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mental health

Apparently, If You Praise Your Kids Often, They Could Become Narcissists

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Not to state the obvious or anything, but we love kvelling over our mensch-y kids. It makes us feel good. It makes them feel good. Everybody wins. Right?

Maybe not. 

A study from The Ohio State University suggests receiving too much praise as a child can have adverse affects on one’s mental health later in life. In particular, kids who receive tons of praise from their families can turn into clinically narcissistic adults.

This, paired with increasing levels of self-importance in younger generations–which, I’ll say it, can be largely credited to social media–can create a dangerous mix of entitled and elitist behaviors. And while self-love is also paradoxically becoming increasingly rare in this day and age, being a narcissist can pose large problems at school, home, and the workplace.

As someone who received a lot of praise as a child, particularly for my “accelerated intellectual development” (this is coming from someone who needs to use her phone to calculate tips on restaurant bills), I can definitely attest that too much praise can be harmful. I’ll always be appreciative of my mother for cheering me on at every opportunity, but being told you’re a super special snowflake who will achieve great things can give you an elevated sense of self, which actually hurts more than it helps.

Here’s why. On the one hand, you feel an increased sense of pressure to live up to your parents’ idea of who you are and what you will become. And on the other hand, it makes it very tempting to not take things like your education or career very seriously–because why bother? You’re going to be great just based on who you are, already, so what’s the point of working on yourself? So you maintain very high expectations of yourself, but you feel like you shouldn’t have to work to achieve them. And when you fail, it’s 100x more devastating.

If it sounds crummy, it’s because it is, and no child is equipped to deal with that tug-of-war of emotions. I certainly wasn’t.

That being said, it’s important to give credit to kids where credit is due, and veering off to the other extreme of never praising your kids will probably result in equally unhealthy behaviors. So what is a parent to do?

Perhaps moderation is key, and teaching our children to develop their own sense of self-love and recognition of accomplishments is a more attainable and healthier goal.

What do you do to foster healthy self-perception in your child? Do you agree with this study? Why or why not? Join the conversation below or on Facebook and let us know what you think.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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