Dear Dr. Robyn,

I often think my family lacks some of that “all for one and one for all” spirit.  It’s more like “what’s in it for me” kind of spirit. How can I get my kids to  work together as a team?

— Gina C., Newton, MA

Dear Gina,

image The family really is the ultimate team. When it works well as a unit, a great deal can get done and get done more quickly. However, when family members are not working collaboratively, it can feel like every task takes extra long and once achieved, feels less like a success and more like a relief.

How can we get our families to use teamwork?

(1) Set up cooperative tasks:

Cleaning the yard, getting ready for a garage sale, raising money for charity, or planting a garden are all tasks that take collaboration. Get the children together and have them weigh the choices and choose a project. Each child should have a job and feel like a valued part of the team.

(2) Encourage praise from each member:

Talk to your children about showing gratitude and praising one another for the job they did to complete a project. Framing everyone’s contribution in the positive allows each member to see their strengths as well as the strengths of each family member.

(3) Make decisions as a family “team”:

When possible, make decisions as a group. Teach your children to weigh pros and cons, consider other people’s feelings, and uncover the benefits of each option. For instance you can ask; “should we rent a movie or play a game outside?” Facilitate the conversation rather than making the decision on your own. The more the children have an opportunity to work on this skill, the better they’ll get at it.

(4) Demonstrate it:

When children see you working as a team with others, they will see the value in it and adopt the skills
you demonstrate. You can work as a team with a spouse, a friend, grandparents, or coworkers. Speak out loud about how you are working as a team with others and show your children the skills you must employ.

(5) Reward it:

When children work as a team, help them to see the natural rewards that occur. You may also want to surprise your children with an extra reward for doing such a great job. You can also be assured that embarking on another team project will likely work out well– so brainstorm one that everyone will be thrilled to do!

Here’s to your success!

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