Our son started VPK in August, and it is our daily ritual to talk about his day at school. Last week, the three of us were driving to dinner and my husband wanted our son to tell him what happened at school. The conversation went something like this:
Hubby: What did you do at school today?
Son: I don’t remember.
Hubby: What did you work on?
Son: I don’t know.
Hubby: I want to know what you did.
Son: I can’t remember.
Does this look and sound familiar?
The interesting thing is that I had already talked to my son about what he did that day, and I got a wealth of information from him. So, what is the secret, you ask? Concrete questions!!
My husband asked broad and general questions that are too abstract for a child to process well. Children’s brains prefer specific and defined tasks so that they are more easily mastered. The more concrete, the better.
So, my questions for my son were:
What song did you sing today?
What work did you choose?
What did you eat for snack?
Who did you play with on the playground?
Do you see how a child can easily recall and discuss these answers?
Please understand that this does not just apply for young children. Even preteens and adolescents prefer very concrete conversations. So, rather than asking, “How was school?” (to which your teen will probably reply, “Fine.”), it would be more effective to ask, “What was your favorite thing that happened today?” or “What is one thing that made you laugh today?”
Getting kids to talk to you is actually quite easy if you know the right approach. This technique works for EVERY scenario. To learn more about their friends: “What is one thing that you like best about Johnny?” To handle a moody attitude: “What is one thing that would make you feel better right now?” To get to know their likes: “Tell me your favorite thing about skating.”
These are just a few examples of how merely changing the wording of the question will make a huge difference in your levels of conversations with your children. No more Fines, Goods, I Don’t Knows from too broad of questions, but instead very specific and insightful answers so that you can invest in and learn more about what matters to your children. And that is worth a thousand words!