My children can’t wait to get back from school, gather around the table, and tell me all about who talked back to the teacher, who peed their pants, and who got a bad grade. When I try digging a little deeper and asking them questions about them, though, they shut me down. What do I mean by that?
Mom: How was your day?
Mom: What did you learn at school?
Mom: What did you do, then?
Son: Mom, I was at school. I did school things.
Now, you might think there’s nothing wrong with these questions. But when you’re trying to have better conversations with your children, bond with them, or encourage them to talk to you when they’re going through something, these questions won’t do the trick.
Before you give up and blame everything on “children these days,” check out a few of our favorite conversation starters down below.
What are the best questions to ask your children to get them talking?
1. What made you smile today?
Now, that’s one of the best questions you can ask anyone. But your children are going to have fun trying to remember everything that went on during the day to figure out who or what made them smile. And you’ll probably get a story or two about how the teacher made a mistake or how one of their classmates slipped on the floor.
2. Who made your day better?
When you ask your children “Who made your day better?” every time you pick them up, that’s what they’re going to focus on throughout the day. Chances are, they’re going to pay more attention to teachers and peers who make an effort to be nice to them, offer them assistance, and keep them company.
3. What was the most challenging thing you did today?
When trying to dig a little deeper, you might want to ask about anything that might have been challenging for them. Children tend to view challenging chores as something negative, and you can use this question to teach them why they’re great.
Follow up with “How did you feel when you accomplished the task?” and “Wow, that’s great! Congrats!” and see how their faces light up.
4. What was the best thing about today?
Children don’t mind answering the “How was your day?” question, contrary to popular belief. But when you word the question that way, there’s not much more to say than “Okay,” “Good,” or “Fine.”
Rather than wording your question in a way that warrants a one-word answer, ask about specific situations, encourage them to share more, and motivate them to remember what went on.
5. What was the worst thing about today?
On top of that, you don’t have to only focus on the positive. Children go through a myriad of experiences during the day, some of which might not be “rainbows and butterflies.”
Maybe they didn’t have enough time to talk to their friends during recess. Perhaps the teacher overwhelmed them with the amount of work they had to do. Whatever the case, you want to encourage them to speak up.
6. What superpower would have made your day better?
When they do speak up about the negative, you might want to lighten the mood with a follow-up question along the lines of “What superpower would have made your day better?” And, you might be surprised by your children’s answers and how creative they can be when they’re amused by your questions.
7. If you could change one thing about your day, what would it be?
Moreover, you might want to follow up with a more serious question (great for older kids, too). When your children open up about something that bothered them, you can continue the conversation by wondering whether they’d change something and whether that change would’ve affected the way they felt.
8. What did you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday?
What do you do when you want to ask your children about what they learned, but you don’t want to bore them to death? Start by asking them whether they’ve learned something that caught them by surprise – something they didn’t know before, something that made them laugh, or something that made them wonder.
9. If you could teach me one thing you learned today, what would it be?
Follow up with a challenge because that’s the best way to keep your children invested in the conversation. Furthermore, you can teach them something related to the topic, too. When you make your conversations more entertaining, engaging, or challenging, you’re guaranteed to keep your children’s attention.
10. If you were the teacher today, what would you have taught the class?
And, you can follow up with a question that allows them to get even more creative, too. Additionally, some kids might not appreciate you trying to get them to teach you something and might respond better to a question rather than a challenge.
11. If you could be friends with anyone at your school, who would you be friends with?
When you’re young, your friends are everything to you because you spend most of your time with them. We know that, but our kids don’t. When you start a conversation with your children, don’t shy away from getting creative with questions about friends. This one might be a great place to start.
12. How did your friends make your day better?
Once you get the conversation going, you can try to get to know them better. On one hand, you can ask this question to encourage your kids to share embarrassing deets. Or you can flip it, which brings us to our last question.
13. How did you make your friends’ day better?
This is a great motivator to be better and do better for others. It gives them a chance to reflect on how they treat those they care about.
In the end, whichever questions you decide to go with, know that you can make a world of difference with a little bit of effort, a few words of encouragement, and patience. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that you create a great relationship with your son(s) and daughter(s)!