Do you remember cringing as a child when the inevitable after-school question was asked, “What did you learn in school today?” Many future parents, as a direct result, promised never to use that particular phrase with their own kids.
Unfortunately this remains the fall-back conversation starter that many of us still seem to use today.
A previous blog piece explores ways to “check in” with our children, find out how their back-to-school transition is going, regardless of age. One would assume this to be easier with children who are speaking in full sentences.
Apparently it’s really only easier if we ask the right questions.
Hudson Country Montessori’s Middle School students recently responded to a writing prompt: “What questions from your family make you not want to talk about school? Why?” And conversely “What would you prefer them to ask”
Number one inquiry on the most-despised list? “How was your day?” Across the board.
Reportedly this is a complete conversation killer. “I can just reply ‘good’ or ‘bad’” explains one student. “I only have to say ‘ok’” agrees another.
Other despised questions are:
“Do you have any homework tonight?’”
“Did you do well on your test?”
“Did you finish all your work?”
“How was your lunch?”
Instead, these wise beings would like to respond to:
“Tell me, what was interesting about your day?”
“Did anything annoy you in school today?”
“What was the best thing that happened?”
“Did you have any funny moments?”
Children really do want to talk about what they are doing in school. They want to describe all their interesting, annoying, funny experiences. In detail. Monosyllabic answers are as irritating to them as they are to parents.
A child may believe “What did you learn in school today?” is a test, a trick to see if they paid attention. For many of us who ask this question, it is simply an attempt to learn vicariously through our child. How much has changed since we went to school? Many parents are surprised to discover that their children experience educational and social pressures far earlier than they themselves remember facing them.
If we, as modern-day parents, can help our children understand that predictable evening inquiries are genuine attempts to touch upon each school day in a meaningful way, a lot of frustration and misunderstanding can be avoided.
We cannot ensure our children get the most out of their educational experience, unless we know what they are experiencing and how they are handling it. Don’t be afraid to ask, our students have even taught us how!