Several years ago when our oldest son was a junior in high school, he scored enough points in his competitions in speech and debate to be selected to represent our state in the national forensics competition in Phoenix, Arizona. While he was a stellar student, this was a pretty significant recognition. And as a family, we wanted to celebrate. A nice dinner out with a summary of the things we liked about Spencer seemed to be a good approach.
Whether it is the debate championship, an Eagle Scout award, a great report card or a sports victory, it is important to take the time to celebrate the big events in a child's life. Often as dads, we are willing to point out the areas for improvement or impose penalties for a lackluster performance, but we should have even more motivation to make a big deal out of the good things that our children do.
Here are some ideas for ways to celebrate these special events and communicate your congratulations to a child who does something really remarkable.
- The Gold Plate. In our family, a longstanding tradition for these big events is a special dinner (usually the honoree's favorite) with them eating off the "Gold Plate." Many years ago, we purchased a beautiful china plate with a gold leaf ring around the rim, gold colored silverware and a gold rimmed goblet. It has been a fun tradition for almost every special event, including birthdays, first dates, special awards and more. The kids have loved it.
- Out to Dinner. On a related note, we have often taken our family out to dinner to recognize a special accomplishment. We often dress up and go somewhere special and then give a special recognition: maybe a plaque or a card or another meaningful gift.
- Make a Video. For each child's wedding and for big events like an Eagle Scout Court of Honor, we have made a slideshow set to music and shown it at receptions and the like. If you record it onto a DVD, you can also make and distribute copies to family members and friends who are there.
- Party On! As our children have reached their teens, we found they really wanted to involve their friends in the celebration as well. So a well-planned party at home or at a fun location like a theme park or miniature golf course has been a fun choice.
- Decorate Locker or Car. My wife has been known to sneak into school (with the office staff's permission) to decorate a locker with balloons and banners and put a favorite treat inside. Or, on occasion, we have stuffed a teenager's car with balloons, both of which let their friends celebrate as well. Even if the kids have been a little embarrassed, they have loved the recognition.
- Frame the Memories. For the scouting awards, we have given the boys a memory frame with their scouting awards enclosed. We have also given each of them a bronze eagle statuette that they can take and display in their own homes or apartments. The memory frame is fun because each merit badge and rank advancement have its own memories attached.
- Spend a Day. Children almost always appreciate a gift of time. Consider committing a day to what your child enjoys doing. A mountain hike, a day shopping or visiting a nearby town, or going to a concert all can make a memorable celebration.
- Plant a Tree. One family we know has a large lot, and for each big event, they let the child choose a tree to plant on the property. Each one then has a special memory associated with it, and it adds value and beauty to the home environment.
Hopefully, these ideas will spur on a few of your own. What is important is the celebration; less important is what you do. Tailor the acknowledgment to the child and to the achievement, and whatever you do will be just right. And you will build a permanent positive memory as your family celebrates the accomplishment of one of your members.