#11 Inflated Praise

This week’s issue is about Inflated Praise which comes from the same place as bad feedbacks. Inflated praise is very unhelpful, especially for children. You’re telling them they’ve done the “best” in something which leads to unrealistic expectations they create for themselves.

“Adults may also try to raise children’s self-esteem by giving inflated praise. Instead of telling children they did well, adult may tell them they did incredibly well. In one study, adults read scenarios involving children with high or low self-esteem, then wrote down the praise they would give. Adults gave children with low self-esteem more inflated praise (33%) than they gave children with high self-esteem (18%). These findings were replicated in in-home observations of parent–child interactions.” – Child Development Perspectives, Volume 10

The fascinating thing here is that inflated praise mainly has two effects on children with low self-esteems – Some of them are able to perform better as the praise might be a form of motivation for them. It creates an incredibly protective surrounding for them where they don’t feel down but rather are supported and encouraged to do better.

The second one is more common, the inflated praise creates large amounts of unnecessary pressure on a child who’s already struggling with low self-esteem and ends up feeling like they have to perform in a certain way to live up to the high standards assigned for them.

An article by Eddie Brummelman on Behavioral Science gives an interesting example: “A teacher told me about a boy in her class, whose mother gives him lots of inflated praise. One day, as the boy was making a drawing, he took a close look at his own drawing, then at the other children’s drawings, and said, “I’m not an amazing drawer… My mom tells me I am, but I know others are better than me.”

Telling someone they’re “extremely” good at something would usually be a false statement which is the reason inflated praise should be avoided while giving feedbacks. It is not realistic and might end up backfiring.