How to Instill Cooperation as a Character Trait in Kids

INA Blog How to Instill Cooperation as a Character Trait in Kids 1Cooperation: it’s a big word that has many different facets to it. Learning how to cooperate is something that kids should learn at a very early age. In fact, teaching how to be cooperative can – and should – begin as early as early toddlerhood, when kids are learning how to share and how to follow directions from nannies, parents, and other adult figures. Cooperation is also closely tied to compassion, empathy, and respect. Here are some tips on how to instill cooperation as a character trait in children.

Model what cooperation looks like.
The first step to teaching your kids about cooperation is to define what it is. For instance, talk to them about how cooperation ties closely to team work. Show some examples of how productive teams utilize cooperative behavior to reach a solution. Also, model what it looks like in your own life. Maybe share a story about how being cooperative benefited you or point out cooperation in other people to highlight positive results.

Emphasize the positives of being cooperative.
Talk to your child about how good it feels to cooperate. Explain that the more they cooperate with others, the more others will cooperate with them. Talk to them about how cooperation is an important part of making friends and how working in teams is a lot easier when everyone cooperates. Model a positive behavior about cooperation and explain that being obstinate or competitive all the time can be frustrating for those around them and makes it difficult to build long-lasting relationships.

Demonstrate and explain what a cooperative person looks like.
If your child knows what a cooperative person looks and acts like, they may be more apt to model their behavior after that. Some key traits of a cooperative person are:

  • Good listening skills: Cooperation begins by listening carefully to others, so you understand where people are coming from.
  • Willing to share: Sharing is caring, as the old saying goes. Teach your children that sharing or taking turns is an important part of being cooperative.
  • Willing to find a solution or compromise: When there are conflicts or a solution needs to be found, teach your child that compromise is good and necessary.
  • Encouraging attitude: It’s important to encourage others to do their best and show appreciation for what people contribute. An encouraging attitude goes a long way.
  • Inclusivity:  Isolating or excluding people makes people feel hurt or left out. Cooperation begins by welcoming people into the group and making them feel heard and needed.  

It’s also important to keep in mind that there are some situations where being uncooperative is necessary. For example, if your child is feeling pressure to do something that they know is wrong, or if they are being asked to participate or be part of an experience that goes against their values. In those instances, going against the norm and standing up for what you believe in may be needed.

There’s no doubt about it: learning the ins and outs of healthy cooperation can be hard, but it is a skill that’s necessary to have as children mature and find their place in the world.   


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