Your child is not an island

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All of us are aware of the benefits of thinking independently. We all want our children to be independent thinkers, capable of having their own thoughts, of supporting their opinions with strong, well-thought arguments, and of using critical thinking to come to their own conclusions. Yes, raising an independent thinker might be a little more challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Yet, this Habit of Mind is focused on thinking interdependently, not independently. What does this mean, and why is it so valuable? Thinking interdependently is about being able to work in a team, where sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Interdependent thinkers are open to the input and perspectives of others, and can accept group consensus even if it does not align with personal opinion. In short, thinking interdependently is all about understanding the benefits of cooperation and compromise.

It’s easy to see how thinking interdependently is key to eventual success – after all, humans are social beings. We cooperate, we work together, we communicate. Being able to successfully navigate the intricacies of group and team dynamics is a useful skill for any adult. As our world grows more complex, being able to work with others to tackle problems becomes an increasingly valuable skill.

So how do we encourage this in our children? If your child is having problems working with others, here’s how you can help:

For pre-schoolers
Reading them books about teamwork and developing friendships can help. I like Aesop’s Fables, especially the story titled The Bundle of Sticks, which teaches that there is strength in unity. Another household favourite is The Sneetches and Other Stories by the always popular Dr. Seuss. The titular story teaches the dangers of discrimination, and The Zax teaches the value of compromise.

For older children
Older kids may prefer the stories of Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me and many others talk about how teams benefit from the different strengths of each member.

No matter their age, all children benefit from gaining exposure to group sports. Ready Set Go and Sportball offer multisport activities, which can be helpful for your child’s physical and emotional development. Group sports allow children to practise thinking both independently and interdependently, as they need a firm grasp of both to flourish in a team game.

Most importantly, you must teach your child to develop a willingness and openness to receive feedback and welcome different perspectives. This begins with listening with understanding and empathy, but takes it one step further – incorporating that different perspective and using it to spur self-improvement. This helps to instil a growth mindset in your child, all of which will ultimately contribute to your child’s future happiness and success.


This is part 15 of a 16-part series on Habits of Mind. Follow the series here.

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