Martorella: Parenting Accolades

It’s no secret that our children are given rewards and motivators on all levels to help them learn and celebrate their accomplishments: preschool sticker charts, smiley faces on worksheets, toys at the doctor’s office, Girl and Boy Scout badges, sports participation trophies, etc. Elementary school has various “acts of kindness” tokens, middle school offers certificates of academic achievement, and the high school has its honor roll, sports banquets, all sorts of awards and scholarships, and of course, grades.

As adults, we may work in jobs where we get commendations, be it via raises, promotions, or just a “good job” mention from our colleagues, if we’re lucky.

But as parents, our everyday routine can be teeming with tasks from tiny to momentous that are unconsidered and go unnoticed. While the hugs and smiles of our babies certainly are rewarding, there are times when the scowls of angry toddlers, the questioning of curious tweens, and the flat out rebellion of surly teenagers can wear us down. Being, in a sense, responsible for making independent beings do things they don’t want to do, combined with the daily monotony of household care, can be draining, to say the least.  Wouldn’t it be nice to get some motivational stickers for “adulting”?

How about decorative stickers with sayings that celebrate daily activities for a quick pick-me-up, like: “I remembered to put the laundry in the dryer!”  or “I unloaded the dishwasher before I had another full load in the sink!” (Note, this one would have to be procured immediately after unloading to be effective.)

More catchy buttons could announce technical victories: “I survived the iOS update!” or “New photos uploaded!” or braving checkups with multiple children: “Flu shots: Attained!” or “3 kids, 1 dentist, 0 tears!

Some days (we all have them), it would be invaluable to be recognized for the most basic things: “I got out of bed!”, and other days it might be enough to tout: “I’M ON TIME!”

For longer-term recognition, there could be Merit Badges like in Scouting, within categories including endurance, leadership, activities, and adventure.

Endurance badges would vary by lifestage, with new parents earning their first badge after six months of sleepless nights, and preschool parents ranking up after suffering through multiple episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer, Paw Patrol, and the like. Elementary school Endurance badges would combine tolerance for Spongebob Squarepants and YouTube videos with the ability to re-calibrate during snow days and parent-teacher conference week, silver stars given for two snow days in a row, gold stars if such days came right after a vacation week.

As for leadership, the Parent Merit Badge program could follow the Boy Scouts Citizenship badges (Citizenship in the World, the Nation, and the Community) with “citizenship in the drop off line” commending positive and consistent progress for all: no delays, no phone use, no visiting the bus loop. Note that anyone who parks in the line and gets out of the car would have their badge revoked and would need to wait one year without further incident for reinstatement.

Activity badges would be limited only by the imagination. For example, the “creative cooking” badge would recognize provision of a school-year’s-worth of allergen-free lunches and snacks, and holiday treats that are “festive,” politically correct, and not in any way unhealthy. The “parenting magic” badge would be earned after five potential meltdowns are avoided by quick behind-the-scenes parental thinking. This includes magical “repairs”, “reschedules”, “replacements”, and other strategies that are classified and will remain in the minds of said parents only.  Likewise, the “technology” badge would be earned after 5 meltdowns are avoided by slow and steady behavior to problem-solve with technological devices. This includes “We’re out of ink and I have to print!!!”, “the Wi-Fi is down!!!!!”, “Where is the charger?!”, “The computer is frozen!!”, and “I dropped my phone!”

The “referee” badge would require two instances of mediating sibling arguments without yelling, and culminate with successfully resisting intervention until the children resolve their conflict on their own.

Other expected activity badges: “potty trainer,” “chauffeur,” “coach,” “first-aid,” “homework helper,” and “volunteer,” no explanations necessary.

Adventure badges would include “slumber party,” “road trip,” “flying with toddlers,” and “the talk.”

If you’re rolling your eyes at me, wondering when “adulting” became a thing, and shaking your head at our needy “everybody gets a medal” culture, you might be unpleasantly surprised to learn, as I just did, that the idea of reward stickers for grownups is not an original one. There are actual stickers and badges available on both Amazon and Etsy (hint, hint).

These days it seems that being able to wake up and do it all again is something for which we should feel eternally grateful, and a reward in itself. But still, who wouldn’t mind an encouraging Post-it note in their lunch box?

Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at