Q: Do you have any research on the effects of parents complimenting kids too often? mostly for behavior that is not growth-oriented (can’t be changed through effort). I have heard this leads to depression in kids?
A: Dr. Carol S. Dweck researched and wrote about how the praise of children’s intelligence and talent can lead to the development of a fixed mindset. Complimenting your child isn’t a bad thing, but there are ways you can use that praise to help them develop valuable skills, like resilience, instead of placing the focus on their inherent abilities which can often lead to things like insecurity and performance anxiety.
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How Can Too Much Praise Impact Your Kid
Research has shown that when praise is attached to the person rather than the process, children are more likely to experience things like performance anxiety and be less resilient when faced with setbacks. Dr. Carol S. Dweck notably researched and wrote about the development of a fixed mindset in children who receive compliments focused on intelligence and talent, meaning they were less willing to face challenges out of fear of letting themselves or their parents down. While children love praises for their intelligence and talent, Dr. Dweck found it only temporarily boosted their confidence. Over time, it actually contributed to a decrease in motivation, more insecurity, and an unwillingness to try new things out of fear of failure.
What Is A Fixed Mindset
When praise was focused on the child’s ability or outcome, things not always within their control, children began to believe the message that failure wasn’t something to learn from but rather something that defined them and their abilities. That’s why it’s called a fixed mindset. People who have one believe their level of intelligence and talent can’t be changed, while people with a growth mindset believe they can improve with hard work and learning.
Ways to Helpfully and Healthily Compliment Your Child
Of course, it can be difficult to find the balance as a parent who wants to encourage and praise their kid for a job well done. This can still be done to help cultivate important life skills and characteristics, but praise should be more actionable and focused on the process and strategies they use rather than the child or outcome. For example, instead of telling your kid how smart they are after acing a quiz, you can instead praise their hard work and willingness to spend extra time studying. By focusing your praise on the process, your kid knows what valuable skills will serve them as they grow and encounter new challenges instead of falling into a fixed mindset.
As you can see, you don’t have to sacrifice saying kind things to your children to feel confident about their wellbeing and emotional and psychological development. But it does matter how that praise is given when it comes to helping your kid develop self-driven motivation, confidence, and resilience in healthy, long-lasting ways.