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The Learning Zone

How much praise is too much?  Can overpraising kids actually harm them?  Is it possible for kids to have too much self-esteem?   These are just some of the questions being raised by new research conducted by, Carol Dweck of Columbia University. Self-esteem has been a hot topic in parenting books, education, self-help, and even relationship advice for quite some time.   The idea went something like, if you believe in yourself you can do anything!   Reach for the stars!  The key tenet, set off by the 1969 Publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden, was that positive self-esteem must beYoure so smart achieved at any cost.  Praise, self-esteem, and performance rise and fall together.  So, anything possibly detrimental to a kids’ self-esteem must go.  Competitions?  No way, too damaging!  Everyone’s a winner and everyone gets a trophy.  Teachers were told to throw out their red pens and adopt a lexicon of approval and positivity.  Parents were told to value the power of positive praise, the more the better; abundant, permeating, undeserved, and ever-present.  But as it turns out, the “science” of self-esteem was not that scientific.  It was flawed and in some cases, flat out inaccurate.  More recent studies have shown that having self-esteem does not improve grades or promote career advancement.  In fact, (gasp) it doesn’t even keep you from becoming a criminal, as it especially does not lower violent or negative behavior like lying and cheating.  So, you may be thinking, like I did, now what?  If I can’t say, “good job, you’re so smart,” then what am I supposed to do?  In fact, it turns out that telling a child they are smart when they succeed may not be wise.  Praising a child as “smart” or by using other nondescript positive praise, builds their self-esteem on a tenuous platform.  One misstep or failure pulls the rug out from under them, calling into question everything that the child’s self-esteem is based upon.

According to Educational Psychologist, Michelle Borba, kids in our society have become very praise dependent.  This over-abundance of praise can be detrimental causing low motivation, poor grades, and low self-esteem.  So, how can you tell if your kid has become praise-dependent?  Look for the following signs:

     1. The child is very self-centered.

     2. The child is dependent on praise to determine if they have been successful.

     3. The child is used to praise, expects it, and seeks it out if it is not immediately given.

     4. The child is over competitive to the point that they need to tear others down.

New research conducted by Carol Dwek of Columbia University found that praising kids for being smart does not prevent them from underperforming; in fact it may actually cause it.  In my next blog, find out more about this new research and what it reveals about steps that parents can take to develop a strong work ethic in their children.




Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC 
(540) 999-8759



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About Nina

nina parrish

Nina Parrish graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. Following graduation from the University of Mary Washington, she received the Project PISCES scholarship to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she completed her certification in Special Education for K-12 students with learning disabilities, mental retardation, and emotional disturbance. After obtaining her license, Nina earned a Master's Degree in Education for School Counseling in grades Pre K-12 from Virginia Commonwealth University. Nina taught in the public schools in North Carolina and Virginia for 7 years. Nina currently owns, Parrish Learning Zone, a K-12 local tutoring service with her husband Jay, who is also a teacher. They live in Spotsylvania with their daughter.


Pouches' Community Corner

Trains, Planes and Automobiles Kids' Race Series


From a small beginning, Cathy Weise of the Ron Rosner YMCA has developed an ambitious three-race series for kids for this summer, with the help of The Great Train Race, Shannon Airport, Dominion Raceway & Entertainment, the Fredericksburg Area Service League and Race Timing Unlimited.

Great Train Race Director Jennifer Taylor was one of the first on board.


The opinions and/or views expressed on this blog represent the thoughts of individual blogger and not necessarily those of Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine or any of its employees or staff.