Praise can turn kids into narcissists: study

Posted Thursday, March 12th, 2015. Filed Under My Daily Dose

I found this article fascinating and one that we, as parents and guides to our young ones, need to think about.

The National Post article written by Lauren Strapagiel on Wednesday March 11, 2015 talked about new research suggests children treated by their parents as special ‘snowflakes’ inherently deserving of praise are more likely to become narcissists.

Researcher, Brad Bushman of Ohio State in the U.S and Eddie Brummelman of University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University in the Netherlands followed 565 children ages 7 to 12 – as well as 705 parents – for a year and a half. The results showed overvaluing a child can in turn lead them to overvalue themselves.

When the children are seen by their parents as being more special and more entitled than other children, they may internalize the view that they are superior individuals, a view that is the core of narcissism.

The study showed how these kids often “lash out aggressively or even violently” when those inflated egos are threatened. Narcissism has also been linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression. The study looked at late childhood specifically because that is when individual differences in narcissism first emerges.

Most parents want to believe their own children are exceptional little humans, but there’s a difference between instilling a sense of superiority and nurturing a healthy sense of self-esteem. The researchers found that children who receive “parental warmth” and appreciation “may internalize the view that they are valuable individuals, a view that is at the core of self-esteem.”

It also depends on a child’s personality. Some children, due to their temperament, will impact the outcome regardless.

So the question is how to we raise our children, give them praise, without creating egomaniacs? In an editorial for Psychology Today, Prof. Bushman said praise should be given out like penicillin: With Care.

I love that analogy. How many times are you sitting at your son or daughter’s sport game and hear yells of how great ‘their’ child is compared to the others, or that their child is the best on the team. First of all I believe in telling my son when he played a great game and when he doesn’t I don’t need to tell him, he already knows. Do I try and cheer him up. You bet. I do tell him you win as a team and you lose as a team. This year he won the Rookie Offensive Of The Year for the Junior Team. All the words I could give him would not equal the award he won on his own accord and through his own talent and perseverance.

The Prof. suggests that for kids with low self-esteem, in particular, parents should be careful not to exaggerate their praise. For example by saying “You made an incredibly beautiful drawing!” instead of “You made a beautiful drawing!” While the intentions behind such a compliment are well-intended, it can put pressure on a child to perform and lead them to avoid difficult tasks, lest they not be so “incredible” in the future.

Rather it is best for parents to focus on good behaviour. “You did a great job on your math test” vs “You are the smartest kid in your school.”

Praising our kids is still important. As parents we need to think about how we phrase their praise.

We are seeing and hearing the results of ‘over praising’ in our Millennial youth. Confidence building is good however failure is a part of that and learning.

Who said being a parent was easy! Just do your best.

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