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4 Ways to Develop Cooperative Kids

​I sometimes used to take four kids into a shopping centre after soccer games. You could hear them coming because of the clatter of their studs. Sometimes a shop assistant's face would pale as they walked into her shop. But I can't tell you how many positive comments they received about their behaviour. They never did anything wrong and because of all the positive attention from the shop assistants as well as me, the boys glowed. And this happened time and time again, with different groups of boys over years.

2. Make Expectations Clear Ahead of Time (Boundaries)

But prior to going into the shopping centre I didn't ever just say "be good." Instead I made it very clear ahead of time what was expected.


I made some simple rules

  • Keep your voices low (so only your friends can hear you)

  • Keep your hands to yourself

  • Stay near me. (Within two steps of me)

  • Explain the better behaved they were the quicker I'd be

3. Model Cooperative Behaviour Yourself

When my kids we're young we had one rule in the family and that was 'cooperate.' And it applied to the parents equally.


But from when our children were very young we did a lot of every day things together, so we just learned to help each other out, which usually made it easier for all of us.

Then when any chores were done, we got to have fun together.

And we talked about the importance of doing what was asked, first time and being able to be relied upon.


Sometimes we did things that had some risk associated with them, for example surfing and I needed to be able to trust my children.

Trust was built upon by increasing responsibilities and privileges as they were earned.

If you build your relationship with a child you have credit points to fall back on if you can't do or give them something they want.

For more ideas on developing positive learning opportunities visit the following links below:

Step by Step Parenting Tips 4

(Follow the blue text for tips)

1. Catch Kids Being Good

I've taught thousands of children over decades from babies through to thirteen year olds and I found there was one constant across all age groups.


What I gave attention to, I got more of.

I learnt quickly when I noticed children being good I experienced much fewer behaviour problems. There was simply more in it for them by being co-operative.

I'm still surprised when, if two kids are playing together well, a parent will say nothing until they begin to argue.

And ​I set things up for them to succeed by:

  • Having them where they could see something interesting where ever possible. e.g. In the shopping centre a mirror worked a treat, toy catalogues also worked well

  • Noticing and acknowledging any positive behaviours immediately

  • Giving them a reward linked to their behaviour at the end. I usually gave them a privilege that I may have been thinking of giving them anyway but by linking it to their behaviour there was something in it for them for being good.

  • Whenever possible, I later addressed each one independently and told them what they'd done to help me and why I appreciated it.

Usually these boys came out of the shopping experience feeling much happier than when they went into it.

And because I'd treated them an individuals within the group, they knew I cared about them.

I adopted similar modified expectations when I took groups of boys camping with us, and again didn't have problems.

        * * *

I never even really thought that much about how cooperative my kids had become until one day I heard my son say back "Yes sure," when he was asked to help out. That was exactly the response I gave.

4. Build Your Relationship

Another thing that's really important in encouraging co-operation is paying attention to what's important to a child.


I can recall a boy I taught who'd had many behaviour problems with his previous teachers and often at home with his mum.


But one day I had the good fortune to see him with his little brother; how kind and gentle he was with him. I could tell he adored him.


So every morning I asked this often initially sullen boy how his little brother was going. And his face lit up.

​It took probably ten to twenty seconds every day but it transformed this boy's world because he knew someone 'saw him' and knew what was important to him. His attitude to school and his education improved markedly. And he became a really good kid.

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Best parenting takes time. The best parenting advice ever is simple: Do your best, don't give up and love your children, no matter what.

If there's no attention for being good, but instant attention received for doing something wrong, what's being reinforced?

Children crave your attention and will do what they can to get it. It'll either be positive, or it'll be negative. What you notice, you'll get more of.