Parenting Perspective: Starting a conversation

April 2, 2010 7:59:55 AM PDT
Sometimes it's hard to get the conversation started with your child... when you're trying to find out what they did at school, what subjects they like/don't like, who their friends are, what they enjoyed about a field trip, etc. Let me guess, it often goes something like this:

PARENT: "So how was your day?"
CHILD: "Fine."
PARENT: "What did you do at school today?"
CHILD: "Nothing much." OR "Same thing as yesterday."
PARENT: "Tell me something interesting you did."
CHILD: "I don't know. What do you want to know?"
PARENT: "Just tell me about school..."

Even if you want to be an involved parent, many children don't make it easy. It could be that they're tired and just want to chill out by the time you get home from work or from running errands. Or they may not know how to express themselves with details. If this sounds familiar, here's a cool trick I borrowed from my friends who have 5 children.

During dinner when you're sitting together ask each child to tell you the "best, medium and worst" things that happened to them that day. Then follow up with more questions. When they finish, you do the same back to them... so they learn more about what you're involved in while they're at school.

My son, Jake, and I have been doing this nightly since he was 6-years-old. Now, we have great conversations with plenty of details.

Now it goes something like this:

PARENT: "So what was your best, medium and worst today?"
CHILD: "My best was recess. We played knockout on the playground."
FOLLOW-UP: "What's knockout?"
CHILD: "It's a cool game sorta like basketball, but everybody tries to knock each other's ball out."
FOLLOW-UP: "Are there teams? Who are some of the best knockout players?"
CHILD: "No, teams. The best players are..."
PARENT: "What was your medium today?"
CHILD: "Spelling. We had our test today and I think I missed a couple words."
PARENT: "No problem... we'll go over this week's list a couple extra times. What was your worst?"
CHILD: "Lunch. They ran out of chocolate cake and I was standing right behind the guy who got the last slice."
PARENT: "Bummer. Let's have a double scoop of ice cream tonight, okay?"

You get the idea.

Then when it's my turn, I give him real information about my day too. My best could be doing a cool interview at work; my medium could be taking a bike ride and not getting rained on; my worst could be burning my finger when I went to heat up lunch in the microwave.

What's nice is it let's your child know you care about the big things and the little things in their lives. And it's also great for them to get to know you as a whole person who has problems, disappointments and makes mistakes... just like them. Try it and see if it doesn't improve the conversations at your house! And by the way, some days we both have variations on this theme?two "bests" and no "worsts." Three "worsts" and no "bests." But on an average day, we try hard to get one of each.

Try it at your house!