Are kids getting too much praise?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

overpraised children
Kids with low self-esteem are less likely to try harder if they receive too many compliments.

Some parents believe encouraging kids with low self-esteem will help them gain confidence, so they over-compliment their efforts. According to a new study from Ohio State University, however, it’s the wrong thing to do: low self-esteem children who receive extra praise are less likely to work harder.

The study involved around 1,000 adults and 500 low self-esteem kids. These children were either praised with phrases such as “wow you did great!” or over-praised with the addition of just one more word like “wow, you did really great!” In order to test the effects of the different types of compliments, the researchers ran a series of experiments.

In one of the trials, low self-esteem kids were asked to draw a copy of a famous painting, then turn their artwork in to a “professional painter.” Some of the kids were praised and told they did a good job, while others were over-praised and received a note that said they did a super good job.

According to the results of the study, the children that received a regular compliment were more likely to draw something more difficult. However, the kids who were over-praised were more likely to choose an easier task. “If you tell a child with low self-esteem that they did incredibly well, they may think they always need to do incredibly well,” explained psychologist Eddie Brummelman, a co-author of the study. “They may worry about meeting those high standards and decide not to take on any new challenges.” Sadly, the study also found that parents are more likely to praise kids with low self-esteem.

In a different part of the study, researchers asked parents to give their children a timed math test. The researchers found that they were more likely to over-compliment the kids if they had low self-esteem. “Parents seemed to think that the children with low self-esteem needed to get extra praise to make them feel better,” said Bushman. “It’s understandable why adults would do that, but we found… that this inflated praise can backfire in these children.”

The researchers hope this information will help parents understand how to best support their children’s efforts.

Images courtesy of AP Photographie on Flickr.