“How was school?” — “Fine”
“What happened today?” — “Nothing”
Does the above conversation sound familiar? It is one that my daughter and I would repeat almost daily when she started preschool and into Kindergarten and First Grade. Invariably, she’d remember something to tell us at dinner or I’d hear about something from another parent in her class.
Then I started asking her “Did anything interesting happen at school today?” which evolved to “Tell me Three Interesting Things that happened at school today.” Now when I pick my daughter up, she has to tell me her three interesting items before she’s allowed to read the books or magazines that we keep in the backseat of the car. Of course she is always welcome to tell me more, but having the minimum has really helped our after school communication. It also helps that it is not a question that can be answered with a single word like Fine, Good, or Nothing.
Before the Three Interesting Things method, I had tried asking specific questions about parts of the day.
- “How was lunch?”
- “Who did you eat with?”
- “What did you do at recess?”
- “What happened in a certain subject?”
However, if I didn’t ask about the part of the day where she had things to share, I wouldn’t learn about it. The specific questions would also often turn into the one word answers:
- “How was lunch?” “Fine”
- “Who did you eat with?” “Friend A”
- “What did you do at recess?” “Play”
- “What happened in a certain subject?” “Nothing”
I have found that I learn more information with the Three Interesting Things method. On a day where she has trouble coming up with things to tell me I will prompt her by asking about specific parts of the day. Even with these questions, I try to keep them open ended, requiring more than a one-word answer.
Of course my daughter is always able to share more than the three things, but rarely does. Last year I picked her up after Brownies one day and was met with “Mom, it was the most interesting day of school ever!”. Of course, that wasn’t a good thing. They had a substitute teacher who was truly terrible (ridiculing students’ work, defacing a classroom book, making a child clean the classroom instead of attending gym class, etc.). Fortunately, the principal quickly received information on the problems from the teachers in the adjacent classrooms (one of which had a daughter in the classroom) and sent the substitute home before lunch. We had received an e-mail from the principal around lunch time informing us about the situation. That day, my daughter talked to me the whole way home. Truly a first.
How do you get your child to talk to you after school? What techniques have you found that work for your child?