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Inflated Praises Hurt Children With Low Self-Esteem

Update Date: Jan 03, 2014 08:06 PM EST

Praises and compliments may hurt children with low self-esteem, a new study suggests.

A new study reveals that parents and other adults give the most compliments to children who are most likely to be hurt by compliments.

While kids with high self-esteem to thrive on compliments, those with low-self esteem actually avoid new challenges when adults give them too much praise.

"Inflated praise can backfire with those kids who seem to need it the most - kids with low self-esteem," lead researcher Eddie Brummelman said in a news release.

Researchers found that adults have twice as likely to give children identified as having low self-esteem inflated praise compared to those with high self-esteem.

"Parents seemed to think that the children with low self-esteem needed to get extra praise to make them feel better," co-author Brad Bushman said in a news release.

"It's understandable why adults would do that, but we found in another experiment that this inflated praise can backfire in these children," Bushman added.

In the new study, children were asked to draw either hard or easy pictures. Researchers found that children with low self-esteem were more likely to choose the easier pictures if they received inflated praise. Inflated praise includes compliments that have an additional adverb like "incredibly" or adjective like "perfect". For instance, "You are good at this" is a simple praise, while "you're incredibly good at this" is considered an inflated praise.

On the other hand, kids with high self-esteem are more likely to choose the more difficult pictures if they received inflated praise.

Researchers explained that inflated praise might put too much pressure on those with low self-esteem.

"If you tell a child with low self-esteem that they did incredibly well, they may think they always need to do incredibly well. They may worry about meeting those high standards and decide not to take on any new challenges," said Brummelman.

Based on the latest findings, researchers said parents and adults need to avoid giving inflated praise to children with low self-esteem.

"It goes against what many people may believe would be most helpful," Bushman added. "But it really isn't helpful to give inflated praise to children who already feel bad about themselves."

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science

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