101 Great Things About Your Family
By Jonathan D. Sherman, LMFT

Download the free
101 Great Things Worksheet
(Microsoft Word .doc)
Recently I was working with a client family who were master finger pointers and experts at finding fault with each other. Among other interventions, I challenged them to develop a list of “101 Great Things About Our Family.” I designed this exercise to twist their patterns and skills at making big things out of little things in negative ways into something more positive and effective.

The 17-year-old son made the comment that he didn’t like coming to therapy because he had noticed the pattern in his family that, “Addressing the problem creates more problems.” This astute observation was more about his family’s lack of skill in resolving problems effectively, however, it is also very accurate to the counterpoint of this exercise: Addressing the solution creates more solutions.

The rationale was to help them do the following: practice finding what’s right and good in their family and with each other; learn how to make little positives into big positives; and make positive interactions spiral out of control just like negative interactions do. I tested this exercise in my home that same night and it was a great, fun, insightful, and encouraging activity for our family. I have since challenged several client families to do this exercise whether it takes one evening or three months for them to complete their list.

I also assigned this to another family who struggled to list just ten strengths in their family. While they accepted the assignment they did so wondering how they would ever come up with 101 things. However, knowing how the process works I know that the more they think about it the more they will notice and come up with more and more things that are great about their family. They will be surprised. Their thinking will slowly shift towards coming around to noticing and appreciating the positive in their family.

This exercise is so effective because it ties into the power of appreciation and the importance of the “Magic Ration of 5:1 positive to negative interactions ( see the article on Appreciation at bardos.net/StrongFamilies).

What are the 101 great things about your family?

I challenge you and your family to notice and list 101 things that are great, right, good, fun, important, and special that you like and/or are grateful for about your family. You may do this on a plain sheet of paper or you may download the free “101 Great Things About Our Family” worksheet at www.bardos.net/101GreatThings. You may also see my family’s list there to jumpstart ideas if you get stuck.

Simply list all the serious and silly, grand and minor things your family can think of. Don’t censor the list. Don’t worry whether someone does something all of the time or just some of the time. If it’s great even some of the time then let it stand. This is a brainstorm list. Play with it. It’s a great way to celebrate what is right with your family, and many find it both a touching and funny experience, as well as a bonding experience.

When someone says something nice
, but general, like “Mom” or “Dad” write that down and later come back and ask, “What’s great about Mom?” And then, “What’s great about that?” and “What else?” And on and on—dig through the positive, dig up all the details, all the minutiae, lay it out and write it down to air the clean laundry for all to see.

Keep this list on your fridge.
As family members notice things they are to write it down. When you reach 101 great things about your family go out for ice cream to celebrate.

For some families this exercise will be easy, for others it will take some effort. 101 felt daunting to my client families. I gave them permission to complete this assignment in one evening or in one month. I wanted them to reach, to struggle with it, and to get out of their comfort zones.

Don’t get stuck in the idea, in the myth, that your family has to be great like this all the time. This is not about perfection, just about growing strengths and crowding out the negative by creating less space for the negative to exist. Consider gardening and weeding. While we deal with weeds as they come up, the point of gardening is not weeding but focusing on what we want to grow. What do you want to grow in your family? Focusing on it more will create more of it. The more entrenched this mindset becomes you’ll find yourself noticing more and more things that are good and right about your family.

Watch future columns for more strategies for creating greatness in your relationships.

Jonathan Sherman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Consultant specializing in creating "greatness in relationships." He is experienced in assisting people learn how to improve their marriages, their parenting and themselves through skill development, life coaching, overcoming depression and anxiety, stress and anger management, and addiction recovery. He teaches extensively throughout Utah on a wide range of relationship topics. He is the founder of Bardos Relationship Consulting. You may reach him at 801.787.8014 or jonathan@bardos.net. Be sure to subscribe to the FREE Great Relationships eZine at www.bardos.net.

© 2001-2010 Jonathan D. Sherman, Bardos Relationship Consulting. All rights reserved