Magazine article Work & Family Life

A Healthy Balance between the 'I' and the 'We'

Magazine article Work & Family Life

A Healthy Balance between the 'I' and the 'We'

Article excerpt

The tension between two predominant cultural messages -"you're No. 1" and "be a good team player"-affects our kids as much as it does us.

How can we help children achieve a healthy balance between the "I" and the "we"? One way is to foster their development of what I call "team intelligence."

With team intelligence, kids can become part of a group without "losing" themselves. They can learn to be assertive at times- putting themselves and their judgment first. Or, at other times, kids can allow their individual needs and opinions to be second, in deference to the group.

This is not a matter of being either a leader or a follower. It's more about honoring one's own inner compass while, at the same time, being a player who can make an individual contribution to the greater whole.

How it works

Team intelligence enhances the capacity for empathy. When young children play together, they learn to "tune in" to each other. As kids get older and become more observant, we can help them notice that all children are not the same. For example, some kids learn faster or run faster than other kids. Some children from different backgrounds may have different attitudes and points of view.

Team intelligence leads to conflict resolution. Children in groups can come up with their own ideas, but they also need to learn to cooperate and negotiate, know when to speak and when to listen.

Kids learn this at home when we teach them that their needs are not the only ones that must be met-and that sometimes they have to work cooperatively toward common family goals.

Why this is hard to achieve

Parents tend to foster the "I" in their kids. But doting behavior can affect a child's ability to participate in collective activities.

Peers and pop culture send mixed messages. Peer groups tell young people they have to be part of the group or team. But in popular culture, there's a powerful focus on the self that promotes an "I gotta be me at any cost" mentality.

what parents can do

A peer group can be difficult to negotiate. It can be hard to break in. Judgments are made. There's pressure to conform and perform. Kids need help from parents to develop group skills and to hone their ability to come up with solutions that will enable them to either fit in or have the strength to not be part of a group.

Here are four steps to help children become effective team members without compromising their core selves.

#1 Listen

Keep an ear closely tuned for the emotional consequences of group pressure. How you listen can encourage or thwart kids who are feeling bad about themselves.

Pay attention to your tone of voice when you ask questions. …

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