How to Create a Family Gratitude Habit

Becoming a Thankful Family: How to create a family gratitude habit!

Becoming a thankful family may not be easy—especially in 2020! But it is possible. Developing a family gratitude habit is an excellent way to help kids practice the virtue of thankfulness. Moreover, this tiny habit compounds over time and makes the entire world feel brighter. Our family knows because we are living this adventure. Here’s our family gratitude story.

Our Thankful family

It’s 6 am and our five girls alarms all sound at once. Thanks to Alexa, this experience isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. No alarm is perfect, but the mellow chime we choose is about as soothing as they come. Groggily, our five kiddos slog out of bed and dress.

At 6:30, the song Smellin’ Coffee, by Chris Rice plays. Again, thanks to Alexa (and our children’s grandmother, who gave them these fantastic devices for Christmas), the timing is always perfect. Smellin’ Coffee is our family’s theme song. Jenny and I chose it because:

  • It’s upbeat
  • The song makes us smile
  • And, hey, we love coffee!

This song lets our girls know it’s time to head to the dining room for breakfast.

Our Family Gratitude Habit

Breakfast is when our family’s gratitude habit begins. Our thankfulness ritual is simple and by no means unique. We each take turns sharing three things we’re thankful for. Some days, our gratitude is thoughtful and deep. Other days, our thanksgiving is far more simplistic.

When it comes to gratitude, we believe there are no wrong answers. It doesn’t matter if the appreciation is simple, deep, light-hearted, or intense. It is always just right.

Jenny is the mastermind behind our family gratitude routine, and I quickly jumped on board. Not only is practicing gratitude excellent self-care for kids, but gratitude also changes us. One way it does this is by helping us escape from negative tunnel vision. Jenny and I believe there is always something to be thankful for. The trick is to find it.

How to use Family Gratitude to Break Free From Negativity

Negativity is sneaky. It sucks families into its endless abyss when they least expect it. Have you ever become so focused on a problem it overpowers n your world? I have! When this happens, it’s surprising how quickly everything good fades away.

This desire to escape the negativity abyss is why Jenny and I implemented our thankful family routine. If you don’t have a gratitude practice in place yet, you may want to borrow ours. The process is easy. It only takes a few minutes, and I’m always delightfully surprised at how much I learn about my kids.

During our family gratitude routine, our children express their appreciation for:

  • Teachers
  • School trips
  • Friends
  • Sports victories
  • Upcoming events
  • Challenges they overcame

I define intimacy as into-me-see. Intimacy is the ability to peer into another’s inner world. Our daily gratitude habit breaks us out of the jail of negativity. It also elevates our happiness and helps us get a glimpse into our children’s inner worlds. Indeed, there are many benefits to family gratitude!

A Step-by-Step Breakdown of Our Thankful Family Routine

Here’s the step-by-step breakdown of our thankful family process. Feel free to copy our gratitude routine, our add your unique twists. Remember, there is no single right way to practice the fine art of gratitude!

1. Choose an up-beat family theme song.

When your family theme song plays, everyone should gather together. You’ll be most successful if this song plays at roughly the same time each day. We found that right before breakfast is best for us. This way, our family gratitude habit sets a positive tone for the rest of the day!

2. Have each family member share.

Next, take turns sharing three things you’re thankful for. Remember, there are no wrong answers. If you are truly grateful for something, then share it!

A fantastic book that changed my perception of gratitude is 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbra Ann Kipfer. It’s literally a 14,000 item gratitude list. In my mind, Barbra is the Michael Jordan of gratitude.

Barbra started her list in the sixth grade, and it’s now grown to well over 145,000 items. To be that grateful takes ample creativity! What if, one morning, my four-year-old decides she’s especially grateful for,

  • Rolly-polly bugs
  • Toothpicks
  • Hair ties
  • Frozen corn (I don’t know why, but our kids love this on hot Summer days).
  • Or a favorite dress

When kids share things that are simple or unexpected, you might respond with, That’s wonderful! What a unique thing to be grateful for. Then, get curious. Ask thought-provoking follow-up questions, and encourage creative gratitude. I want my girls to know it’s perfectly acceptable to find joy in simple pleasures. Much of Barbra’s list is quite ordinary. Yet, it has inspired thousands. I’d love it if my children find as much join in the world as Barbra. This is why I believe there are no wrong answers when it comes to practicing family gratitude.

3. Close with a family cheer.

The first time we practiced our family gratitude routine, we weren’t sure how to finish. Walking away felt too bland. So we all decided to extend one hand toward the center of the table and close with the family cheer of “Best day ever!”

This saying holds a special significance. When our girls were younger, they would often look up and say, “This is the best day ever!” An impromptu trip to buy a cookie or a walk to the bookstore was enough to trigger this phrase. At three and four-years-old, our girls spoke this from their hearts. It was awesome!

The family cheer of, “Best day ever!” reminds us to celebrate life’s simple joys! Your family can borrow our cheer. Or, better yet, create a cheer with special meaning in your home.

Perfecting Your Family Gratitude Habit

The journey to becoming a thankful family starts small and grows with time. This is why beginning your daily gratitude habit now is so important. Much like a muscle, gratitude grows stronger, with exercise. If you ever feel stuck, use one of these prompts to get your family’s gratitude momentum going.

  • What brought you joy today?
  • Describe your latest victory—big or small.
  • Whom do you appreciate?
  • What simple pleasures contribute to your quality of life?

Simple Gratitude

Simple gratitude is more profound than we realize. A few years ago, the garbage disposal in our home broke. Who would have thought that one could be thankful for a garbage disposal? Unfortunately, it was the start of the weekend, and emergency repairs came at twice the cost.

Our family was determined to hold out until Monday. Since our sink was clogged, we switched to paper plates. But even with this change, it was astonishing how quickly dirty dishes piled up. Monday finally arrived, and our garbage disposal was easily fixed. Yet, I will always remember the great garbage-disposal debacle of 2016. It was a smelly mess! After this experience, I’ll never take our garbage disposal for granted again.

Recognizing how many blessings we have is an important step to becoming a thankful family. Truly, most of us are more blessed than we know!

Diving Deeper into a Family Gratitude Habit

The best way to form a family gratitude habit is to start now. Remember, there are no wrong ways to practice gratitude. Not long ago, I had the honor of being a guest on The Family of Virtues podcast. My friend Richard and I dove into all things related to family gratitude. If you’d like to go deeper into building your family gratitude habit, then check out this episode!

You can listen to A Thankful Family here: Family of Virtues Podcast

Continuing the Thankful Family Conversation

Becoming a thankful family is an ongoing process and not a one-time event. The best time to start building gratitude momentum is now—as in right now! You can dive in by listing ten things you’re grateful for in the comments below.

Are you up for the challenge?

I’ll start. Then, add your thoughts. Because there are no wrong answers it’s OK to repeat something that’s already been said. After all, two people can be grateful for the same things, right?

Finally, if you try out this gratitude routine or have a family gratitude ritual of your own, be sure to share this too. We’d love to learn from you as we continue our adventure of becoming a thankful family!

My Gratitude Top-Ten List for Today

Today, I am thankful for:

  1. Strong coffee by the fire during our snowy Minnesota mornings. Yep, it’s October, and we have snow already!
  2. Five girls who are doing well in school despite the challenges of distance learning.
  3. An amazing wife who cheers me on in my writing, speaking, coaching.
  4. Cobra Kai on Netflix. I always wondered what happened to Daniel Laruso. Now I know.
  5. Amazing podcasters like Richard, who invite me to be a guest on their shows.
  6. Our family gratitude habit—it really is fun!
  7. A happy, healthy family. What more could we ask for in 2020, right?
  8. God, who is still very much in control, despite this odd, upside-down year.
  9. Amazing friends and family who support us when we need it most.
  10. You and the other incredible readers who visit this blog and add to the conversation. Thank you for being a blessing and encouragement!

Now that I’ve shared my gratitude list, what’s yours?

More Thankful Family Posts

Are looking for more insights into building a gratitude habit? Then you’ll want to check out the following posts.

Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at www.ithrive320.com.

29 thoughts on “Becoming a Thankful Family: How to create a family gratitude habit!”

  1. What a great post! “Have you ever become so focused on a problem it overpowers n your world?” pretty much described my past week. Because I’ve been regularly participating in the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop for years, I dutifully broke away from the big issue and wrote my gratitude list. It was super short, but it served the purpose. There is so much to be thankful for, and it’s important to remember that gratitude and problems co-exist in life. Thank you for the reminder, for championing families, and for linking up with the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop this week!

  2. This is a great idea! Going to take some time and see how I can implement it in our home! We used to have a gratitude jar but have added to it this year and we do have lots to be grateful for!

    1. Hey Mireille. We love gratitude jars! And it’s great to hear that you and your family have lots to be thankful for. Thanks for stopping by and for adding to the gratitude conversation!

  3. Such a great idea to practice gratitude on a daily basis! We definitely need to do this more as a family. We had been doing this in the evening at dinner, but it didn’t stick. I might just switch it up and try this in the morning with the family as we gather in the kitchen before heading out the door. Thanks for the tips and encouragement. Also, thank you for the visit and the kind words at The Dedicated House! Have a happy weekend! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

    1. Hey Kathryn. Thanks for stopping by. I always enjoy hearing what thankfulness practices work well for families and what roadblocks they hit. I’m glad this was helpful and appreciate you sharing a few insights from your family thankfulness journey!

  4. This is a great topic! Gratitude is such a simple yet powerful way to help our kids. I appreciate hearing your family’s gratitude routine. The idea to have a family song is a fun one! One small thing we’ve done in our family is after letting someone vent about something hard, we’ll say, “But at least…” Then the person having a hard time can fill it in with all the things they’re still grateful for. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I am glad I stopped by and read this post. You sound like a wonderful family, though I don’t suppose it is sweetness and light every day.
    I think we do have to be grateful for what we have rather than pine for what we don’t have.
    My biggest gratitude right now is I still have a job. I can’t do my own job due to my own health issues so have been moved sideways into washing dishes…..not the most glamorous job but better than sitting at home on full pay doing nothing for what could be a long period of time.
    over from #PoCoLo

    1. Hey Elaine, you are absolutely right. We are far from perfect. There are plenty of days where our home is loud, messy, and rushed. This is actually one of the reasons we started this gratitude routine. It helps us slow down and focus on all the things we are grateful for in the midst of the chaos. In other words, thankfulness helps us manage the chaos well—or at least better 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing a piece of your gratitude story with us.

  6. This is terrific! My daughter has been struggling lately with all the responsibilities of being involved in student government at her university, being a senior, and feeling sorry for herself because of what Covid has taken away from her college experience, and I told her to write down three thankfuls every day in a notebook. I’m hoping this will give her some perspective. Thanks for joining us here at the TToT!

  7. Jed, I enjoyed learning more about your gratitude routine. Beginning with an upbeat song and ending with a family cheer seem to set the tone for what happens in the middle. Thank you for modeling family thankfulness for us!

    1. Hey Karen, Thanks for cheering us on in our family gratitude routine. We have a lot of fun with this and I’m often delightfully surprised by how much I learn about my kiddos too. It’s great to hear that sharing our thankfulness practices is helpful. We appreciate you stopping by and adding to the conversation!

  8. Jed, this is a fabulous gratitude habit for your family! I wake up every morning and count my blessings but I haven’t yet included my kiddos in my gratitude routine. I think I am going to start implementing something similar…except at the dinner table instead of the breakfast table. We are not big breakfast folks here but dinner is our time to join together as a family and discuss the day. Thanks for sharing these wonderful ideas and linking with me.

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

  9. Great post! We often fall into the habit of teasing and tearing each other down in jest. A hard habit to break. Thanks for the tips on being purposeful! Thanks also for sharing at Embracing Home and Family!

  10. I love this Jed. I have introduced the concept of gratitude and being actively gratefully externally and not just internally to our family this year and it has had a profound difference on the way we think. I am loving the family theme song that plays in your house. I am definitely going to do that as I am tired of shouting upstairs for them all to come for breakfast #DreamTeamLinky

  11. What a lovely post! I think your family gratitude routine is wonderful and something that we should definitely do more often. Isn’t it funny how a good dose of gratitude can chase away those negative thoughts. Thank you for sharing such an upbeat post over on the #DreamTeamLinky. We’d be so grateful if you could add a text link or our linky badge next time you join us. Thanks so much and have a lovely week ahead.

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