A new study has found that parents and other adults heap the highest praise on children with low self-esteem.
But while kids with high self-esteem seem to thrive with inflated praise, their counterparts actually shrink from new challenges when adults go overboard on praising them.
The research by Eddie Brummelman from The Ohio State University is the first research to empirically examine the impact of inflated praise.
What exactly is inflated praise? For this research, it was small changes in the praise given to children, often involving just the addition of one additional word. Inflated praise included an adverb (such as "incredibly") or adjective (such as "perfect") signaling a very positive evaluation.
In one of three related studies, Brummelman and his colleagues found that adults gave twice as much inflated praise to children identified as having low self-esteem compared to those children with high self-esteem.
Results showed that parents praised their children about 6 times during the session, and about 25 percent of the praise was inflated.
It was found that inflated praise may put too much pressure on those with low self-esteem, Brummelman said.
"If you tell a child with low self-esteem that they did incredibly well, they may think they always need to do incredibly well. They may worry about meeting those high standards and decide not to take on any new challenges."
The lesson may be that parents and adults need to fight their urge to give inflated praise to children with low self-esteem, Bushman said.
The study will be published in the journal Psychological Science.