Young children are more likely to persist in a difficult task if adults frame the task as something to do—such as “helping,” rather than a way to be, like “helpful.”
That’s the upshot of a new study in the journal Child Development, in which New York University researchers conducted a series of experiments asking 4- and 5-year-olds to either “help” or “be helpers” for a researcher cleaning up toys. They were asked to pick up a box that had been designed to break and spill when lifted. After that experience, children who had been asked to help were equally likely to help again, even when it didn’t benefit them, while children asked to “be helpers” helped again only when helping was either not challenging or was in their own interest.
A version of this article appeared in the September 26, 2018 edition of Education Week as Early Education