In current Western society, children are often lavished with inflated praise (e.g., "You made an incredibly beautiful drawing!"). Inflated praise is often given in an attempt to raise children's self-esteem. An experiment (Study 1) and naturalistic study (Study 2) found that adults are especially inclined to give inflated praise to children with low self-esteem. This inclination may backfire, however. Inflated praise might convey to children that they should continue to meet very high standards-a message that might discourage children with low self-esteem from taking on challenges. Another experiment (Study 3) found that inflated praise decreases challenge seeking in children with low self-esteem and has the opposite effect on children with high self-esteem. These findings show that inflated praise, although well intended, may cause children with low self-esteem to avoid crucial learning experiences.
Keywords: challenge seeking; childhood development; educational psychology; inflated praise; interpersonal interaction; late childhood; motivation; self-esteem.