Celebrate the Small Stuff

Little kids are celebrated all of the time. We do a little dance when a three year old uses the potty, elementary spelling tests are covered in gold stars, and we cheer wildly when a ten year old eats his vegetables. Then life gets busy and all of a sudden, four years of high school pass by without celebrating any incremental successes. We tend to save the party for the end. I’ve focused a lot in previous blogs about the importance of failure, but now it is time to think about success.

Teresa M. Amabile of The Harvard Business School conducted a study called “The Progress Principle“. She proved that the effort of tracking small victories each day boosts motivation.  Celebrating and recognizing our small wins, boosts confidence. Motivation and confidence lead to more action.

If we know that works in adults, let’s try it with teens. Let’s celebrate minor accomplishments to boost motivation and confidence in high school students

What should we celebrate?

  • A small change in a study habit that yielded a positive result

  • Taking the first step to get involved in a new extra curricular activity

  • Applying for a summer program or a part time job

  • Registering for a challenging course load

  • Reaching out to a teacher for help

  • Completed college applications

  • Finished financial aid forms



How should we celebrate?

  • Recognition

    • a card from mom

    • a shout-out on social media

    • a billboard with your kid’s face on it (just kidding, don’t do that. Ew, mom)

  • Reward

    • A trip to the ice cream store on a week-night

    • Gift card to Target

    • Twenty extra minutes on Netflix/video games

  • Relief from a chore

    • Someone else unloads the dishwasher/cleans the bathroom


Our students aren’t perfect and by focusing on small achievements, we remind them they don’t have to be. Most teens need a boost in confidence and by celebrating the little things, we can provide the motivation they need to keep succeeding.