Don't Over-Praise Your Kids -- It Hurts Some

My husband and I argue about this all the time.  He disdains coaches who give everyone on the team a trophy, no matter how they played.  But I'm grateful.  It's the only way our (non-athletic) child will ever get one.

But a new study has found that "Parents and other adults heap the highest praise on children who are most likely to be hurt by the compliments," according to

The reasoning behind this is that adults seem to give more praise to kids with low self-esteem.  "But while children with high self-esteem seem to thrive with inflated praise, those with low self-esteem actually shrink from new challenges when adults go overboard on praising them."

“Inflated praise can backfire with those kids who seem to need it the most – kids with low self-esteem,” the Web site quotes Eddie Brummelman, lead author of the study and a visiting scholar at The Ohio State University in autumn 2013.

Now, we're not talking about a "that-a-boy" or a "good job!" but about something called "inflated praise," described by experts as "small changes in the praise given to children, often involving just the addition of one additional word."  "Good is okay; "incredibly good" is not. 

And here's the simple reason why giving under-performing kids lavish praise is bad: adults in the study gave twice as much inflated praise to children identified as having low self-esteem compared to those children with high self-esteem.

Chances are, the more exxagerated you are in your praise, the more the child knows he's being patronized.  Or, pitied.

“Parents seemed to think that the children with low self-esteem needed to get extra praise to make them feel better,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State at “It’s understandable why adults would do that, but we found ... that this inflated praise can backfire in these children.”
These findings suggest that inflated praise may put too much pressure on those with low self-esteem, Brummelman said, to do better, be bettter, all the time, something they may not be capable of..
So what's a parent to do?  Praise your children when they deserve it.  But go easy on the adjectives.


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