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What to Ask Your Child Instead of “How Was Your Day?”

What to Ask Your Child and what to not ask

Everyone is familiar with this scenario (or some variation of it). Parent sees kid for first time since they finished school (they might have picked them up from school, they might be waiting for them to come home or they might find them at home when they get there) and asks, “how was your day?“ Kid shrugs shoulders and says, nonchalantly, “fine”. You might not have been the parent in this situation, but haven’t we all been the kid?

It’s kindly meant - parents just want to have an insight into their kids’ lives, particularly as their kids get older and begin to grow up and apart from their parents. And the kids know their parents’ “how was your day”s are kindly meant, but what are they supposed to say?

When you think about it, “how was your day” is actually a frustratingly open-ended question, like “how are you”, particularly for a tired and growing kid. So I’ve trawled the internet for some parents’ more creative alternatives to the traditional “how was your day” type-question. Here are just a few of them:

“How was your lunch?”

This question is easier for a kid who’s just sat through at least six hours of lessons (and possible extra-curricular activities after that) to grapple with. It’s also a great opportunity to find out whether or not your child is eating well, is eating enough, is enjoying the food you’re giving them, is spending money at the cafeteria, had enough time to eat around annoyingly-scheduled SRC meetings etc.

“What did you do at recess and/or lunch?”

Again, this kid of question pairs back the day to smaller, less daunting and, frankly, easier to remember intervals. A question like this can help you gain a better understanding of your child’s friends, of the school culture and of how they like to spend their downtime. It can also help you’re child to discuss any playground issues and to come to you in their own time and way (rather than having to respond to a straight up “are you being bullied“ etc.).

“Did you learn anything new or interesting today?”

This is actually one of the more cliched options, but it’s a goodie. This kind of question encourages your child to think, beyond the classroom, about parts of their education that they found most engaging. It also offers you insight into what your child is learning, what teaching style they like, what they enjoy learning and what they don’t enjoy learning so much.

“Did anyone have a bad day at school today?”

This is actually a great one as it encourages your child to be aware of what’s happening to their fellow students. It may be that they’re classmate is constantly getting in trouble for acting-up in class, or being bullied, or are struggling with the material, or had something embarrassing happened to them. It isn’t about laughing with your child about other people’s misfortunes, quite the opposite. It’s about gaging your child’s ability to empathise, teaching them appropriate responses to others’ suffering and understanding how the school is dealing with these situations.

“What was the funniest thing that happen today?”

When you’re at school, or even going through life in general, it can be really hard not to let the bad parts of your day consume the good parts. A question like this asks someone to find the good in their day (however little there may have been). It’s also a great way to better understand your child’s developing sense of humour.

“How would your school respond to the zombie apocalypse? Who would survive?”

One blogger says that this had their child deliberating for the rest of the week. It’s obviously age dependent – as a child (and even now) I wouldn’t have appreciated anyone talking about zombies anywhere close to bedtime. A question like this can really catch your kids off guard and force an answer out of them, even when they’re in a terrible mood, by sheer shock-value. I doubt you can ask this question over a dinner table without them cracking a smile.

“What part of the day do you look forward too?”

Again, a great way to figure out what is making your kids happy and what isn’t. Granted, they may just tell you that home time is the part the most look forward to, but even that’s an insight into how they’re feeling about school and home.

“What are some of the rules you have to follow at school?”

Mostly, kids don’t like rules and so this is bound to get an answer. It’s a great way for you to understand more about the environment in which your child is spending the majority of their waking hours and a helpful insight into how your child understands and deals with rules and regulations (something a parent would want to know about their child for obvious reasons).

There are plenty more out there and I recommend any exasperated parent do an Internet trawl of their own. It might simply be a matter of thinking about what questions you would respond best to at the end of a hard day’s work. What would you like people to ask you? Perhaps, “who’s head would you most like to staple things to?” or “what would be your ultimate ‘I quit’ fantasy?“ So try not to judge kids for their dismissive answers to “how was your day?” - it might just be that they dislike answering vague questions as much as the rest of us!

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