Telling children that they did “incredibly” well or that they are “perfect” to help boost their self-esteem may seem like a good idea, but Science Daily reports that it may actually do more harm than good.

Researchers led by Eddie Brummelman from Utrecht University conducted several tests on the matter and found that adults were twice as likely to give children with low self-esteem exaggerated praises. Unfortunately, this tends to put additional pressure on them.

In one trial, 240 children were asked to draw a famous Van Gogh painting for which they received either regular praises or inflated praises from a “professional painter.” They were then asked to pick new pictures to draw: either a set of easy images that they were more likely to perfect but wouldn't challenge their skills or a set of difficult images that would cause them to make more mistakes but would also let them learn more.

The researchers found that children with low self-esteem who received inflated praise for their previous work were more likely to pick easier images, while those with high self-esteem who also received inflated praise chose the more difficult images.

“If you tell a child with low self-esteem that they did incredibly well, they may think they always need to do incredibly well. They may worry about meeting those high standards and decide not to take on any new challenges,” says Brummelman.

“It goes against what many people may believe would be most helpful, but it really isn't helpful to give inflated praise to children who already feel bad about themselves.”

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(Photo by Brad Flickinger via Flickr Creative Commons)

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