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