- The praise paradox
- When and why praise backfires in children with low self-esteem
- Child Development Perspectives
- Volume | Issue number
- 10 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE)
In contemporary Western society, many adults use praise to boost children's self-esteem. Accordingly, they might praise those who seem to need it the most: children with low self-esteem. In this article, we review research showing that certain types of praise can backfire, especially in children with low self-esteem. Adults are inclined to give children with low self-esteem person praise (e.g., “You're smart!”) and inflated praise (e.g., “That's incredibly beautiful!”). Paradoxically, such praise can lower these children's motivation and feelings of self-worth in the face of setbacks (e.g., when they struggle or fail). Lowered feelings of self-worth, in turn, might invite more person praise and inflated praise from adults, creating a self-sustaining downward spiral. We propose a transactional model to shed light on this apparent praise paradox, and we describe the model's implications for theory and research.
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