My oldest daughter used to be very negative when she first started elementary school, it made me nuts. We instated the tradition of Three Good Things, and while her negativity has somewhat faded, Three Good Things stuck. Now it serves less as an exercise in gratitude and perspective and more as practice in conversation and listening (which everyone in my house needs – including me). We also get to learn about each other’s days.
For the past more than five years nearly every weeknight we take turns around the dinner table and each person has to list Three Good Things they are happy about or that happened to them on that day. These Things have a very wide range of subject, importance and weight. “My teacher told me I did a good job.” “I got everything on my errands list done.” “I saw a hummingbird.” “The sky was pink.” “I scored a goal.” “I figured out where the books I like are in the library.” “I sat next to my friend at lunch.” “I found an awesome parking spot.” “We went outside for recess.” “No one got in trouble in music.” “My new magazine came.” “I forgot my lunch box and my friend brought it back to the classroom for me.” “The dog did something funny.” “I thought we were out of eggs, but we weren’t.” “I found a lucky penny.” “My favorite shirt was clean.” One of the most popular is “I [played a game/Legos/American Girls, colored or did nails] with [sibling] for a half hour without fighting and it was fun.”
Often conversation starts from lists. One Good Thing might lead to a story about that Thing, or someone might want to talk about something else that happened. That’s fine. In our house each person has to finish their list before the next person has a turn. Some days this takes a lot of patience, and some days not everyone gets a turn. We usually go around in a circle.
We have catered the rules as the conversation has evolved over the past five years.
Here are some house rules:
- Try not to do repeats of Things that had been said before you of unless you REALLLLLY mean it (before this rule all three kids things end up with “1. We’re having tacos for dinner. 2. Daddy came home early. 3. Recess was fun.”) This rule encourages people to go first and also to think hard. Similarly, we’ve eliminated general things – things that happen every day (“1. I like dinner. 2. My family is nice. 3. Our house is nice.,” would not be accepted). We’ve decided that food, our family, friends, health, house, clothes and some other things are happiness givens and are encouraged to be mentioned, but don’t count towards the Three. We’ll recount and modify this given gratitude list once in a while, but usually in prayer form.
- If you say a bad thing that happened, you have to do two more good things (5 good things and one bad thing), unless someone had a really bad day, then they get a break, instead of “Three Good Things!” we might call out “One Bad and Three Good Things!” or “Three Bad Things and One Really Super Awesome Thing!“
- Variations can be called (either if people are grumpy about doing the original version, to continue conversation, or just to mix things up). Here are a few popular ones in our house:
- Three Good Things About [Fill in the Blank] (e.g. Someone At the Table, Your Teacher, Your Bedroom, Your Friends, Rosie (our dog), Pizza, Our Town, Your Favorite Book, etc.)
- Three Good Things And After Someone’s Turn Everyone Else Has To Ask That Person A Question About One Of the Things.
- “High, Low, You Don’t Know.” This was another family’s tradition we learned about on the soccer sidelines last spring and tried out (high point of the day, low point of the day and something you don’t know happened today). We did it for a couple months, but the Your Don’t Know part was a little tricky for my younger kids. We tried the You Don’t Know as bringing a random trivia sort of fact to the table, usually a lesson in school or something they read.
Yesterday we had a bunch of kids over at dinnertime and didn’t get to do our Three Good Thing. When I was falling asleep I was thinking of my three good things for yesterday:
- There was a two hour delay for school, which allowed for a very relaxed morning and nice transition from a long weekend, as well as the kids getting to school safely.
- A fall to my knees, head to the floor, sides hurting, tears streaming down my face giggle fit inspired by a text message from a friend.
- The sound of the dishwasher running as I fall asleep, which always makes me feel safe, like ends have been met on the day, and I’ll be ready for tomorrow.