your child to share and cooperate with others was more than worth it.