One of my favorite things is the end of the work/school day, and checking in with my kiddos, and hearing about their day. I can tell from their satisfied expressions, grubby/sweaty clothing, and grass-stained knees that they have had a busy and active day. So when I ask them how their day was, I get frustrated when I get the ‘fine’ with no details to follow. I know it probably WAS fine for the most part, with moments of glee, some frustration, and probably a moment or two of boredom. I don’t want a minute-by-minute play-by-play but … some illustrations of the events of their day would be greatly appreciated. I know they all like their teachers, love time with their friends, and enjoy PE, lunch (especially recess) and library the best. But what else? I know there is more.
So ways to effectively pull that info from my kids (which starts, needless to say, by putting screens down and far away from the dinner table):
What did you learn today?
Something new? Something that helps explain a question or problem? Something that works better with your friends? Something you particularly liked or truly did not appreciate? Schoolwork or playground related? Often, I hear about the finer details of the latest theory on airplane folding, or the game they have recently started playing with their friends at lunch, or even how to make a particular Spanish dish … all good, all more than ‘fine’. And all, most often, new to me. I especially love it when they start talking about a particular something, and then the other chimes in with ‘oh, I saw you doing that.’ And the conversation just takes off from there.
What did you try hard at today?
Sometimes, they try hardest at things we don’t even know they struggle with or like to put effort into. Finding out what your child tries hard at can help illuminate topics of interest. Or maybe, topics of difficulty. This semester, I was shocked to find out one of my son’s favorite activities is helping with the costume and set design for the school play. Put him on the stage and he’d be horrified, but behind the scenes is currently fascinating.
What mistakes did you make that taught you something?
A mistake does not necessarily equate a blunder; it does however open one to the opportunity to learn something and gives the chance to figure out a change or a shift in order to do it better next time. I think, too, it’s important for kids to understand that mistakes happen, and it’s okay. It’s normal. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s where we go from that mistake that helps us to grow and to change. To learn. As the saying goes ‘If you have never failed, you have never tried at something new.’ Making a mistake is not the same thing as failing. The more our kids talk about it, the more they talk through it, the better they will realize this growth mindset concept.
What challenges did you overcome today?
What challenges one child (or adult) might come easily to another. We’ve had many a conversation around the table where we’ve talked about that one thing that one of the boys is struggling with, and another will pipe up with a suggested solution. As each of our boys has their own strengths, one’s suggested solution might not fit well for the other, but I love the opportunity to watch them offer a hand. Additionally, hearing about different challenges my kids face often opens my eyes to the myriad of things that go on in their day, especially those that might come from living in this extremely diverse international environment, and from the mix of cultures they are immersed in every single day. What would never have happened in my elementary class is commonplace for them. And imagine how different and how much more technology these kids embrace each and every day. Their classroom has challenges we can’t even imagine. We may also hear a commiseration, and a sharing of that challenge. It isn’t such a bad thing for the boys to know that what they struggle with is likely something others find challenging as well. Again, normal.
When talking about challenges, kids also really love to tell you about how they overcame something more complex or difficult. Your kids love to tell you about instances when they win, or figure something out. They love telling you about their positive outcomes. Give them the opportunity to do so.
And a game, if you will: Rose, bud, thorn
Finally, a great way to get your kids to open up about their day is to invite them to share with you their ’Rose, bud, thorn’ from the day. The ‘Rose’ is something good about the day, something they really enjoyed and appreciated. The ‘bud’ is something new from the day, something thing they were just introduced to or discovered. And the ‘thorn’ is something they did not necessarily like or appreciate (because let’s be honest, not every bit of the day is easy and fabulous. That’s just reality.). Our ‘Rose, bud, thorn’ conversations are amazing because we get that much wanted glimpse into their day, and we also get to hear about thing they love and maybe struggle with. My kids love to share their insights and experiences with shared teachers. They are also developing their listening and conversation skills, which are both so very important, and a part of social development.
The conversation at the dinner table doesn’t have to be about politics or cultural events or current international events to be interesting. Your kids have amazing insights and delightful conversation to offer; you just have to find the right way to get the topics flowing.