Essay on Inflated Self-Esteem

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Praising children is often perceived as a beneficial way to reinforce your child’s sense of self-accomplishment and achievement. Parents frequently use praise to encourage and motivate their children’s certain behaviours and to boost their self-esteem. However, over-praising your child may lead to adverse effects, such as decreased motivation and self-consciousness (Swann, 2012). Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to support the advice that over-praising kids does more harm than good (Chapnik Myers, 2018), by examining two empirical journal articles and discussing the different methods, results, and findings of the studies.

The first journal article I have chosen to examine shows how inflated praise may have a negative effect on a child’s motivation, causing an avoidance to seek out challenges and can increase the fear of failure in children with lower self-esteem (Brummelman et al, 2014). Brummelman et al conducted a study with 240 participants, who were all children aged 8-12, of which 103 were male and 137 were female. The participants were all visitors to the Science Center NEMO Museum in the Netherlands and agreed to participate in the study and received parental consent. The participants were asked to recreate a famous painting and told that a professional painter would judge their work afterward, when in fact there was no professional painter. The finished drawings were taken to a different room, where the painter was supposedly going to be judging them. A few minutes later, the experimenter re-entered the room with a note, supposedly written by the painter. The children who were in the inflated praise condition received a note saying, “You made an incredibly beautiful drawing!”, while the children in the non-inflated praise condition received a note saying, “You made a beautiful drawing!”, and lastly the children in the no praise condition did not receive any feedback on their drawings. The children were then shown simple and complex variations of the same painting and were allowed to choose which one they wanted to draw. They were informed that if they drew the difficult variations, they would make more errors but learn a lot and that if they drew the simple variations, they would not make any errors but would not learn as much. The results indicated that the participants took on more challenging tasks after non-inflated praise, however after inflated praise, they avoided challenging tasks. The results also showed that over-praising children could lead to an avoidance of critical learning opportunities, which could have negative effects on their learning and development. Furthermore, Brummelman et al found that inflated praise provokes defense mechanisms in children with lower self-esteem, which discourages them from activities that may reveal their weaknesses. Brummelman et al’s study supports Chapnik Myers’ advice that over-praising kids does more harm than good, as it shows us the adverse effects over-praise can have on children’s self-esteem, motivation, and learning.

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The second journal article investigates how under and over praising children resulted in poorer academic performance and a higher risk of depression (Lee et al, 2016). Lee et al conducted a study with 337 participants, who were all elementary school students. The study population included 118 third graders, 99 fourth graders, and 120 fifth graders, of which 161 were male, and 176 were female. The students gave their written informed consent and their parents were informed of the study and gave parental consent. The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire during class, with questions regarding their parent's praise of their academic achievements and whether they thought it was inflated or deflated based on their actual academic performance. The questions were answered using a 7-point scale, with 1 being “very much understated” and 7 being “very much overstated”. Their levels and severity of depression were also measured in the study. The results concluded that when students perceived parental praise as an inaccurate reflection of their actual achievement (either under or over-praised), they tended to perform worse academically. Furthermore, students who felt overpraised had higher levels of depression and emotional distress than children who received accurate praise. Lee et al’s study undoubtedly supports the advice that over praising kids does more harm than good, as it demonstrates how over praising children can result in poorer academic achievement, higher depression levels, and emotional distress.

Both studies demonstrate the negative relationship between over-praise and children’s development and well-being. Over-praise often results in lower self-esteem and decreased motivation and work ethic, as children may feel disheartened by over-praise as they may perceive the praise as disingenuous (Swann, 2012). This also hurts the child’s motivation and future learning and development, as children will tend to avoid challenging themselves, which can lead to major academic setbacks. Not only does over-praise have detrimental effects on children with lower self-esteem, but also on those with high self-esteem, as inflated praise can lead to high levels of narcissism and self-admiration (Brummelman, 2017).

While researching different studies, I learned that over-praising children hurts what praise is intended to do – increase motivation and self-esteem. This is important to recognize as parents might not be aware of how their inflated praise may be halting their child’s mental growth and development, rather than encouraging it. This is an aspect that I have only just considered while writing this paper, as typically when I think of praise, I associate it with positive connotations and encouragement. This advice will help me in the future as.The two studies I examined conducted by Brummelman et al (2014) and Lee et al (2016) strongly support the advice that over-praising kids does more harm than good (Chapnik Myers, 2018), by demonstrating the negative effects of inflated praise, leading to higher levels of emotional distress and depression, lower self-esteem and academic achievement, an avoidance to seek challenges, and has detrimental effects on the child’s future learning. After researching different studies, I would support Chapnik Myers’ advice and offer the same advice to any parent.

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Essay on Inflated Self-Esteem. (2024, February 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
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