When my oldest child started school, I knew exactly what question not to ask him. I’d read up about it, and I knew the question “How was school today?” would likely not elicit a detailed answer. But the second I picked him up from his first day, it tumbled from my mouth anyway.
How was school today? “Good.”
What did you do? “I don’t know.”
Okay, message received. Despite knowing how he’d answer, I continued to ask it day after day, uncertain what else I could ask or say to learn about his day. It was like his memory was wiped the second he got in the car after school, and he had no recollection of what he’d done during the day. I’d see pictures on his class Facebook page or hear about stuff in the parent GroupMe chat and pry for more details. He was decorating cookies, going on scavenger hunts, taste-testing apples, and doing all sorts of other fun activities day in and day out, but seemingly didn’t think these things were worth sharing about.
It took some trial and error, but I’ve finally landed on three questions to ask that almost always prompt some solid answers. I try to avoid asking anything right when we get in the car, instead taking time just to listen to whatever my kids might be chatting about (usually not school related), or making general conversation about other topics. Once everyone’s buckled in and we start driving, I ask ever so casually:
What was the best thing that happened today?
What was the worst thing that happened today?
Did anything unusual happen?
The last question about unusual activities usually hits the jackpot! They’ve come to anticipate this question and will sometimes even offer up information before I have to ask, telling me, “You’ll never guess what UNUSUAL thing happened today!” I’ve also learned to ask more specific questions, like, What was your morning task when you sat down? What project did you do in STEM today? What game did you play during recess?
I love knowing about their days, and I love asking in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m burdening them with my curiosity. Changing up what and when I ask has made a big difference.