The study included children with high self-esteem and those with low self-esteem and examined a phenomenon called "inflated praise" — exaggerated compliments that include adverbs such as, "incredibly" or "really." For example, "You did incredibly well on this test" or "This is really, really good." Surprisingly, the results showed that while kids with high self-esteem benefited from hearing lavish praise, those with low self-esteem were actually hurt by it.
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"Parents tend to believe that kids with low self-confidence need to hear inflated praise, but they don't," Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D., a co-author of the study who is a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, tells Yahoo Shine. "There are two reasons: Children with no confidence probably won't believe they did well anyway, and inflated praise prevents them from taking new risks because they'll conclude that they've already achieved enough." Conversely, giving inflated praise to kids with strong self-esteem encourages them to set their goals even higher. "They tend to think, 'If I can do this well, I can probably go further,'" says Bushman.
Encouraging kids with low self-esteem is as simple as leaving off the superlative but Bushman has advice for all parents: "When complimenting a child, focus on the job they did, not the person they are," he says. In other words, say your kid gets an "A" in art class. Instead of crowing, "You're such a good artist," focus on the painting itself by saying something like, "This is an excellent painting. You used bright colors and gave attention to detail." That way, if he or she does poorly on a future project, he won't believe he isn't a good artist. And not to worry, pinning every one of your kid's masterpieces to the refrigerator door is still totally OK.