Does Over-Praise Lead to Self-Esteem Issues?
Are you a proud parent? Do you tend to go overboard with compliments? Let’s take a look at parents that over-praise can affect their child’s self-esteem.
According to an article scholastic.com, “Who Doesn’t Like To Hear Compliments?”
“How “Good Job!” Can Go Too Far
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of your kids and wanting them to know how you feel so they feel good, too. The problem is that it’s incredibly easy to go overboard. “Parents think that by heaping compliments on their kids, no matter what they do or don’t do, they’re nurturing self-esteem,” says Jim Taylor, Ph.D., author of Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child. But that’s not how it works.
Self-esteem depends on your internal ability to generate positive feelings about your accomplishments — it’s not something other people can give you. And though it seems counter-intuitive, kids actually develop it by struggling and sometimes falling short when they face new challenges. Nonstop cheerleading can short-circuit that process and trigger a cascade of changes that ultimately erode kids’ confidence.
First, it can lead to that entitled I-can-do-no-wrong type of thinking. “We have a generation that believes you can become rich and successful without any effort,” says Taylor. More concerning, though, is that kids can become hooked on the happy rush that comes with every “You’re so awesome!” (Who wouldn’t?!) Over time, their motivation may come to depend on it. Even worse, they may be unable to achieve much without it. The reason? They have no real proof of their capabilities and begin to doubt themselves entirely.
“Kids may decide: I’m okay only if someone is telling me I am,” says Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., author and co-author of the Positive Discipline series of books and classes. The pattern often results in an intense fear of mistakes. They may think they’ll be perceived as stupid or that they’ll lose friends because of it. “The most hurtful perception these kids often have is that their parents won’t love them anymore,” says Taylor. Cue the stab to the heart.
The Science of Healthy Praise
To see just how quickly different types of praise can affect kids’ behavior and self-esteem, consider this seminal study done by researchers at Columbia University: Scientists gave a group of kids a series of puzzles to solve. The first one was very easy, and afterward, some kids were praised for being smart while others were praised for working hard. Then the researchers gave the kids a choice: Do another simple puzzle or try a more challenging one. The kids who’d been declared smart tended to take the easy way out, while the hard workers tried the toughie. Finally, to gauge how well the kids rebounded from failure, both groups were given two more puzzles — another difficult one followed by a series of simple ones. Once again, the hard workers solved more puzzles and performed better overall.
Here’s what happened: When the researchers praised kids’ effort, they were priming them to be more resilient. Because the kids didn’t expect success to come easily, they felt more confident to take risks. Most important, they didn’t hang their sense of self-worth on the outcome, says Sylvia Rodriguez, Ph.D, Director of Research & Implementation at Mindset Works, an organization that develops educational programs and resources for students & educators based on these and similar findings. All that mattered was that they tried their best.” To read the entire article click here.
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