Your child is watching and listening to you. How do you interact with family members, friends and even strangers? How do you speak to people? How do you support them? How do you build connections?
When your kids are younger and you see them cooperating, point it out and say “I like the way you’re playing well with your sister.” You can use the word, COOPERATION, but explain it as it’s a way that people can work together.
When you see it, SAY SOMETHING! Continually acknowledge that you are seeing them cooperate whether it was with you, a sibling, a friend, or even your dog. “I noticed you cleaning up your toys after you were playing”. Thank you for helping to keep things tidy. Or, “Thank you for sharing your snack with your little brother, that was so kind.”An older child, “Thanks for keeping your room clean.” I appreciate you respecting my wishes for a clean house.
Developmentally, children don’t always understand this kind of perspective taking till 4-4.5 years old. Until then, you can use the words and set the expectations and show them what this looks like. You can also remind your child that sometimes we don’t all share the same feelings about things, but sometimes we have to compromise and do what is best for everyone. “I know you like peanut butter crackers. Not everyone can eat peanut butter. Can we find something else that everyone can eat?”
When these moments pop up, acknowledge them. As always, try to be patient with your child’s growing understanding of this skill.