Every night at dinner my dad made me (and my four siblings) tell him “The Goods”, which are: one good thing I did for someone that day; one good thing someone else did that day; and one good anything else. A “good” could not be the absence of a negative. Therefore, if my teacher postponed a test that day, my “one good thing” could not be that I did not have to take a test that day. A good had to be something truly positive, such as “I played a fun game with my girl friends at recess,” “I learned about these cool frogs in Science class,” or “We had cupcakes to celebrate my friend’s birthday during snack.”
Those are all in the category of “One Good Thing”. A typical answer, depending on your child’s age, would sound more like this, “I helped Natalie with her math work because she did not understand it and I did. Sara let me borrow her socks during gym class because I forgot mine. And Mrs. Cook let us stay out for 10 extra minutes on the playground because it was so nice out.”
As kids, we hated going through this task, but it benefited us in two significant ways that I could never comprehend as a young child. Having dinner as a family provided structure in my day and illustrated my parents’ support for and interest in me. The Family Dinner Project outlines and cites the research of the benefits of family dinners further, such as increased self-esteem and improved academic performance.
The Goods also forced me to focus on the positive aspects of my life. Positive psychologists recommend saying “The Goods” or keeping a daily gratitude journal in order to promote happiness (and is backed by research done by UC Davis at the Emmons Lab). Journal entries do not have to be filled with amazing events every time. In fact, being able to recognize the Goods on days when it seems like nothing good happened is better practice and habit forming than being able to appreciate the Goods on days where everything went right.
(The Goods also helped my parents tease out some information about our school days, which can be very difficult! Kids are great at keeping that information to themselves!)
Instituting the Goods in your house (or in your classroom) is an easy way to increase the chances that your kids will lead happy, emotionally healthy lives.