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Why We Need to Change the Way We Praise Children

The Praise Paradox

Is excessive praise good for children |

Stop the press! Past parenting books may need to be re-written following research that looks at the effects of praise on children.

According to the Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE) at the University of Amsterdam, parents have a tendency to lavish the most praise to children with low self-esteem. The result? The children who need the most encouragement were often left unmotivated with a reduced sense of worth. 

Paradoxically, the way we choose to encourage children can actually discourage them. 

Lead researchers Dr Eddie Brummelman warns against praise that is conflated or exaggerated, especially in kids with low self-esteem. Praise that pertains to the person rather than the process is the least effective and can actually backfire, making kids give up or feel worse about themselves.

While inflated praise may initially make a child feel good, in the long run children may avoid tasks, lest they experience failure. In other words, kids stopped taking risks because they worried they would not live up to the hype. 

The takeaway: parents and teachers should encourage effort, and always keep praise modest and realistic. 

The best means to boost self-esteem in children is not through praise at all, but through warmth and attention. The idea is to value the children themselves, not their achievements. 

At first glance, it seems counterintuitive to hold back on praise, especially on kids who don't believe in themselves. The mommy instinct is to lavish more compliments, more encouragement in order to convince children of their worth. 

Yet this research serves as notice that maybe our well-meaning words may be doing more harm than good.

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