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Collaboration over Competition

We live in a world that seems to be consumed with competition. There always has to be a winner, or someone who has the upper hand. Students are graded in class and praised for As but shamed for Ds. Kids are expected to take tests and complete tasks by themself and FOR themselves. Parents feel the need to always be right or have the final say. We are so wrapped up in this idea of competition that we’ve lost the concept of collaboration as a whole. What if students worked together to solve a problem? What if they were praised for their efforts in a team as opposed to being the best player? What if children felt like active collaborators in the home instead of blind followers? Imagine a world where people felt drawn to help each other and not just themselves.

How does this apply to parenting? Well, the better question is- how does it not? Children crave to be a part of their family. They have a rooted core need to be loved, supported, and feel a sense of belonging. As parents, we owe it to our children to ensure this need is met. It’s not hard to collaborate with children, but it does take practice and consistency. I’ve listed below three ways to practice collaboration in the home that will lead to cooperation and more than that, connection:

1. Include in decision making

Instead of telling your children what is going to happen when, collaborate with them to make it a team effort. Get together as a family at the beginning of the day, week, month, etc., and make a plan together that includes daily routines like getting ready for the day or household tasks that are expected to be done, and also the extracurriculars such as getting to sports practices or play dates. Include your children in the explanation of natural consequences that will occur if things are not done on time or the way they were planned, for example: “if you don’t get up and out the door on time, we won’t have time to have a mini dance party before school” or “if you don’t get your room picked up by Wednesday, we won’t be able to go to the neighbor’s house to play basketball.”

Things don’t always go as planned, and that’s just life. As adults, we have learned to shift and remain flexible to our situations. It’s important that we teach our children these skills, and though there might not be one right way to do that, there is a way that breeds collaboration and cooperation. When something goes awry, like your 5-year-old hits a friend, or your teenager doesn’t study for a test so she gets a D, you have the opportunity as the parent to invite them into critical thinking for conflict resolution.

Let’s take the kindergartener for example: when he hits his friend, it would be easy to say something along the lines of “that was not nice! Go say sorry then sit in time out for 5 minutes!” If we take a more collaborative approach, it could sound something like this: “I wonder how your friend felt when you hit him? How do you think you can show your friend that you’re sorry?” By doing this, the child is given the invitation to think about how his friend is feeling, and more than that, he has the opportunity to decide how he thinks he should apologize. Because of his age, it is appropriate to offer suggestions as the parent, but ultimately the decision will be made together, instead of forced upon him.

Now let’s look at the teenager: she more than likely knows why she got the D- she didn’t study. So instead of shaming and blaming “how could you not study? Now you have to work harder to make up that grade, and you’re definitely not going out with your friends this weekend” we have the opportunity to invite the teen into the resolution by asking: “did you not have enough time to study? What was going on for you that made this the case, and how do you think we can fix this together?” By doing this, you as the parent are conveying that you trust them to help come up with a solution to this problem. There’s no need for shame, blame, or radical punishment. It’s likely that the child already feels guilt for receiving a bad grade. Instead of making them feel worse, we have the chance to invite them into problem solving to make sure the outcome is different next time.

2. Involve in household tasks (but make it fun)

Chores are unavoidable unless you live a lavish lifestyle and can afford services for all the things that are done around the house. Children see their parents doing chores or household tasks from the day they’re born, so it’s inevitable that they’ll want to be involved in washing dishes, vacuuming, or folding laundry at some point in their early life. Instead of excluding them from these tasks to ensure things are done “properly” or “quickly”, we have the opportunity to invite them into our world and collaborate to get the tasks done together.

Tasks that can easily be made collaborative, even with toddlers:

Vacuuming- my son and I have vacuum races. Not only is the house being cleaned, but we are having a good time while doing it.

Washing dishes- I don’t know of a little kid who doesn’t enjoy playing in the water. Even if they are unable to help with the act of washing the dish, their closeness to you while they play with a clean sponge in the sink and you wash the dishes right next to them will provide much needed connection.

Making the bed- when time allows, have fun with this task! Let your little ones hide in the sheets while you search with your tickle fingers. Turn it into a pillow fight, or race to get the cases on the pillows if it’s washing day. Collaboration and connection while getting a chore done? Yes, please.

3. Learning

Learning something new doesn’t have to be followed by a test. When you’re teaching something new to your child, you have the opportunity to include them in the way they learn the particular subject. I like gravity as an example. Ask your child what would be more meaningful to them: jumping off the bed into your arms, dropping toys from the top of the stairs, or stepping into nature to watch the leaves fall from trees. By doing this, you’re collaborating with your child to teach them something new in a way that is meaningful to them. You’re teaching, they’re learning, and you are both connecting.

Projects are another great way to collaborate with your child. You have the opportunity to brainstorm, build, create, and play together. Whether it’s a science fair project or a colorful masterpiece for the fridge, sitting down and collaborating on a project is a great way to work together and connect during the process.

When we prioritize collaboration over competition, we give our children the opportunity to cooperate and connect with us rather than comply and remain disconnected. By focusing on working as a team, we build our children up instead of break them down. I invite you to view your parent/child relationship as a collaboration rather than a power dynamic. Next time you’re trying to persuade your child to do something, practice working together instead of threatening and punishing. Come up with a plan that honors your relationship and the values you have as a family.

If you find yourself longing for more information, I’d love to talk with you personally. Book a free 30 minute discovery call where we can deep dive into this collaboration process and discover how I can be of service to you.

Thanks for being here,

Brianna, The Patient Parent

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