Back to School and Questions We Ask our Children

The first day of school was just a few days ago, and all day I couldn’t wait for my boys to tell me about it. I was in the carpool line asking myself, “how can I get them to tell me the most details about their first day of school?” I expectantly waited to hear about new friends they met, their favorite activities, their favorite subjects, and what they played on the playground. I couldn’t wait to for them to fill in the details since they had just started new grades in a new school. 

After they got buckled into the car with their backpacks and lunch boxes, the answers I heard were good but short. “How was your day?” “It was awesome, and the whole thing was so good that I don’t know what the best part was.” I smiled as I drove home, glad to hear that they both had great first days, even though they hadn’t revealed anything specific yet. I wasn’t surprised because I thought they would both have a great start. But it’s always good to hear it. As they day went on, they both told me LOTS of favorite moments they had at school. 

This got me thinking about the questions that I ask my boys on a regular basis about other places they go and their everyday experiences. What are the questions that I ask them all the time? One question I ask almost daily is “Did you have fun?” or a general “How was your day?” It’s automatic, a way for me to find out what they enjoyed most about their latest outing and what happened. But considering this challenged me to ask them better questions instead.

I’m all about taking my kids on fun outings, which we do A LOT, but I also want to consider questions that will shape them and help them grow. I don’t want them to think that having fun is the main motivation behind why they should make decisions or how they should treat people. The questions we ask can guide conversations and become opportunities to talk about character, courage, and about new experiences. 

What are some better questions that we can ask our children?

The questions we ask should change and evolve as they get older, but the questions that we ask our children send a message to them about what’s important to us.

What did you try that was new today? How were you a good friend? What was the funniest thing that happened? How were you compassionate? How did you show courage? What was the hardest thing that happened? What surprised you? What are you proud of today? What do you want to try again tomorrow? 

One of my favorite parts of the day is when our family sits down for dinner, and everybody takes turns telling a little bit about their day. Often times, everybody shares their favorite and least favorite thing that happened, which can be hilarious when my 5 year old’s favorite part is playing Darth Vader, and my husband’s favorite part is drinking coffee. But I love it because it gives all of us a window into each other’s day, often revealing how completely different yet similar our days at work and school are. 

The questions that we ask our children have the power to tell them what we value and respect, as well as to give us insight into what they are going through and experiencing. Sometimes talking about our days together around the dinner table ends up with all of us laughing so hard we’re almost crying at the unexpected things that we encounter. But these questions can also help us guide our children to set new goals, solve problems together, and celebrate new adventures.

Let’s cherish both the questions and the answers that help us build strong families and nurture our children through each school year and help us grow closer together.  

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