How to get your kids to tell you about their day
All too often parents are met with one word answers of “Fine” or “OK” to their questions of “How was your day?”. Kids have great skills in avoiding giving meaningful answers to these questions. The reason is simple, they do not yet understand the importance debriefing a day. It is one of the wonderful parts of being a kid – you do the day, you finish the day, you get on to the next one. The thought of breaking down that day into specific events is an overwhelming and often impossible task.
As parents though, we want to know what is going on for our child, an insight into this seemingly classified information, so we can support their challenges, celebrate their achievements and be on the lookout for any red flags. So how do you get your child to tell you more?
It is common for girls to be more forthcoming with information about their day, but they still need some prompting. Boys on the other hand need a lot more help in understanding what information you are trying to extract from them.
Be patient with your little people and follow these tips to help you gain more of that precious inside information:
- Avoid large questions such as “What happened at school today?” This is a huge question for your child to determine what you are actually asking for. They don’t know if they should tell you about their dropped lunch box, the great book they found at the library, the fall they had on the way to the toilets or the funny dance their teacher did when they all got their maths sheets right.
- Break it down for them. Keep your questions small and specific such as “Who did you sit next to at lunch today?” or “What did you learn about in science?”
- Check their “feelings” barometer. Challenge your child a little to tell you how they are feeling about school with questions such as “What was the best thing that happened today?” or “How do you feel about the talk you had to do in class today?”
- Change your questions each day. Avoid repetition of asking the same questions each day. Kids are good at recognising patterns and using the same question each day is a sure fire way of getting the same answer. That said it can also be good to have a starting questions, highs and lows at the dinner table- where everyone shares their best and worst part of their day like in this dinner routine. To get specifics and new information though, you will need new questions.
- Turn the tables on yourself. Get your children to ask you about your day. Let them ask whatever they like and show them the type of answers you are looking for. This will help your kids understand that the little things are just as important.
- Make it fun! Turn it into a game. Make up a Bingo card with questions on their day and the winner is the one who gives a row worth of meaningful answers. Find a fun and easy reward for the winner e.g. they can choose who sits where at the dinner table or who gets to choose the first show on TV after homework etc.
- Don’t wait until they are at school. Start asking your child about their day even when you have been there with them all day. This gets them used to the idea of thinking back into their day and it is less intimidating for them as they get older.
- Be prepared to wait. Think about yourself. After a big day at work when someone asks you how your day was as you walk out the door you probably say words like “fine” too. Give them a bit of time and then ask them, perhaps while they are eating afternoon tea.
- Never Stop Asking. Some days your child may not want to talk about their day. Don’t let that deter you from asking the next day.
Here are 20 questions you could use to help get your child talking:
- What was the best/worst thing that happened today?
- What was the funniest thing you saw today?
- If we saw your teacher at the shops, what would he/she tell me about you?
- What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
- Tell me something you did for the first time today.
- Who did you play with at lunch today?
- Who were you kindest to today? / Who was kindest to you today?
- Where do you like to sit at school?
- If you could change one thing about your classroom what would it be?
- Tell me about a time when you know you made a good choice today.
- If you could turn one subject into an extra lunch lesson which one would it be?
- Tell me about someone in your class you haven’t played with yet.
- Where do you like to play the most in the playground?
- If you could be the Principal for a day what would you do?
- Who did you say thank you to today and why?
- If Mummy/Daddy was at school today what would they have found the hardest?
- If you could do more/less of something at school what would it be?
- What was the strangest thing you learned today?
- Who was finding it the hardest to be good today?
- Tell me about the most colourful thing you saw at school today?
School days for parents seem to go so fast, but never forget how long they were for you when you were a kid. Tread carefully and patiently at the end of the day with just a couple of questions and you will be surprised how your children will learn to understand what you are asking of them. They will learn to appreciate you asking and it will consistently validate your love and concern for them. You never know, one day they might jump in the car after school and willingly hand over all that classified information before you even ask.