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How often as parents do we hear ourselves saying, “Just work together. Can’t you cooperate?” Sometimes we want to pull our hair out wondering if our kids will ever cooperate. And in those calm, introspective moments as a parent (we have those, right?), we have to ask ourselves, “Do I cooperate? Is this something I model for my kids?”

See, as much as I’m an extrovert and love being around people, I’ve never really enjoyed team projects.
You know, the ones in school where inevitably ONE PERSON does the project and EVERYONE ELSE takes the credit?

The worst.

So when it comes to projects at work or the home—no matter how monstrous—I often would rather just dig in and finish the task myself.

Take painting our home for example.

My wife and I had it all planned out:
Kids binge-watch Netflix.
We paint the living room.

But then we heard the question:
“Can we help?”

I wanted to quick yell, “NO! Go watch TV!”

I knew what kids helping us paint meant:
Stopping and starting
Cleaning up spills
Wiping paint drips off the floor and trim
Maybe even repainting what they painted.
In short: MORE WORK.

But my wife is wiser than me, more patient than me, and generally more rational and full of common sense. She knows the kids should help us.

She gets the kids all set up to help us paint.
I assign them walls that will be covered by furniture.

They’re painting.
And loving it.
And talking about how great it is to paint OUR new home…

In that moment, I learned something about cooperation. See we talk about cooperation as “working together to do more than you can do alone.”

For our kids, painting the living room was not simply about painting the room. Painting the living room was about participating with us in something so much larger than just slapping some paint on the walls. Our kids were helping us build our home. Together we were building our home — not brick and mortar, but memories and ownership and life and love and laughter.

In life, we soon realize that we can’t do life alone. We’re going to need to work with people on school projects, sports teams, dance troops, and, yes, even building a home. Why shouldn’t we invite kids to cooperate with us? Why shouldn’t our family be the place where kids get their first taste of what it means to work together?