While you want to encourage your child and praise her achievements, everything in moderation - could too much praise make a princess?
One of the most natural instincts of a parent is to praise. From saying well done after a particularly loud post-milk burp, to clapping wildly at their attempts to crawl, right up to proudly pinning their (slightly messy) artwork on the wall after play group, today’s parents pride themselves on encouraging and praising their little ones on a job well done.
But is there such a thing as too much praise? And can it even be doing them harm? Maybe, if you praise in the wrong way according to a new study. Researchers from The Ohio State University in the US recently found that constant and undue praise for even the tiniest accomplishments may be creating a generation of knee-high narcissists with over-inflated egos.
“Research shows that narcissism is higher in Western than non-Western countries”
‘Research shows that narcissism is higher in Western than non-Western countries, and suggests that narcissism levels have been steadily increasing among Western youth over the past few decades,’ said one of the study authors.
However, it’s worth noting that the researchers found a difference between raising your child’s self esteem through encouragement, and telling them they’re better than everybody else. ‘People with high self-esteem think they’re as good as others, whereas narcissists think they’re better than others,’ said Brad Bushman, who worked on the study. ‘Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others. That may not be good for them or for society.’
“Praise is a very important part of a child’s life”
So how can we praise productively? ‘Praise is a very important part of a child’s life,’ says parenting psychologist Claire Halsey, author of Baby Play for Every Day (Dorling Kindersley). ‘It tells them you approve of them, encourages them to do more of the actions or behaviours you like and helps build the bond between you and your child.
‘The sort of praise which has a positive effect is genuine and recognises children for trying hard or doing their best rather than always winning or reaching a goal. It’s not over the top or exaggerated and is expressed frequently but not over every tiny thing the child does. When praise is overblown, implies the child is better than others or is linked to exaggerated expectations then there is danger that children may feel more important than others or disbelieve their parents and in the end become unsure of their actual worth.
‘So keep it genuine, enthusiastic but not exaggerated, and your child will thrive on it.’