Virtue of the Month for November/December: Co-Operation
Co-operation is both the act and the art of working together. It requires an orientation away from what is good for me and what I feel like doing, to what is good for others as well. It means working together to achieve a common purpose. It depends upon the presence of other virtues, such as respect, tolerance and empathy.
Any list we care to reference will tell us that co-operation is an essential skill for the 21st century. Boys and girls need this skill in equal amounts, yet we typically have much lower expectations for co-operative behaviour from males than we do for females. Let’s make sure that we maintain high expectations for co-operative behaviour from both boys and girls, and downplay competitiveness, which, by the way, is nowhere on any such list of desired skills.
Why else do we emphasize co-operation over competition?
Because children thrive when they co-operate with each other. Co-operation promotes higher self-esteem and self-acceptance. In addition, when children co-operate, interaction between peers improves, and children develop a more positive view of their peers.
As we would expect, when adult-child relationships are warm and constructive, co-operation increases. However, when adult-child interaction is coercive or adversarial, co-operation occurs when adults are present but decreases sharply when children are left unsupervised. Co-operation is not something that can be imposed. It’s up to us to create the conditions under which it is most likely to happen. When children choose to act co-operatively they become the beneficiaries of its wonderful rewards, which are deep, and far richer than those they experience without it. They benefit also when we provide strong examples of co-operation and engagement within the family and in the community. Co-operating isn’t always easy. How do we co-operate when we don’t feel like it?
Entertaining positive or “green thoughts” helps us to make the shift from “me” to “we”. As you go about your day, thinking out loud is one way you can provide examples. Let your children hear your internal dialogue as it guides decision making and promotes your own co-operative behaviour. It will help!
Some thoughts to ponder at the dinner table:
“Being co-operative is being willing to go along in order to get along.” Linda Kavelin Popov
“The only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation.” Bertrand Russell
“Co-operation, which is the thing we must strive for today begins where competition leaves off.” Franklin Roosevelt
“By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.” John Dickensen
“Co-operation is doing with a smile what you have to do anyway.” Anonymous