Three Questions to Get Your Kids Talking
I hummed to the radio as I inched my van forward, watching as a handful of kids walked to their vehicles. Some walked with purpose, smiles on their faces. Others couldn’t muster a smile and risk losing their “I’m too cool” status. Middle schoolers are a rare breed.
Finally, my seventh grader made her way to the van and hopped in the front seat. She seemed pleasant, so I asked, “How was your day?”
“Fine,” she shrugged her shoulders and situated the overstuffed book bag between her feet.
“What did you do?” I hoped for more details. It was the first day after all. Did she have friends in her classes? Could she open her locker? Were her teachers nice?
We pulled away from the school and she was content to sit quietly with not even a word about what she ate for lunch.
Except “nothing” is never what happened at school (Is that a double negative?). It’s always something. You know this because your kids hit social media running, with posts like “4th period today was lit.” Or “Guess who came out with a fye new album?” (“Fye” and “Lit” are the new words for cool for all you parents who are not so fye. See how I did that?)
After this afternoon scenario played out again and again, I was determined to find ways to get not only my middle schooler, but my high schooler and elementary student talking, too. As I worked to see what parental treasure I could find to unlock the details of their days, I finally discovered three magical questions.
1. Did anything frustrating happen today?
You won’t believe how this question will get them going. Most kids just want to be heard and usually can point to something that irritated them. It may be as simple as a teacher who gave a pop quiz they weren’t expecting. But they may share about classmates who aren’t treating them with kindness. This question is great because it lets your child know whatever thing upsets them is important to you, too. When they share, be sure you are listening.
The answers to this question may inspire you to try to solve the problem. But make sure they want it solved, and know whether or not you are the one who needs to solve it. You may find yourself with an opportunity to teach your kids how to handle tough situations on their own. But if you do need to get involved, ask your child first if that is his/her wish. If you insert yourself in situations where they didn’t want you, they may be hesitant to share with you again.
2. Did anything awesome happen today?
Usually after my middle school student has opened up and shared her frustrations, she is more apt to share good things because she is in the talking mood. But know this is one question they may still glaze over with a simple, “No.” Ask it nonetheless because on the days where something great really does happen, they will have the opportunity to share.
3. Did anything funny happen today?
I always leave this question for last because it’s the question that usually leads to the most talking. My middle school daughter will sit and think about her entire day to come up with an answer for this because she loves to share a laugh with me. Just be aware when your child begins to tell about how funny something is, they may share a thousand details and when it gets right down to the funny part, you may not see the hilarity in the moment. But that’s okay. Laugh with them anyway. You also may find yourself doubled over laughing. I also love this question because it lets me know what my kids think is funny. It helps me learn more about their personalities, which are constantly changing.
My kids are now so used to me asking questions, if I am distracted and don’t ask right away, they will say, “Well. You haven’t asked me about my day.” When the questions become part of your routine, your children will be prepared and even look forward to answering them each day.
If your kids are continually giving you the “nothing” and “fine” answers after school, maybe you just aren’t asking the right questions. And if you ask these questions and they still don’t answer, answer them about your day and share your frustrating/awesome/funny moments with your kids. Anything to bridge the lines of communication between parent and child is a good thing.
Last week I picked up my seventh grader and when she got in the car, I asked, “Well, what hilarious thing happened today?”
She responded with, “Oh man! What was it that happened today in social studies? It was so funny and I remember laughing so hard and thinking I can’t wait to tell Mama this, but now I can’t remember.”
I’m sure I smiled the whole way home.
By: Carol Hatcher is a former elementary teacher turned writer. This author and speaker lives with her husband and three children in Commerce, Georgia. Come visit her at www.sheeptotheright.com.
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