Don’t Ask “How was school today?”
As children get older and become less excited to share the school day with us, there are certain questions that get a dialogue going. Sometimes you just want to hear about the day, but other times there are specific things that you need to know so that you can plan your schedule to attend or participate.
Anytime you ask a yes or no question, you will most likely get incomplete information. Include the words “who”, “what”, “how” and “why” to frame a question for a more complete answer. Here are some ways to ask better questions of your child after school.
- What happened today to make you feel happy?
- Did you learn something about that interested you? Something you’d like to know more about?
- Tell me about a moment with a friend that you enjoyed.
- Is there anything you are looking forward to tomorrow?
- Was there a time when you felt frustrated today?
- Was there anything that worried you today?
- Anything special you want to talk about from your day?
- Are there any questions you wish I would ask you about your day?
As adults, we know that timing a question well can yield much better results. For instance, you don’t want to ask your boss for extra time off when he/she is starving and about to go to lunch. Likewise, timing the questions to your children are also crucial to success and building the relationship.
The best times tend to be when you are riding in the car, and over a meal. You only want to ask two to three questions at most. And, certainly don’t ask your child when he/she is hungry, or sleepy, or in a hurry. Plan the questions so that there is ample time for answers and some discussion.
How You Listen to your Child Matters
While it is easy to resort to the “Because I said so” or “Because I am in charge”, children are more receptive to conversations when they feel heard. Instead, try to frame the discussions with these thoughts in mind:
- Children are more likely to listen and talk if they know that you respect what they say.
- Children who feel heard tend to open up more to their parents.
- This type of communication tends to foster more communication from your children.
- Children understand their feelings and emotions better when you model them. For instance, “I felt very frustrated when we had to chase the dog all over the neighborhood when she escaped.”
- Feeling heard and valued makes children feel good about themselves.
- Modeling healthy emotions and social skills is a powerful tool for our children.
Remember that all relationships take work, and this includes prioritizing time to actively listen to your children. When they see that you are encouraging and willing to hear what they have to say, this strengthens the foundation of the relationship.
Once you create the environment of safety for your children to share how they are feeling about school and what happens there, they will most likely be much more willing to open up about the day.