Stop asking your kids “How was school today?”

Stop Asking "How was school today?"

So often I hear parents complain that their kids won’t tell them what goes on at school all day. They ask “How was school today?” and they get back:

“Good”

“I don’t know”

“What’s for dinner?”

I get it, I’ve fallen into that trap too! To get the most out of your chats with kids, here’s a few tips to follow

  • Pick your time wisely

Are they completely exhausted after school? Do they need some food shoved in their gob before you start with 20 questions? Are they a screen zombie? Or are they happy and chatty and ready to talk? I find chatting to Pebble when she’s doing something else, like eating a snack or drawing a picture (not watching TV!) is a good time. She’s happy and settled, and the chat is just that, chat. She’s not being interviewed or under pressure.

  • Ask open ended questions

If your question can be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ then it’s dead in the water before you’ve even begun. Try some of the conversation starters below.

  • Focus on the positive

Think about the kid you’re talking to and what their big worries are – and avoid them! If you know your child has anxiety about friends or who to play with or struggles with learning, then steer clear of those minefields at first, to avoid them clamming up. Once you get them talking then they might choose to open up about the things that they struggle with. Definitely make time to talk about their worries too, but it’s important that kids (and adults!) reflect on their day and remember the good stuff. It’s all too easy to focus on what went wrong.

  • Give them time. Lots of time. 

Sometimes we ask a child a question, then before they’ve had a chance to answer we butt in with another question. It can seem like they’re not going to answer so we try to keep the conversation going. But young children need time to think and form a response. Try counting to ten in your head after asking a question to allow plenty of time for them to answer.

Try these questions:

  • What the best part of your day?
  • What made you laugh today?
  • If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
  • How were you caring to your friends today? How were your friends caring to you?
  • Did you hear or read a story today? What was your favourite part of the story?
  • What made you feel happiest today?
  • What are you looking forward to at school tomorrow?
  • Did you learn any new games today? Can you teach them to me?
  • Who would you like to play with that you’ve never played with before?
  • Where do you play the most at recess and lunch time?
  • Who is the funniest person in your class? What do they do that’s funny?

p.s. this advice applies to kids aged 4-8 ish… cos that’s my jam! If you want to have a good convo with a teenager you’ve come to the wrong place for advice. Get back to me in about ten years.

How do you talk to your kids about their day? Got any tips for me?

2 Replies to “Stop asking your kids “How was school today?””

  1. Some good advice, thanks Kylie! I’ve been struggling with these questions with Popette lately. I have tried “What did you do at school today that made you happy” a few times. One day I got the response “Nothing. Nothing made me feel happy. The end!”

    Now I try “What did you do at lunch time today”, then I might follow it up with a “Did anyone else do x with you”, which is my way of finding out who she played with. Popette is a little shy and I’ve been told by her Kindy teacher is a bit of a loner, so she often spends time on her own. I wish I could be a fly on the wall!

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