Can You Ever Praise a Child Too Much?



Yesterday we discussed the best approach for praising children. Well, new research indicates that over praising children can lead them to become narcissistic.

But can you really over praise a child?

My belief is that narcissistic children come about from praise that isn’t genuine and isn’t based on real effort, achievement or skill. In other words, it isn’t praising that makes children become narcissistic, but rather it is lying.


Overvaluing and overpraising children can contribute to the development of narcissism, researchers have found.

A study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science , answers a long-standing question of whether narcissistic traits develop as a result of too much or too little parental attention.

Narcissism is named after the proud, vain hunter Narcissus, a figure in Greek mythology who fell so in love with his own reflection in a still pool of water that he eventually drowned in it.

Lead researcher and post-doctoral researcher Eddie Brummelman says he became fascinated with narcissism in children and wanted to explore how it emerged.

“It’s children who feel they are better than others, but they also demand constant attention and admiration from others,” says Brummelman, from the University of Amsterdam.

“In essence, they are very vulnerable, says Brummelman.

“For instance, when they are criticised or feel humiliated, they tend to become aggressive.”

There have been two competing theories about the parental influence on narcissistic traits; one suggests that narcissism evolves as a defence mechanism to cope with a lack of parental warmth and affection, while the other posits that it’s actually the result of too much praise.

“Social learning theory suggests that the narcissism develops when parents believe their children are more important than others, more special than others, more entitled than others,” Brummelman says.

The study enrolled 565 Dutch children aged 7-11 years and at least one parent, telling them that it was a study of self-image and how parents raise their children.

The children were given questionnaires designed to measure their self-esteem, and to evaluate how much affection they experienced from their parents, while the parents completed questionnaires designed to pick up on overvaluation but also to assess how affectionate parents were towards their children.

“The questionnaire has items like, ‘my child is more special than others’, ‘my child is a great example for others to follow’,” Brummelman says.

Researchers then asked parents to evaluate how smart they thought their child was, and compared it to the child’s actual IQ, but also tested how much parents valued their child’s knowledge levels.

“We gave them a long list of many different topics to choose from that the children should be familiar with when they are eight years old, and we included some topics that do not exist,” Brummelman says,

“You see that these overvaluing parents, they claim the children have knowledge of all kinds of different topics, including these non-existent ones.”

They found that there was a significant relationship between parental overvaluation and narcissistic traits in their children, but Brummelman stresses that it was a relatively small association.

“It’s good for parents to know that they don’t run the risk of creating a narcissist overnight,” he says.

“It’s a very modest association, but it does show that over time, overvaluation can make an important contribution to the development of narcissism, but … it’s not the only cause.”

Like other personality traits, narcissism is moderately heritable and partly rooted in early emerging temperamental traits, so some children may be more likely than others to become narcissistic when they are overvalued, say the researchers.



Click on the link to read This Mother Clearly Doesn’t Need a Helicopter License

Click on the link to read The Best Film Nominees Performed by Kids

Click on the link to read Child Given a Bill for Missing His Friend’s Birthday Party

Click on the link to read Tip for Getting Your Kids to Open Up About Their School Day



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