Lavish Praise Can Backfire in Some Cases

Children whose self-esteem was at least 1.3 standard deviations below average reacted to lavish praise (“You made an incredibly beautiful drawing”) by becoming less willing to take on challenges, possibly out of fear that they might not be able to perform as “incredibly” well in the future, according to a study led by Eddie Brummelman of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Children with high self-esteem did the opposite, responding to lavish praise by seeking greater challenges. Although many educators encourage parents and teachers to shower praise on pupils, adults should resist the temptation in the case of children who appear to have low self-esteem, the researchers say.

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