5-tips to ask your kid about the day at school

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Parents always want to hear about their kid’s day at school. But sometimes, the little ones and even the grown up kids get busy with their own things. And tend to not answer direct question like “What did you do at school today?”. Sometimes they just say “nothing much” and that disheartens parents who eagerly wait for school stories. Also, some kids are expressive, extrovert when it comes to sharing stuff with parents. While others require indirect discussions to open up. Here are a few examples:

Case study 1: A kid comes home and requests her mom to take her for a hair cut immediately. The mother mentions that the same can be done over the weekend. The kid looks sad. The mother ignores her. The next morning the kid refuses to go to school. After a lot of discussion, the parents figure out that the kid was asked to tie her hair. And the kid doesnot like to do that. And hence, the disinterest in going to school.

Case study 2: “Teacher asked me to sit in the first bench always”- why asks the mum? To that the kid doesnot seem to know the answer. On meeting the teacher,  the mum gets to know that her kid was not able to copy the instructions from the blackboard if seated at the back. Mum had a suspicion. Took the kid to an eye doctor. Luckily she was diagnosed to have early vision problem. It was corrected with eye-muscle strengthening technique.

Case study 3: A kid comes home with certificate of participation in school debate competition. And the certificate stays in the school-bag till mum takes the bag for a wash. Mum had no idea that her kid participated in extra-curriculars. The kid also forgot to mention about the certificate.

Case 4: The apartment kids sit together in the bus, leaving behind the 5th kid. They gang up, distribute sweets leaving behind the 5th kid. They make fun of the left out kid. The bullying went on until the 5th kid shared the ordeal with parents.

Case 5: Kids love to share their tiffin. They request their mums with requisitions of various dishes, and to pack extra lunch. Mums are never sure about what their kids eat for lunch. Only discussion after school reveals the secrets!

Like the above case studies, there are tons of examples why just asking “How was school today?” does not bring about a meaningful conversation. For many young children it is too vague and they need a more specific question to help them remember their day. It is better to try some open-ended questions like, “Tell me about the game you played at recess today” or “I wonder what you had for lunch today.” The questions need to revolve around the following topics (SCHO/OL) as discussed below: 

S: Sharing – Can ask questions like “What did your friends say about mumma’s preparation?” Interestingly, once my kiddo complained that she was not left with no piece of paneer after sharing. And requested me to pack the same dish again! From that day, I always pack a little extra for her friends.

C: Challenges – “Did anything bother you at school?” Sometimes its better to tell your own story. Stories from work place, or any challenge you faced at home. Once I was sharing how much trouble the plumber gave me by not showing up at home on time for a must-fix leakage. Interestingly, our kiddo also shared a story that one of their classmates had a bet. And he was about to eat left over food from the class trash-bin! And how all other kids convinced him that it would be a stupid idea. That he might get a stomach pain, or vomit. And the other consequences like hospitalization and injections etc.

H: Happiness –  “What was the best thing that happened at school today?” Kids feel happy if friends are good to them, teacher appreciates the hard work, or when they get time out of class and go for some field trip, celebrate festivals etc. at school. I know of a kid who is in 7th standard, and returned to India after studying till class 6th at a school in the US. Her new school celebrated the “Onam festival” of Kerala with pookalam, made by all students. She happily came back home, and discussed every detail with parents.

O/O: Opportunities/Ownership – Once while driving to music class, our kiddo shared a story. A story about how she and her friends coordinated the selection process of new entrants to the school choir. I complimented her as she was one of the judges who would listen to the voices, and give marks. To that she mentioned this was not the first time that she had untaken such responsibilities earlier as well. I felt equally happy and sad. Happy as she is involved in responsible activities as an eleven year old; sad that we never discussed it before!

L: Laugh  Once I asked our kiddo “Tell me something that made you laugh today”.  She mentioned they had a puppet show. The story made them laugh a lot.

Kids are kids. They live in a world of fantasy. So here are my 5-tips to ask your kid about the day at school: 

1.Ask open-ended questions: “How was school today?” does not bring about the desired conversation. For many young children it is too vague and they need a more specific question to help them remember their day. Avoid questions that can be answered in one word especially “yes” or “no.” Rather try some open-ended questions.

2. Actively listen: Once your child gets started talking about her day, hold off more questions and let her go. As parents, we tend to jump in with more questions, but pausing is important. A child gains confidence as she relates her day and you affirm her.

3. Avoid asking only about studies: School is a place where kids spend most of their active hours of the day. Its a place where they develop creative skills, learn to communicate, collaborate, think critically besides studies. “Tell me one thing that you learned today” may be a better way of asking if you are kneen to know about learning.

4. Allocate a particular time of the day for the conversation: Parents say that the best time to talk about school is over snack as soon as kiddo returns home. For working parents, same can be done over dinner.

5. Ask for more: Simply say, “I’d love to hear more about that…” Or, “Can you tell me little more?” While asking show positive emotions. Always appreciate their honesty and willingness to share the highlights, as well as the difficult moments. This will fuel their confidence in telling you more.

Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children – Charles R. Swindoll. Conversation about school day is surely going to be another such memory for your kiddo. Also, its an effective tool for parents to know what’s happening in the life of their kiddo. This is also required to keep them safe!


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