The idea presented itself on a particularly dreary morning last March when I dropped off my daughter Elizabeth at the school bus stop. She dragged her body onto the bus with all the cares of her 8-year-old world on her shoulders: Her friends were not being especially friendly, the multiplication tables were piled up against her and, of course, no one understood her. Later, as I drove my 4-year-old daughter to preschool, she suggested we ought to do something nice for Elizabeth and so Appreciation Day was born.

That afternoon, Elizabeth was greeted at the bus stop with a smiling mother instead of a long walk home in the rain. A large sign in the kitchen announced Elizabeth Appreciation Day. Her look of wariness was soon replaced by astonishment when she was allowed to watch her favorite television show before dinner without a fight from her little sister and was given her favorite snack, which she was allowed to eat in the family room.

Not having to struggle for these privileges was a real joy to her. Her dad arrived with a small bouquet of flowers for her along with kisses and hugs. This was followed by a dinner of her favorite foods served in the dining room on the best china.

A few small trinkets like a fancy hair bow she had admired the week before and drawings from her sister were presented to her at dessert while we sang our own versions "Happy Appreciation Day to You" and "2, 4, 6, 8, Who Do We Appreciate."

After dinner, we spent quiet time together. The only interruptions were phone calls from relatives and friends who had been contacted earlier. They each told her why they loved her and how they appreciated having her in their lives. Even her teacher was happy to participate.

By the time Elizabeth went to sleep that night, she knew she was well-loved and appreciated and that we understood her problems were significant and important enough to us to want to make her feel better.

The other members of the family received benefits as well. Her little sister was given full credit for the idea, her father and I had the satisfaction of knowing that for very little effort we had made someone we loved very happy.

We had taken the time for once to appreciate one of our children and the fact that we were a family who cared about each other.

In the time that has passed, other members of our family have enjoyed appreciation days, none of which has been exactly like the last. The children declared Mommy Appreciation Day, which consisted of a skit, banners and drawings and helping with chores. The inspiration struck once at the grocery store, where 4-year-old Joanna was allowed to pick out a normally forbidden cereal and flowers at the checkout stand. The most amazing thing is that the person who has most recently been honored usually is the one who wants to initiate the next celebration for the person of his choice.

We have formulated certain guidelines to help you have your own Appreciation Days in your family. Remember, the main purpose is to lift the spirits of the honoree and let him know that he is well-loved and appreciated.

Keep it simple and short. It should be initiated the same day so as to prevent elaborate preparations. Also, it gets difficult to be nonjudgmental and pleasant for longer than an evening. Though showing a little appreciation every day is highly desirable, don't declare Appreciation Days too often. Each one should be special and memorable.

Gifts should be small. Appreciation Day is not another birthday or holiday. Small trinkets, a comic book, a special meal or dessert, hand-drawn pictures, flowers, a skit performed or songs sung are most appropriate.

Keep it in your family. Having grandparents and relatives, teachers and friends call is great for the ego, but don't invite a crowd or The Appreciated One may get lost in the shuffle.

Get everyone in the family involved to avoid resentment. It is best if one sibling initiates the idea for another sibling and be sure that child gets kudos for his effort.

Remind everyone periodically that his Day will come. We have been amazed at how generous other members of the family are when they know that there is an unlimited amount of Appreciation to go around. Nola Theiss is president of Net Works, a home-based business that translates knitting and crochet instructions from foreign languages. Her 8-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, also contributed to this story.