How Exaggerated Praise Can Hurt Kids

Geo Beats
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A recent study confirms excessive praise by well-meaning parents will backfire, making children even less confident about approaching harder tasks, if the children already have low self-esteem.

Some psychologists caution that children won’t be motivated to challenge themselves with modern parenting’s extreme emphasis on self-esteem. A recent study confirms excessive praise by well-meaning parents will backfire, making children even less confident about approaching harder tasks, if the children already have low self-esteem.

Researchers conducted multiple experiments in the Netherlands, where the parenting culture is much like the United States.

First, researchers evaluated videos of parents and children practicing math exercises for “inflated” phrases. Instead of just saying, “you did good,” a parent might add an exaggerating adverb and say, “you did super good!” Parents overly concerned with their child’s self-esteem gave more inflated praise. On average, parents praised their children 6 times in 5 minutes. 25 percent was inflated praise.

Second, children were asked to select easy or difficult pictures to draw after painting one picture and receiving notes of varying praise from a “professional painter.” Kids with low self-esteem who received inflated praise seemed to be afraid of not meeting high standards and picked easy pictures. Kids with high self-esteem who received inflated praise eagerly went after difficult ones.

Lead author Eddie Brummelman said, “It’s good to become aware of the messages you send to a child – even when the message is well intended, it might have unintended consequences.”

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