Does this sound like the typical after school conversation with your kids?
“So, how was your day honey?”
“What did you do in class today?”
“I don’t know”
“Did you have a good day?”
If so, you are certainly not alone. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and the New York Times bestselling author of the parenting best-seller, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, says it starts with asking the right questions.
You might think, and maybe even have heard that means, instead of the vague inquiries mentioned above, that you ask more specific questions. But, Mogel says, while that is good advice, most parents go to “negative questions,” such as “was Barbara mean to you at lunch again today?” That is kind of the natural inclination of parents, especially moms, who want to protect their kids, so they ask about anything that went wrong or could have hurt them during the day. But, that only turns them off.
She suggests instead, to ask enthusiastic questions about the good things that may have happened during the day. She writes, “Our job as parents and educators of certainly girls, but especially right now young boys is to be enchanted with their enchantment. When you pick your kid up at school, put down your device and say, “I thought about you today when I saw [anything that they talk to you about]. If you came across something that connects to their passion and their great store of information that they just treasure within your day, it shows them – these emotionally sensitive creatures—that you hold them in mind when you’re not together. It means so much to them. And it’s really a magic trick. It really works.”
She says once you get them talking with something such as “when I was driving over I heard that new song from Harry Styles and I immediately thought of you because I remembered how much you used to love One Direction…” that will get them to engage with you, and converse. Then once you have made that connection, you can sneak in other questions about his or her day, and will likely get more than one-word answers.
Mogel and others suggest that it is also very important that you model talking about your day, and even lead with your day so that you do not come across as an inquisitor. “I had a great day today. I talked to grandma and grandpa about XYZ” or “I met a new friend and we had coffee at the beach.” It is important to share your interests, friends, challenges, and joys with your kids so they see that kind of communication modeled for them. There is nothing quite so rewarding as when my teen daughter asks, “How was your day today, Mom?”
What do you do to try to get your kids to tell you about their days? Reply in the comments below.