Teaching Children to Cooperate

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In the early years of our homeschooling, I read For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley, daughter of Christian theologian and philosopher Dr. Francis Schaeffer. I also began to read books by her mother (and his wife), Edith Schaeffer. After reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking, I told Ray, “If anything happens to me, I want you to read this book, because this is how I want our children to be reared.” Other Edith Schaeffer books that I enjoyed were Tapestry, her combined autobiography of herself and biography of her husband, and What is a Family? These four books instilled in me great dreams for my own family.

How would you answer Edith Schaeffer’s question, what is a family? I guess we could take a lifetime answering it, but I’d like to offer one answer today: a family is a group of people who work together for common goals. Everything about a family takes cooperation and sacrifice. To work with others for common goals requires a willingness to sacrifice personal goals.

Even a goal as simple as having a meal together requires cooperation and sacrifice. Just going to the same room at the same time and sitting down at the table together takes cooperation and sacrifice, not to mention the necessary preparation before and the clean-up after a meal. Each person must give up working or playing or reading or whatever else he or she is doing long enough to eat with everyone else.

Grand Canyon 216
I don’t take a lot of food photos so I wasn’t sure where to find a picture for today. I’m glad I ran across some Grand Canyon photos yesterday.
I took several photos in a restaurant there because I thought the table
and the dishes were so pretty. Besides, it even takes
cooperation to eat a family meal at a restaurant, right?

In many healthy families, meals together are as natural as breathing; they are almost as predictable as sunrise and sunset. They are simply a regular part of daily life. However, for families in conflict, a meal together is anything but ordinary.

A children’s television program that I used to watch repeated this line often: “Cooperation makes it happen.” That simple statement is profound. Cooperation does make things happen. The opposite is also true: when there is no cooperation, nothing can happen.

A basic skill that children must learn is how to lay down their own agendas so they can bless other people, starting first with the members of their own families. At the root of cooperation is a willingness to consider the needs and desires of other people and to sacrifice my own needs and desires to meet them. Lack of cooperation often means: I want what I want and I don’t care what you want.

Parents know how difficult it can be to teach a child to consider the needs of others. Actively working on that concept is important, but another way to teach a child the importance of others is to live as if our children’s desires are important to us. Sometimes parents get mixed up. They get mixed up about the Biblical concept of parental authority. Instead of gently shepherding their children, they act in an authoritarian way that ends up sending this message to their children: “Your desires are not respected. The only people in this family who get what they want are the parents (or oftentimes one particular parent).”

Sometimes it is easy to forget that our children are people, too. As I thought about how to live with my first child when he was a tiny baby, God taught me that my baby had the same worth before Him that I did and that I should treat him accordingly. If only I would remember that in my dealings with everyone.

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic,
brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.
1 Peter 3:8



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One comment

  1. Love your site!!!! I share your wonderful stories and inspiration with many ladies. They are always thankful that I’ve shared such treasure with them.
    Please keep writing and sharing.

    Thank you!

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