Giving inauthentic praise to children can have a corrosive effect on healthy self-esteem, which can continue to impact our personal and career success as adults.
Writer Po Bronson articulates some of the issues:
“For a few decades, it’s been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students severely underestimate their own abilities. They adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves.
“They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.
“When parents praise their children’s intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem… ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.
“But a growing body of research strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of ‘smart’ does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.”
From article How Not to Talk to Your Kids, by Po Bronson.
Psychologist Kenneth W. Christian, PhD (author of Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement) writes about our patterns of action and belief related to self concept, and based on praise and other social interactions.
He identifies “Self Limiting High Potential Persons who etch enduring pathways over time by repeating their characteristic self-defeating methods.”
One pattern he has found:
“Sleepers. The style most often seen in people from families or communities without models or traditions of high achievement. Sleepers lack accurate information about themselves, the extent of their talent, and ways to express it.”
See descriptions of more of these patterns on the page Self-limiting.
In her article What Is Wrong With Feeling Good?, Elizabeth Mika, a provider of assessment and counseling services for gifted children, notes “There is nothing wrong with feeling good about ourselves. The common wisdom wants people to snap out of it, to feel better about themselves, no matter what. The therapy business often supports this view by offering techniques whose sole purpose is to elevate our sagging self-worth.
“However, telling yourself that you are good enough, handsome enough, and everybody likes you, is not going to work, even if you try doing it sixty times a day – especially when your behavior is far from what you want it to be.”
Image: “I have a problem with low self-esteem…” from article Nurturing Our Self-Esteem.