When with children, talk in verbs not nouns

Washington: A recent study has suggested that using verbs to talk about actions with children, such as encouraging them to help, read, and paint, may make them more resilient.
According to the research encouraging children “to help,” rather than asking them to “be helpers,” can instill persistence as they work to fulfill daily tasks that are difficult to complete.

Marjorie Rhodes, senior author of the study said, “The new research shows how subtle features of language can shape child behavior in ways not previously understood. In particular, using verbs to talk to children about behavior, such as ‘you can help’, can lead to more determination following setbacks than using nouns to talk about identities, for instance, ‘you can be a helper’.

In a series of experiments, children, also aged 4 to 5, were asked either to “be helpers” or “to help,” and they were given the opportunity to assist the experimenter in cleaning up some toys. However, the situation was designed so that children would experience difficulties while they tried to help.

For example, when children tried to pick up a box to move it to a shelf, the contents, due to a faulty box, spilled all over the floor, a problematic outcome similar to those young children experience in daily life.

The experiment continued with children getting three more opportunities to help the experimenter. The results showed that children who had originally been asked “to help” were more resilient after the setback than those asked to “be helpers.”

After the setbacks, children asked “to help” were just as likely to help in challenging situations that benefited only the experimenter as in easy situations that also benefited themselves. On the other hand, children asked “to be helpers” rarely helped in the challenging situations that benefitted the experimenter. They did so only when it was easy and also benefited themselves.

The full findings are present in the journal- Child Development.