Like most things in life, teamwork and being a team player is a learned skill. Take two seconds to observe a room full of toddlers, and that becomes ABUNDANTLY clear.
Thankfully, by the time a child is entering kindergarten, they’re old enough to understand the basics of teamwork. They may not like it, but their brains are developed enough to know it’s something they can and should do.
But those skills don’t just appear. Parents are the ones who start introducing kids to the concepts of teamwork and fair play.
Here are some ideas for you to try out. (Again, please remember, these skills won’t come naturally to your child. They will fight you. That’s okay, though. These concepts will eventually cement themselves inside your child’s brain if you are diligent.)
Ways to Foster Teamwork With Young Kids
- Emphasise that everyone has a role. Teams are more than just their strongest members. In group activities, work together to find a role or job for everyone playing. Let your children take the lead in picking their contribution, too. That fosters creativity as well as identifying personal strengths.
- Focus on the effort they give, not achievement. Understanding the importance of hard work and cooperation is WAY more important than prioritizing “winning is fun.” It’s way better If kids are rewarded and praised for the effort they put into a task than just for accomplishing something. (Kids can grow up to become the “never try, never fail” adult if they are rewarded only for the latter.)
- Show them how to encourage teammates. Even as adults, we know that teams made up of people who encourage and support one another are far better to be on than teams made of people focused on themselves and their achievements. Praise your kids for specific things they have done well, and have them do the same for their siblings, friends, or teammates.
- Encourage fair play. Honor ground rules that promote fairness and being kind, and don’t ever bend in those regards. However, if you have a little negotiator who likes to question the rules, hear them out and discuss as a group if you all think the rules should be changed to benefit everyone. (Emphasis on the EVERYONE.)
- Don’t reward arguing. Fighting, calling names, or stomping off in anger are NOT ways you want your kid to handle difficulty or losing. Teach them to negotiate and, if that still doesn’t work, to accept the bad news or loss with grace and a handshake.
Whether they end up in team sports or whether they are navigating a group project at school, being a team player and valuing good teamwork are skills that every child can benefit from. Be mindful of the ways you and your family can instill these values at home so your kids can see early how valuable being a team player really is.
For more parenting tips check out our blog at littlesunshine.com/blog/ or read some of the resources below: