Building healthy family relationships is a team sport. But what do you do when you are raising a child who has never been part of a team?

Cooperation, sharing, and considering the needs of others are essential to having a successful family team dynamic. These qualities and behaviors are learned through early secure attachments. Children with compromised attachment become self-absorbed, believing their survival depends on looking out for number one. They need time and opportunities to learn about the give-and-take of relationships, including cooperation, empathy, and reciprocity.

This is part of a series of blog posts on parenting in which we’re taking a detailed look at the foundation for creating a healthy and healing relationship with your child based on compassionate care, appropriate structure and mutual respect. Learn more about the full series here.

Steps to fostering cooperation


  1. Encourage – Cooperation has to be won, not demanded. Remember, you cannot make your child do anything. Imposing your will on him or her will only create more resistance. You need to parent in a way that encourages cooperation, showing your child that cooperation is in his or her best interest.


  1. Be tuned-in – In scientific terms resonance is when the vibrations produced by one object come into alignment with those of another. Parents who are resonant are tuned-in to the feelings, needs, and mindsets of their children as they parent. And, it is these resonant parents who are more likely to have children who are motivated to cooperate. On the other hand, dissonant parents, those who are not in harmony but clashing with their children, are out of sync with their children’s feelings and are less likely to motivate cooperation. Dissonant parenting cannot successfully overcome a child’s self-centered and defiant tendencies.


  1. Practice what you preach –  The single most effective thing you can do to foster a cooperative attitude in your child is to set the example. You must model cooperation if you expect your child to be cooperative. Model cooperative attitudes and behaviors in your relationships with family, friends, and others. Show your child the benefit of being cooperative and working well with others. Children learn by watching what we do, not what we say. Practice what you preach.


  1. Get on the same page – It is imperative that everyone is on the same page regarding the ways and means of helping your child. Cooperation among teachers, child welfare workers, therapists, parents, coaches, and others is essential for your child and for yourself. It really does take a village.