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The big pink cookie principle

May 9th, 2005 · 2 Comments

Beth Freeman, a once and future Bainbridge Islander, commented on this blog in the past week and directed my attention to the blog where she is a co-author: Creating Passionate Users.

In the post Fine-grained treats = user happiness, Kathy Sierra quoted Iris Murdoch and a study in Scientific American Mind to make the point:

Intermittent, unexpected treats are more powerful than regularly scheduled expected treats.


I believe this is an important principle for relationships, especially marriage and parenting.

Wednesday afternoon at a local bakery, I bought three big flower cookies sprinkled with sparkling pink sugar. I gave them to the girls Thursday at a park, removing the treats from their white bag disguise.

Abigail asked me “Why did you buy us cookies?”
“No reason,” I smiled.

I don’t usually buy the kids cookies, especially big bakery ones with pink sprinkles. And I don’t usually give them edible treats. On hot summer days, I might give them a frozen Tofutti sandwich or frozen yogurt cone. But more often I try to surprise them with a sticker or a trip to a fun destination or a little toy. I wish I did it more often. Seeing the happiness on their faces when my girls get a little gift brings a smile to my face too and builds the path of our relationship further.

In our family, we celebrate birthdays and holidays casually, toning down the intensity. Instead, we enjoy giving and receiving in many ways throughout the year. For example, although I don’t expect brunch or breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day, I know I receive many gifts from my family in many ways every day.

Dave Pollard’s Whisper Campaign also fits into this principle of surprises.

So I have a proposal. I want to start a Whisper Campaign. Sometime in the next 30 days, identify someone you genuinely admire, and when the opportunity presents itself, whisper, or say in a low voice, when no one else is paying attention: You’re amazing. And then just smile, pat them on the shoulder or shake their hand, and walk away.

I almost wrote small surprises in the sentence above, but it’s not small. A sudden compliment, a whispered praise, an encouraging word can be huge. Hearing what someone else sees in us changes our perception of ourselves and gives us strength and reserve to go forward up a rocky hill. I say this as someone who has benefitted from these verbal bouquets, as a student, daughter, wife and mom.

My kids practice these principles naturally. They will spontaneously look at me and say “I love you Mom.” Colorful construction paper presents cover my desk and dresser. The other day one of them gave me a card that said surprise and I’m happy because you’re my mom. Here again is another area of life where I could afford to learn from my children.

Big presents are nice. Holidays can help happiness. But I believe it is the little things, the cookies and kisses, the compliments and construction paper cards that build love, sprinkled along the journey, sweetening our joy like a big pink cookie.

Tags: family

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Earl // May 9, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    Occasionally my wife will ask, “why do you love me?” I’ll say it’s all the little things. It’s true! As you said, it’s the little things that can come across as huge to someone else. Thanks for sharing your cookie principle.

  • 2 Katherine // May 11, 2005 at 9:46 pm

    Awesome, Julie.

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