Complimenting may have consequences.

By Blake Bakkila
Updated September 15, 2017
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You might need to adjust what you say when complimenting and encouraging your children. According to one study published in Psychological Science, kids who are praised for being smart are more likely to cheat.

On Thursday, the University of California San Diego shared news that UCSD developmental psychologist Gail Heyman was among the researchers who conducted the study of 150 3-year-olds and 150 5-year-olds in Eastern China. While playing a card guessing game, one group was told ““You are so smart” or “You did very well this time,” and a control group did not receive any feedback. The researcher asked all of the children not to cheat before leaving the room to observe.

The result? Hidden cameras captured which children cheated and peeked at the numbers. The group praised for being smart misbehaved more often than the children who were complimented on their performance and those who did not receive any comments.

“It’s common and natural to tell children how smart they are,” said Heyman, according to UCSD News. “Even when parents and educators know that it harms kids’ achievement motivation, it’s still easy to do. What our study shows is that the harm can go beyond motivation and extend to the moral domain. It makes a child more willing to cheat in order to do well.”

This study was conducted in response to the results of Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s research, which determined that praising your child’s innate ability rather than a specific action or effort could reduce their motivation to learn and affect how they deal with setbacks.