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Friday, May 30, 2014
Nurse Jen blogs about how the use of words can make a difference
(summarized from KQED's Sate of health blog, May 2, 2014. Link below)
Enlisting your kids to help out with household chores can be frustrating if not downright maddening. Recently in the journal Child Development, researchers report a tactic that may get kids to cooperate. Rather than asking your child to help you, try calling them 'a helper' instead. It may seem small but it makes kids feel like they're embodying a virtue, says Christopher Bryan, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego and one of the researchers behind the study.
The phenomenon isn't unique to kids. In a previous study, Bryan found that asking grown-ups, "How important is it to you to be a voter?" was more likely to motivate them to get to the polls than asking them about the importance of voting.
Interestingly, Bryan says, "Noun-based appeals to not cheat are [also] more effective than a verb-based approach." Sure, you may not want to cheat - but you really don't want to see yourself as a cheater.
But Don't Go Too Far: Skills vs. Virtues
With kids, we should be careful not to take the approach too far, Bryan says. In some cases, it can set kids up to fall harder if they fail.
"Helping isn't something you can fail at," Bryan says. But drawing is. An earlier study from Stanford University found that kids who were told they were "good drawers" (versus "good at drawing") were much harder on themselves when they thought they had created bad artwork.
When adults put labels on kids - whether it's helper, drawer or something else - the child's identity and self-worth becomes entangled with the label, says Andrei Cimpian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who led the drawing study. "Later, down the line when they encounter difficulties, that's going to be a lot more painful," he says.
When it comes to behavior that's skill-based, as opposed to virtue-based, Cimpian says, parents might do better to use verbs instead of nouns. For example, instead of telling your little Picasso that she's a great artist, he says, "Say, 'Wow, you spent a lot of time on that. It looks great!' "
Sound confusing? Don't stress out about it too much. Unconditional love and support are really what our kids need most. But next time you fearfully anticipate your adorable toddler maturing into a self centered teenager, call your '#1 helper' over and give her some clothes to fold!
Posted by Nurse Judy at 9:13 AM