With the schools shuttered, many parents are asking for a little help having our children cooperate while the family is holed up at home. They know that their kids cooperate better at school … but why?
Why do our children act differently at school?
First of all, this is normal. It is good when your child can follow the rules outside the home. This is a strong indicator that your child understands the expectations of the school community and is learning to internalize the values of respect and being a team player. Your little one’s ability to self-regulate is emerging.
What do teachers do to encourage cooperation?
Most of us tend not to speak up when things are going well. For example, if your children are playing together nicely, the thought is not to rock the boat. However, when good teachers observe cooperation, they point it out. So, let your children know that you noticed when they were being helpful or thoughtful of others. Positive praise has lasting effects on your child’s willingness to cooperate, as well as on building your child’s self-esteem.
What other praise tools are in the teacher toolbox?
Praise with detail: When your child complies with a request (e.g. helping you put away the toys), offer praise with specifics. Try something like this: “Wow, you are really good at putting away all of the Legos. We might even have time for an extra story at bedtime!” This type of remark tells your child what types of behaviors are valued in your home in a way that a simple, “good job” does not. With time and repetition, chances are these positives will become the new normal.
Overhearing praise: This form of praise is likely to impact a child’s willingness to cooperate. Next time you are chatting with Grandma, consider a comment such as: “You should have seen Emma and Ava making play dough. They were having a great time as they took turns. I am so proud of how kind they are towards each other!”
Unexpected Praise: When your children least expect it, take a moment to lean over to say, “Dylan, I saw how you helped the baby find her lovey. You are such a good brother!”
For healthy development, all children need attention and approval. If children cannot get what they need from positive experiences, they might seek it out through less-desirable behaviors.
So, catch your child being good and let them hear about it!
Susan Rudich, M.Ed., is an early-childhood educator, parenting coach and adjunct professor of child development. She is a fellow of the Simms Mann Institute’s First 36 Project, and studies the latest in human development theories and neuroscience as they relate to children ages 0-36 months. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.