Does this conversation I recently had with my son sound familiar to you?
Me: Hi honey! How was your day today?
Me: What happened at school today?
Me: Did you know that there’s a new Skylanders Trap Team character coming out?
Son: Yeah, his name is Love Potion Pop Fizz and he’s this wild and crazy mad scientist! He loves making potions and he got caught up in a raspberry soda blast that turned him pink and made him smell all pretty.
How come my son can describe to me in great detail a Skylanders character that hadn’t even come out yet, but when I ask him about his day/school he suddenly becomes an introvert?
So I thought about it for a while and came up with a few hypotheses:
- Maybe I get short answers about their day/school because it really doesn’t matter to them?
- Maybe they are experiencing short-term memory loss?
- Or maybe it’s not my kids answers that are the issue, but rather my questions. Are they too broad for them?
I started to realize that a million things, both big and small, happen to my kidlets each day after they are dropped off at school, so when I ask “How was your day?” or “What happened at school today?” they’re totally overwhelmed at how they should answer….
Should they tell me about the fire drill? Or about the classmate who puked during math class? What about the assembly they had today on Chinese New Year? What about the new word they learned? How about the great book on cartooning they checked out from the library?
I figured my kidlets are not quite sure what information I want to hear or what they should/need to tell me so they draw a blank and give me some generic reply just so they can answer me.
I can’t forget that my kidlets are only 7 and 5, and are still learning the art of conversation. Both talking and listening are learned behaviors. How our children communicate with others is something they learn first from mom and dad.
So it’s important to both talk and listen to our children everyday.
Conversations help to build connections and connections with our children (and partners) are most important. When we pause and listen, we can get to know so much about our children.
It’s up to me as the parent to stimulate that conversation by asking both specific and open-ended questions. I have also learned that it’s just as important to watch our responses to our children’s answers – so no sarcasm, criticism or lectures – so they can feel safe and secure in letting us know their true thoughts and feelings.
So now when I ask my kidlets questions about their day, I ask them things such as:
- What made you happy today? What upset you about the day?
- Who did you sit next to at lunch today?
- What did you play at recess? Who did you play with?
- What did you learn in math class? Was it easy or hard?
- What’s your favorite subject in school and why? What’s your least favorite?
- What was your favorite part of the day?
- Tell me about the book you are reading? Who is your favorite character and why?
- If you could switch seats with anyone in your class, who would you trade with and why?
- Did you have any special visitors, assemblies or birthday parties today?
- What did you do after school? Where did you go? Who did you see?
- Did you help out a friend or the teacher today?
- What’s the hardest thing about being a kid?
I don’t ask all of these questions everyday. I don’t want to overload them, so I only focus on a few and switch it up so it doesn’t become formulaic for them. I always try to throw a silly question in there too such as “if you could have one superhero power which one would you pick and why?” I find it sets them at ease and puts them in a good mood to talk.
Since I started asking these questions, I’ve learned quite a few interesting things – like my son loves math, but hates spelling. My daughter would want her superpower to be super speed and since she’s the oldest in her class it’s her job to help all the other kids zip up their jackets when going outside for recess. Pretty interesting stuff and it gives me more insight into my kidlets.
Now it’s your turn to share. How do you engage with your children? How do you get them to talk with you?
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