5 Signs of Overparenting

Red Flag No. 3: Piling on the Praise

Kids don't need awards for everything they do.
Kids don't need awards for everything they do.
Kathy Quirk-Syvertsen/Getty Images

It's good to encourage a child to do his or her best, right? Right.

And even when boys and girls get stumped on spelling quizzes or snubbed in science fairs, parents should go ahead and praise them for their efforts and declare that, no matter their grades or scores, they're whip-smart and exceptional, right? Wrong.

The 1969 publication "The Psychology of Self-Esteem" kicked off an overparenting tendency to excessively -- and unnecessarily -- boost children's self-esteem [source: Bronson]. Kids on losing sports teams receive "participation trophies," and young students who bring home lackluster grades are simply told they'll do better next time. But that sort of empty praise has been shown to breed poor performance and unhealthy personality traits in children as they age. For example, a landmark 2007 study from Columbia University found that kids continually told they're smart tend to avoid activities where they don't excel, essentially selling themselves short for fear of failure [source: Bronson]. Such self-esteem coddling also may explain record high rates of narcissism among today's young adults [source: Gottleib]. What has been shown to breed successful, satisfied kids in the long term? Learning how to fail and bravely move forward.