Letting children always win games and competitions may give them a false sense of self-confidence that could interfere with learning, suggests a study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Children who were consistently successful at finding a hidden object in a game deliberately rigged in their favor were less likely to acknowledge the help that an adult had provided than children who found the object some of the time, the study found.
Children who only experienced success may have assumed they had special skills and didn’t require help from others, the researchers suggest.
“We all know situations in which adults try to boost children’s self-esteem by giving every kid on the team a trophy, for example,” lead researcher Dr. Carrie Palmquist, assistant professor in the department of psychology at Amherst College, said in an email. “If children only experience success, they may misinterpret the reason and adopt ineffective approaches to problem-solving and learning.”
Researchers recruited 112 children age 4 and 5 years old for four studies involving 16 to 32 participants. In each study, the children tried to find a hidden toy using clues from two adults. One adult gave accurate information about the toy’s whereabouts, and the other was less helpful.