Good. Fine. Awesome. Great. Okay.
What do these words have in common? They are the single word answers my kids give to the question, “How was your day?” My husband drops off and picks up our middle schooler and our high schooler each day, so I see them when they walk through the front door.
I have about 30 minutes before I need to leave to pick up the twins from school, so I use this time to ask my kids about their day…and nothing incenses me more than one-word responses.
The same goes for the twins. I sit in the pick-up line with a crossing guard who hates the world, other parents with no understanding of the word merge, and a few parents who have no clue I can hear them talking over their Bluetooth to their OBGYN about their abnormal pap smears (I wish I was kidding). And all the kids have for me after that is “fine?” Parenting is not for the weak.
Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and I learned a looooong time ago that asking anyone “How was your day?” gets you nowhere. The twins are only eight, so they’re still chatty.
I usually don’t get a chance to open my mouth before they are providing me with the intimate details of every single moment of their day, but the older girls need some prompting.
Do I really care whose sister got in trouble for sneaking out or the joke Lesly from third period told? No, I literally could not care less. But will listen with rapt attention when my kids bore me to death share the details about their days. This is how I stay involved in their lives. It’s how I know what’s up with them. It’s how they know I care.
The 20 Best Questions to Ask Instead of How Was Your Day?
1. What was your favorite part of the day?
2. What was your least favorite part of the day?
3. What was the most exciting thing you learned today?
4. Did you make any new friends today?
5. What annoying thing happened today?
6. What are you grateful for today?
7. Did you witness anything beautiful today?
8. What music did you listen to today?
9. What kind of artwork did you make today in art class (sport in PE, dish in culinary arts, etc.)?
10. Did you read anything good today?
11. Tell me something new you learned today.
12. Were you a good friend to anyone today?
13. Did you help anyone with anything today?
14. What kind of compliments did you get/give today?
15. Would you change anything about the day?
16. Did you face any struggles today?
17. What made you proud today?
18. What did you excel at today?
19. What good choices did you make today?
20. Are you excited to learn more about *insert topic they learned about at school today here* in the coming days?
Open-Ended Questions are Far Superior
That’s not my opinion – that is a factual statement, according to Children’s Health. “Positive attention and connectedness are hallmarks for a good parent-child relationship.
Checking in on a daily basis shows your kids you are available for them and interested,” is the professional medical opinion of Dr. Stevie Puckett-Perez, Ph.D. and licensed psychologist with Children’s Health.
Open-ended questions require an answer more thoughtful than one syllable. When you ask your children open-ended questions, you’re subconsciously letting them know you care. You pay attention. They matter. This is the key trick to forming a bond with your child.
However, you have to listen to listen – not to respond. When asking your kids open-ended questions about their day, be ready to hear them out, but don’t jump on the ‘here’s my thought’ train right away. Sometimes, your kids just want to talk. They don’t want your stories, advice, or thoughts.
They want you to let them know you are listening, and they want you to only listen. If you’re unsure what your child is looking for from you on a particularly difficult day, ask. “Would you like my opinion/thoughts/help with that, or would you just like me to listen?” is one of the most powerful questions you will ever ask your child.
Why Doesn’t My Child Like to Talk to Me About Their Day?
Here’s the thing about asking your kids about their day. They might not always open up even when you ask an open-ended question. Do not worry about that – I can tell you this from experience.
Our middle daughter, our sweet, spunky, sarcastic, hilarious, intelligent, impatient, unyielding angel…she doesn’t do anything that is not on her terms.
She might get in the car pissed off at the world after school and not want to talk about it. Sometimes, she gets in the car and chatters non-stop about her day. The key with our middle daughter – and many of your own children – is that all things must be on her time.
If she is not ready to talk about it, she’s not talking about it. No amount of prying, open-ended inquiries, or bribery will work. While it’s not my preference to know something is up with her without any details, I also admire this personality trait.
She likes to process things on her own before she shares, and she won’t share until she’s ready. She is thoughtful like that, and it’s all right with me.
So, if your child is not into answering your questions right away, the trick is to give her some space and let her come to you when the time is right. When she’s ready, she will. Your job is to make sure she knows the door to communication is open anytime – and do not get frustrated with her for not wanting to talk about things right away. It doesn’t help.
My Personal Favorite Questions for the Kids After School Each Day
We don’t often have the opportunity to sit down for a family dinner around our own table, so sometimes I ask these questions in the car, and sometimes I ask them at dinner. it all depends on who has which sport or activity, what time, and if were are dining at home.
My absolute favorite question to ask – I ask the girls as soon as they walk in the house and the twins when they get in the car – is what was your favorite part of the day?
They love to tell me all about the best moment of their day. For example, I asked the twins just before Christmas break what each of their favorite parts of the day was, and our son shared this.
He said he was asked to join the elite math club his twin sister is part of. She excels – like really excels – at every single thing. Our son is intelligent, bright, and makes wonderful grades, but it’s not always as naturally easy for him. For him to be invited to her special math group by the teacher was a big deal.
He was so excited about it. But, the kicker is that he declined to join because he was working on a project and he wanted to focus on that.
Our daughter said her favorite part of the day was when her brother was invited to join her math group. She felt proud of him and happy for him, and let me tell you about what that kind of thing does to my heart.
My other favorite question is to ask them if they did anything nice for anyone else that day, because I love to hear about the good things they do for others.
I love to hear how they helped another child with something the child struggled with, or how they invited a new student to sit with them at lunch. These are the questions that make me happiest because they invite so much joy.
There are Other Benefits to Asking Questions Like This, Too
You might think you’re making conversation with the kids about their day, but there’s so much more. For example, on the evenings we have family dinner all gathered around the table at home, the questions expand to my husband and myself.
The kids ask us the same questions we ask them, and I love that. Additionally, it’s a great chance for me to learn things and to share things with my family.
For example, when the kids asked my husband and I what our favorite part of the day was last week, my favorite part of the day made everyone happy.
The twins get to choose the music on the way to school. They take turns going first, and they change it up every other day. I always know what song they’ll each choose because their favorite songs change every month or two.
On the first day back to school after almost three weeks off for Christmas, they forgot whose turn it was to go first. My son thought it was his turn, but it was our daughter’s.
On that particular day, I knew our son would choose to listen to “What My World Spins Around,” by Jordan Davis, and Charlotte would want “Cold Beer Calling My Name,” by Jameson Rodgers and Luke Combs.
When our daughter chose first, she chose her brother’s favorite song. She felt bad that he was so excited to go first before he realized it was her turn, so she picked his favorite song.
In return, he chose her favorite song when it was his turn. Sharing that they have such big hearts and show so much love for one another made everyone at the table happy – including the twins, who didn’t even realize they did that – and it led to an entire conversation about the nice things we do for one another. It was a great moment.
Don’t Ask the Same Question Every Single Day
If you ask the same questions – especially in order – every day, the kids will notice. They see repetition, and they notice it. This is likely to leave them feeling as if you don’t really care about their day.
You don’t want them to assume you’re asking them out of obligation, so vary your questions. In fact, you don’t even have to ask the questions on this list.
You can get more specific, which you should do because I don’t know your kid’s schedules and personal details. Only you know to ask what your daughter thought she excelled at during cheer practice or if your son finally nailed his time during track practice. These detailed questions are some of the most important…but vary what you’re asking.
It’s Okay to Not Care About the Answers to Every Single Question
Look, parenting is hard, and kids are many things. Horrible story tellers is one thing that many kids are, trust me. If you don’t really care about the answers to some questions (no one really wants to hear about the painting their kindergartener did at art for 45 minutes, if we are being honest).
But it’s important stuff even if it is not thrilling. These moments aren’t always about paying rapt attention to the answers so much as learning about your child, their life, and the details that matter to them. These questions are also how you teach your child that your are easy to communicate with, and you are always there for them.
Before long, you’ll learn how to ask the right questions that don’t allow for 45-minute detailed answers about how many sheets of toilet paper your 4-year-old used when she went potty. You’ll figure it out, conversations become more interesting, and you get to know things about your kids you may not know otherwise.
Answer Your Kids Questions About Your Day, Too
Model the kind of behavior you want. If you want your kids to give you good, in-depth answers, do the same for them. Kids are intuitive, and its best to keep this in mind.
You needn’t give them the details of every mundane thing that happened today (that’s their job), but do be honest about your day. Not only does this encourage communication with your children, it also helps you learn. I’ve learned a great deal about recognizing things that I might not otherwise recognize if the kids weren’t asking me.
It’s made me more grateful because I’m forced to think about the best parts of my day. It’s made me more intentional, because I look for ways to help others knowing that my kids are very likely going to ask if I helped anyone. Asking them about their day might seem like no big deal, but it’s actually one of the biggest deals. Take advantage of this gift.
Additional Resources and Parenting Tips For You
- Great mindfulness activities for kids
Amazing leadership activities for teens
Self-esteem activities for kids