Cooperation is used from childhood through adulthood to help build and maintain successful relationships, and parents play a significant role in helping their children develop the skills of cooperation. Children are most motivated to cooperate with close family members, those who have cooperated with them, and those they have seen cooperating with others, according to a research paper by the Psychology Department at Harvard University. In addition to modeling cooperative behavior, parents have many opportunities to help their child develop cooperation skills. These include activities that promote fairness and pleasing others, group or team sports, toys and activities that promote cooperation, and sharing responsibilities in the home.
Playing Fair and Pleasing Others
By the time your little one starts school, he’ll begin to understand and value the concept of fairness, according to Scholastic.com. Activities and games you can play at home that involve everyone following the same rules and taking turns will help him hone the cooperative skills he’ll use in the classroom. Using praise as a reward when he helps you will become a stronger motivator to cooperate now that he is beginning to value cooperation for the reward of pleasing you, and later, his teacher.
Foster Cooperation Through Example
Cooperation, according to Early Childhood News, takes place when a child recognizes the need to cooperate and then decides to act. Model cooperative skills, such as taking turns and sharing, to show your child that you value those behaviors. By fostering an appreciation for cooperation in your child, you will motivate her to demonstrate the same positive behavior. You can teach your child to recognize opportunities to cooperate by giving her cues. Saying, for example, “This laundry basket is really heavy for Mommy,” will likely cue your child to offer to help. Praising her for the help will then reinforce the positive behavior.
Toys and Activities
Provide toys that promote cooperation, suggests Scholastic.com, and plan activities that encourage the children to cooperate, such as taking turns pulling each other in a wagon, using sidewalk chalk to take turns making outlines of each other, or building a fort from sheets and blankets. Activities that encourage children to work together for a mutually desired outcome, such as taking turns stirring cookie dough or turning the crank on an ice-cream freezer, are also excellent for teaching cooperation.
Chores and Helping at Home
Encourage your child to help daily with chores and household tasks. This gives you the opportunity to model cooperative behavior while providing your child with a variety of ways to practice her skills. Tell her that you recognize how big she’s getting when you ask her to help you with a task for the first time, and reinforce positive, cooperative behavior with smiles and praise. To further motivate her, put up a chart that she can mark with stars or smiley faces each time she helps out.