If you’re a parent, you probably suffer from “broken record” syndrome. You know, that habit we fall into of asking the same questions day after day. Pretty soon, that routine “how was your day?’ receives an equally predictable “fine!” as an answer. A simple re-phrase of our daily questions can open up the door for deeper conversations and prompt our children to be more self-aware. So, take the needle off the record. Here are five alternative questions to spark better conversations with children of all ages:
1. “What was the best part of your day?”
This is a question you can pose to children of every age — from toddler to teen. From a selfish perspective, it allows you to almost feel a part of their brightest moments. From a parenting perspective, it gives you insight on the little things that are meaningful and make your child happy. And although the question itself is positive, it can often be a good way to identify whether your child had a not-so-great day (without giving off the impression that you are prying, or requiring they relive a bad experience). This is a great starter question that can get the “conversation ball” rolling.
2. “What did you do today to make someone happy?”
It can be easy for children, no matter their age, to feel as though the world revolves around them. When you regularly ask your child about what they did for others, that challenge to think selflessly lingers in their little minds and (hopefully) leads to a greater sense of awareness toward others. Eventually, they will begin to anticipate this question and even start to look for opportunities to be more kind and helpful to those around them. Maybe they will take notice of someone sitting alone at lunch, or have the courage to stand up for someone who is being treated unkindly. Not only does it make them more self-aware, but it also sets up an expectation that you have for them: to always be kind.
3. “Was there anything hard about your day?”
Maybe your child is nervous about how they did on a test, or having a hard time with friends. Perhaps they are feeling frustrated with a situation at home and don’t know how to approach you — maybe they just didn’t like what was served for lunch. (Come on, you remember the plastic pepperoni pizza.) Regardless of the severity of their concern, inquiring about daily hardships can offer insight to daily anxieties and insecurities you may not even know exist. The phrasing of this question allows your child to feel safe and in control. Asking this question regularly provides multiple opportunities for your child to come to you on their own time. Today they might not want to talk about it — but tomorrow might be a different story.
4. “Who did you spend time with today?”
As an educator, I can attest: friends begin to play a very large part in your child’s world at a very young age. It is always important to know who your child is spending time with. This question not only gives you an idea of their friends, but can also offer valuable insight to whether or not your child is socially thriving or socially struggling. It may even make you more aware of what kind of friend your child is.
5. “What do you think you could do better tomorrow?”
This is a positive way to encourage your child to reflect upon their day and set goals to be even better tomorrow. It reminds your child to avoid complacency and always strive to improve. It might help to break or form habits (maybe they are always late to school, or maybe want to be more socially confident and make a new friend). It is also a great way to remind your child that tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start.
Lyndsi Frandsen is the creator of the Facebook page For All Momkind and author of the For All Momkind blog. She has many titles, including wife, kindergarten teacher, sister, and her favorite title, mom.