Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Modern Parenthood

Kids want gold stars, so do adults: 7 tips for doling out praise

Gold stars – and all those stickers of appreciation kids clamor for – are signs of recognition that adults want, too. Here are 7 tips for doling out praise  Kids want gold stars, so do adults: 7 tips for doling out praise in front of and behind the recipient's back.

By Guest blogger / May 10, 2012

Gold stars – and all those stickers of appreciation kids clamor for – are signs of recognition that adults want, too. Here are 7 tips for doling out praise Kids want gold stars, so do adults: 7 tips for doling out praise in front of and behind the recipient's back.

Rich Clabaugh/Staff

Enlarge

New York

Oh, I’m a gold star junkie. I always want to see those gold stars stuck to the top of my homework. I crave praise, appreciation, recognition.

Skip to next paragraph

Guest blogger

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller "The Happiness Project" and the forthcoming "Happier at Home." She started her career in law and was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer. Raised in Kansas City, she lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters. She blogs at  The Happiness Project.

Recent posts

I’ve done a lot to combat my craving for gold stars (here are 5 tips for dealing with feeling unappreciated). I also try hard to give other people the gold stars they deserve. As my mother once told me, “Most people probably don’t get the appreciation they deserve.” Like my own mother!

Are you a Helicopter Parent? Take our quiz!

But it’s not always easy to dole out those gold stars in an effective way. Here are 7 tips:

1. Be specific. Vague praise doesn’t make much of an impression.

2. Find a way to praise sincerely. It’s a rare situation where you can’t identify something that you honestly find praiseworthy. “Striking” is one of my favorite fudge adjectives.

3. Never offer praise and ask for a favor in the same conversation. It makes the praise seem like a set-up.

4. Praise process, not outcome.This particularly relevant with children. It’s more helpful to praise effort, diligence, persistence, and imagination than a grade or milestone.

5. Look for something less obvious to praise – a more obscure accomplishment or quality that a person hasn’t heard praised many times before; help people identify strengths they didn’t realize they had. Or praise a person for something that he or she does day after day, without recognition. Show that you appreciate the fact that the coffee’s always made, that the report is never late. It’s a sad fact of human nature: those who are the most reliable are the most easily taken for granted.

6. Don’t hesitate to praise people who get a lot of praise already. Perhaps counter-intuitively, even people who get constant praise – or perhaps especially people who get constant praise – crave praise. Is this because praiseworthy people are often insecure? Does getting praise lead to an addiction to more praise? Or – and this is my current hypothesis – does constant praise indicate constant evaluation, and constant evaluation leads to a craving for praise?

7. Praise people behind their backs. The praised person usually hears about the praise, and behind-the-back praise seems more sincere than face-to-face praise. Also, always pass along the behind-the-back praise that you hear. This is one of my favorite things to do!

Also, because the way we feel is very much influenced by the way we act, by acting in a way that shows appreciation, discernment, and thoughtfulness, we make ourselves feel more appreciative, discerning, and thoughtful. And that boosts happiness.

Have you thought of any other good ways for giving people praise? Are you a gold-star junkie, yourself?

Permissions

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!