Written for Continued Optimism by Zara Lewis.
As soon as they are born, children are getting to know the world, learning about it and acquiring new skills, such as motor, language, emotional and social ones. Of course, sometimes they need help to be more successful in reaching their milestones. Social skills are one of the most important set of skills they will learn during their lifetime since interaction with other kids, grownups and later their friends and employers will determine how successful and happy they will be. One way of nurturing the healthy habit of being social is teaching children to be good team players.
Give the Right Example
It is no secret that kids look up to their parents, especially in their early years. If they see their mother and father not cooperating or one of their parents doing everything independently never asking for and never giving help, they will pick up those habits as their own. Try to share responsibilities with them. When they are old enough, you can cook lunch together or clean up the house. Make these chores fun and playful so that you can, at the same time, teach the kids to be responsible to their home.
Differences Are Good
A team (of any kind) usually consists of drastically different people, each of them having specific strengths, weaknesses and interests. Teach your children to understand and respect those differences. You can do that through conversations and games showing that all people should be unique and respected for that. There are many books (e.g. One Family by George Shannon and Blanca Gomez, The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss, Children Just Like Me by Anabel and Barnabas Kindersley, etc.) and movies telling stories of diversity.
The Cause Above the “Me”
Putting the cause above personal interests is the basics of teamwork. This is one of the things that is the easiest to learn through team sports. Soccer is probably one of the best team sports out there, since it requires everyone to participate in order to achieve a common goal. Signing your kids up for this sport sounds like a fun idea and you too can join in! Buy some basic soccer equipment to play in your backyard, and give a practical example of teamwork.
Respect and Encouragement
The two most important qualities a team player must have are the respect for others and the will to encourage them when they’re feeling down. For that, you have to start early by giving the same two things to your child and the people around you. Much can be learned through comic books and superhero movies in which the heroes are encouraged to help and respect others and to be themselves, no matter what. The other side of the coin here is knowing how to give and accept positive critique, which is not the end of the world, but guidance for improvement.
The “I Have Your Back” Approach
A team player trusts his co-players. There are many trust building games and activities that can help with that. One of the most common is the famous trust fall (one person leans backwards and falls on purpose, trusting the teammate will be there to catch them). Trust walk is done by blindfolding one kid, while the other one is taking them by the hand. Sitting around in a circle and discussing various topics is always useful for developing not only trust, but language skills too. How and why to have someone’s back can be answered through various animated and motion pictures, especially superhero films, like Avengers.
In the end, you can always remind kids that the majority of successful people got there by being great team players. As Michael Jordan, one of the players who distinguished themselves both individually and as part of a team, said: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships”.
Zara Lewis (Twitter: @ZaraELewis) is a mom, designer and a regular contributor to highstylife.com , devoted to implementing healthy life habits in every aspect of life of her family and friends. She seeks for beauty in everything that surrounds her. Will start a blog about it once. Until then writes her diary occasionally. Romantic soul and tech geek in one body. She enjoys hiking, cycling, yoga and cooking.