When a friend, colleague or loved one asks you “How was your day?” how do you usually respond? The likelihood is that you answer with a simple “Oh, it was fine” or some other similarly unforthcoming response. There are two reasons for this: firstly, it’s such a broad question that it is incredibly difficult to give a full and proper response, especially when you’re feeling exhausted after a hard day at work. Secondly, such a broad and vague question also implies that the person enquiring is doing so out of politeness rather than out of any real desire to hear your response.
As parents, what we have to remember is that when we ask our child “How was school today?”, they are likely to respond in the exact same way as we would if we were asked the same question about our day at work. Therefore, if we are enquiring about our child’s day because we are genuinely interested, we must first learn to rephrase our questions if we hope to illicit a full and forthcoming response. We can do this by trying to make our questions smaller and more specific.
So for example, instead of asking your child “How was maths today?” ask them “What were you studying in maths today?” When they reply, you can then ask more questions such as “Do you find algebra interesting or is it quite challenging?” Asking your child small specific questions like this makes it easier for them to answer you honestly, and they are far more likely to be more forthcoming and responsive to you in future. Here are some more examples of how you can ask questions about your child’s day in a way that will actually encourage them to give you a full and honest answer.
Ask about the Positives
- What was the funniest thing that happened at school today?
- What made you feel most proud today?
Ask about the Challenges
- Did you find yourself in any tricky situations today? How did you deal with it?
- Are you finding any of your lessons hard? Is there anything I can do to help?
Ask them how they are feeling?
- What made you feel happy today?
- What made you feel angry today?
Learn from them
- What topic are you studying at the moment?
- Wow, that sounds really hard! Can you teach me how to …?
Ask after their circle of friends
- How’s Oscar today? I know you said you’d fallen out, are you getting along better now?
- Which of your friends is the best listener?
Ask about their teachers
- Who’s your favourite teacher? What is it that you like about them most?
- You said that Mr. Jefferies scares you because he yells all the time – do you still feel that way?
Ask them to tell you funny stories
- When was the last time you laughed so hard, it made you cry?
- What’s the funniest joke that one of your friends has told you?
Ask about the ‘small stuff’?
- Did your new coat keep you nice and warm during playtime today?
- I heard that Lucy has joined a gymnastics club – did she show you any of her moves?
Ask about books they are reading in class
- What book are you reading in class at the moment?
- Who is your favourite character and why?
Ask about playtime
- Who did you spend playtime with today?
- Did you play any games? What games did you play?
Ask about their school lessons
- What’s your favourite lesson and why?
- Which lesson do you find most difficult?
Refer to past conversations
- You said you were struggling in history class last week – are you still finding it hard?
- Do you like your new teacher as much as you liked your last one?
Talk about the differences between home and their friends’ houses
- Are the rules the same at Tim’s house as they are here at home?
- Does Jenny have any pets?
Ask them to show you something they’ve learnt
- Can you show me how to do a handstand?
- How about you sing me that lovely song you learned in assembly?
Ask them to show you their school work
- I’d love to see that painting you told me you did in art class yesterday, can I see it?
- How about you read me that story you wrote in English class last week?
Simple though it may seem, restructuring the way in which you ask your child questions will encourage them to want to share more with you in the short-term, and strengthen the connection you have with them in the long-term.