Step Set Ground Rules Then Expect Sharing

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Sharing is one of the essential skills of cooperation. Lay down family ground rules so your kids know you expect them to share and take turns. Be sure your kids clearly know your expectations. Some kids have a tough time learning to share; here are few tips to help them learn to walk the talk:

• Use a timer. Some kids, especially the younger set, have a tough time sharing. One way to get them started is by using an oven timer or sand timer so that they can "see" how much longer it is until it's their turn. Older kids can use the minute hands on their watches. Teach kids to agree on a set amount of time—usually only a few minutes—for using an item. When the time is up, the item is passed to the next child for his turn.

• Put away valuables. Tell your child to put away any personal possessions she does not want to share before her guest arrives. There are certain possessions that are very special to your child, so putting those items away before a guest arrives minimizes potential conflicts. Explain that anything your child leaves out should be shared.

• Share only what belongs to you. Items that do not belong to your child may not be shared unless permission is granted from the owner: "I'm sorry, we can't play with that. It belongs to my brother, so it's not something I can share."

• Don't expect anything in return. Emphasize that just because you share, you should not anticipate getting something back. The reason to share is that it's nice to be nice.

• Model the value of sharing equipment. Computers, tools, and technological expertise all have a role in working together and getting things done these days. Take a moment to show your kids directly how in this age of technology there are so many great ways to cooperate: sharing e-mail lists, creating links on e-mail and Web site links, sharing computer files, creating cell phone networks, and making Web sites for family and friends.

day trip or family vacation, or even spring cleaning.Then go through the cooperative steps as a group so kids experience the process of working together. Here's how to hold a family garage sale where kids must cooperate:

1. Brainstorm project possibilities and then vote.The most votes wins (in this case, let's suppose the family garage sale won the most votes).You can also share a computer to search for ideas, find resources, keep a record of each step along the way, and even create a Web site for each project.

2. Give everyone a large garbage bag or box in which to put all clothes, games, books, or whatever they want to sell.

3. Supply poster board, marking pens, and tape for everyone to make signs announcing the sale and then post them around the neighborhood. Or make the signs on your computer and print them out for posting.

4. Set out marking pens and labels for price tags; members can help each other price each item.

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Choose a Family Work-Together Project that every member can be a part of, such as putting together a picnic, planting a garden, planning a

5. Get up early the morning of the sale, and arrange items on your front lawn or patio. Older kids can help younger kids assume responsibility for the "cash register" as items are sold.

At the end of the day, any unsold items can be donated to a charity that is chosen in a cooperative family vote. Members can also decide how to spend any earnings. Does each person keep his or her own profits, are they to be divided equally, or should they be combined into one fund and spent as a family? Not only does your family have fun and earn money, but they learn the value of cooperation by experiencing the process.

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