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7 Tips for Giving Praise and Gold Stars

7 Tips for Giving Praise and Gold StarsOh, 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.

I’ve done a lot to combat my craving for gold stars1.

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!

But it’s not always easy to dole out those gold stars in an effective way. So here are 7 tips that may help you.

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.

Such as 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.

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

7 Tips for Giving Praise and Gold Stars


  1. Here are 5 tips for dealing with feeling unappreciated []

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the award-winning author of The Happiness Project, a #1 New York Times bestseller. You can also watch the one-minute book video. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central.

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APA Reference
Rubin, G. (2018). 7 Tips for Giving Praise and Gold Stars. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 28 May 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.