How to get more than a yes or no answer when asking children questions about their day

Can you relate to this when asking children questions about how they went at school and the only answers you get are short one word responses or no response at all?

How often have you asked the following questions to your child and have been frustrated with their response?

How was school today?  – ” Fine” or “okay” or “not good”

What do you do? – “nothing”

This is a topic that often comes up when conducting workshops so I want to share with you the following tips on asking children questions and getting better responses.

Asking children questions

As a parent I know I have often asked these same questions to my own children.  When your child is younger it isn’t too bad as you generally kept abreast of what was going on at primary school anyway.  However when your child start’s secondary school, and the communication from the school is usually less, it would be great to know more about what is happening in their daily lives.

Don’t despair it may be that you are just not asking the right questions, or not asking them at the right time, which then allows your child to give you the one word responses they give.IMAGE of a family eating dinner around the dining table asking children questions

Here are a couple of tips that you might want to consider when asking children questions:

  • Ask open-ended questions which will allow you to keep the conversation going longer rather than questions that can be answered by one word responses.
  • Children don’t often realise the type of answer you are wanting so it is a good idea to make sure you ask specific questions.
  • Try and ask positive questions which will give your child a chance to express concerns where as asking negative questions it might stop the conversation quicker.

Questions you might like to ask (apply to children of all ages)

Below are a few suggestions on questions you might like to try but feel free to alter so they are applicable to you, your children and circumstances:

  1. Tell me about the best thing that happened at school today.
  2. What was the best thing you learnt today?
  3. Was there something really interesting that you learnt?  I’d love to hear about it.
  4. What was challenging about your day? Why did you find it challenging?
  5. Did a classmate or friend have anything fun or interesting to say?
  6. What was the best thing your teacher asked you to do  in ____ today?
  7. What game did you play at recess/lunch?  Who played with you?
  8. Tell me about a moment in class when you felt confused.  Did you seek any assistance?
  9. Was there anytime today that someone wasn’t very nice to you?
  10. Were there any moments today when you were proud of yourself and something you did?
  11. What did you learn about yourself today?
  12. Is there anything that you are worried about?
  13. What are you looking forward to about tomorrow?
  14. Is there a question you’d like me to ask you about your day?

Give it a go

Why not give some of these questions a go when your child comes home from school today?

Before you do it might be an idea though to consider picking just one or two rather than starting to ask all of these at once.   Your child, particularly older children, will really start to wonder why the change and become suspicious about why you are now asking so many questions!  If it goes well, then next time why not throw in a couple of different ones.

If you want to encourage this to become an ongoing part of your communication with your child it is important that when they actually do talk and answer your question that you make sure you listen.  Teenagers in particular are vary wary of parents cutting in and not letting them speak.

Personally I usually find I have the most useful conversations, and get the best answers, when they are having an afternoon snack, in the car on the way to after school sport or at the dinner table.  These sort of questions are pretty much routine in our household these days and not only my way of taking an interest but also allowing me to find out more about what is happening in the day to day lives of my children.

It would be great to hear if your communication improves as a result of altering what you ask your child about their day – please let me know – amanda@organisingstudents.com.au