Study: Parent's Praise May Have Opposite Affect on Children

A new study shows that parents who shower low self-esteemed children with praise and encouragement may indeed be hindering their confidence. In experiments involving groups of about 1,000 adults and 500 children, scientists found that kids who self-identified as lacking confidence shied from tough tasks after receiving hyped compliments from adults, according to the paper, to appear in the journal Psychological Science. Researchers videotaped parent reactions to their children's work, common "inflated" phrases were "Super good!" and "You did that really fast!" Children with self-designated lower confidence chose the easier task if they got excessive praise, the study found. They were more apt to tackle the tougher task if they received simple, positive feedback. Kids brimming confidence, meanwhile, were game for harder tasks after hearing extra-flowery raves for their initial work. The authors theorized that telling children with lower self-esteem they performed “incredibly well” caused those kids to believe they had to match that high standard, making them shrink from trying to repeat the achievement.

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