Be it a toddler or pre-schooler, encouraging your childrens to cooperate from an early age is an essential social skill. Teaching children the art of cooperation makes them realise the importance and value of teamwork, develop trust with others, enhance empathy, and imbibe social skills. It teaches them the value of listening to others and showing patience during a conflict. Many experts agree that “cooperation” is first learned at home in a family setting.
A child can learn about cooperation and its importance through their family members. For example, when they see parents help each other while cleaning the house or doing dishes. Or when they notice how one family member takes turns when more than one person wants the same thing. They watch, listen, and learn cooperation skills by imitating the actions and words of the parents. When your child watches you experience the joy of cooperating with others, it inspires them imitate and re-create meaningful experiences for themselves.
Teaching children to be cooperative can be challenging. However, as parents, we can nurture these positive traits in our children from an early age.
Some ways to encourage your children to learn collaborative skills can include:
Solve problems together: Finding a solution to a problem with your children can be a great way of teaching cooperation. It is the easiest way to make them understand the importance of cooperation and how it helps us solve real-world problems. For example, if your little one wants to visit the park, but it is too hot outside. Instead of directly denying, you can bring your toddler into the conversation to try to problem-solve together. You can present it as a problem that needs a solution. “We might not enjoy playing outdoors right now as we might get sunburnt. How about we playing some indoor games today? Can you think of any?” This way, your toddler will understand how cooperation leads to solutions.
Talk about family rules: Realising the importance of having and following expectations at home is vital to learning cooperation. Explain house rules to your children and tell them there are consequences when we do not follow them. For example, if it is a family rule to leave your shoes out before entering the house, you can say, “If we do not take our outside shoes off, then dirt and germs may enter the house.”
Acknowledge and praise their efforts: Always appreciate your children’s efforts to learn and follow collaborative skills. When they help you with the chores, highlight the impact of the contribution i.e. tell them that they helped you finish the task quickly just in time for dinner.
Parents should always keep looking for opportunities to teach and role model cooperation to their children. You can teach them the importance of collaboration while narrating stories where characters help each other. Children always learn by observing or listening. Make sure you practise cooperation so that your child can mirror your actions.