NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Parents beware: You may want to scale back when it comes to dishing out praise to your children.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, parents may be unintentionally producing a generation of kids with overinflated egos.

A new study warns well-meaning parents to avoid heaping on praise, like telling their kids they’re special.

Brad Bushman, a professor at The Ohio State University, co-authored the study, which tracked more than 500 children. It found expressions of love and warmth produced healthy self-esteem but overvaluing kids, calling them “extra special,” “exceptional” or “more deserving” produced narcissists — people who think they’re superior and lack empathy.

“It’s not good for parents to convey the message that their child is more special than other children are,” Bushman said.

“When narcissists don’t get the special treatment they think they deserve, they become angry and aggressive against others. They’re also very bad relationship partners.”

Many moms said they intuitively know to avoid giving undue praise.

“I don’t think it’s good to say you’re the best or you’re No. 1,” said Alicia Scanlon, a mother from Locust Valley, Long Island.

“I like to tell them that they’re special when they actually are, when they do something great,” said Jennifer Casano, of Merrick.

“I’ll kind of say, ‘I’m impressed with that’ or, ‘You worked really hard at that,'” added Amanda Nesis, of Oyster Bay.

Educators at Not Just Art, a children’s creative enrichment center in Oyster Bay, said they avoid overpraising because everyone is special.

“Knowing that sometimes you’re not the winner, you’re not the best is something that is important for society, so that’s sort of the goal as well,” said co-owner Eva Regulski. “So there has to be a good balance.”

The study was based on findings that narcissism is on the rise over the last three decades.


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