Asking Better Questions


Asking Better QuestionsHow was your day? <good>

Did you have a good day? <yes>

My kids are still young elementary schoolers, but this quick question and response cycle has come early in my house. Every day when I pick them up from the babysitter’s house, I ask about their day, and the answers tend to be short and sweet. I can remember doing the same thing when my parents asked, but I assumed it would be a few more years before they stopped telling me all about their day!

It turns out, they have a lot to say. I haven’t been asking the right questions!

As an educator, I know open-ended questions are important, but I forgot that these tactics are important with my kids too! By asking questions that require dialogue, these talks feel less like an interrogation and more like a conversation.

Below are some questions I’ve been playing around with (and I try not to ask them all every day):

“What did you learn today?”

This one seems simple, and I know it’s common. I remember my dad asking me this every day, but he usually asked me “Did you learn anything today?” Of course, I said no or not much. Ask the question in a way that doesn’t give that option.

“What was the best/worst part of the day?”

I try not to give boundaries to this question, because it’s usually pretty telling with no guidelines. These answers tell me what my kids are frustrated with at school or where their feelings may have been hurt. I also learn about new friends and whether they got ice cream at lunch time (usually a best part).

“What made you laugh today?”

With two silly boys, this one is always a hit! I rarely understand why something was funny unless it’s because somebody fell down or farted in class, but they sure do love to tell the stories. And I am happy to laugh at them.

“Where did you see kindness today?”

I loooooooove this question because they can always come up with something. Sometimes they talk about something they did personally that was kind, sometimes it’s about kindness shown to them, and sometimes they just observed kindness. At any rate, recognizing kindness is incredibly valuable.

“How were you brave today?”

This is a favorite too, but sometimes I have to help this one along with some follow-up questions. Bravery is hard to grasp, even for me sometimes. This question usually gets responses about trying something new, meeting a new person, etc.

“What’s a goal you have for yourself?”

With younger kids, our goals are usually related to learning how to tie shoes faster or learning math facts, but it’s neat to see them come up with goals. It’s even neater to see them complete the goal and move on to something else.

Once I started asking better questions, I was surprised by the outcome. It turns out, my kiddos started looking for the things I was asking. They were looking for kindness and bravery. They were looking for it in other people and looking for it in themselves! I get a little overwhelmed thinking that it’s possible to reframe their days by giving their brains something to look for.

Then I realized it was helping me with my day too. Oh yes, the grown-ups are answering the questions as well. It’s a good way to frame my own day and listen to my husband talk about his. It’s not a perfect system, but I can tell you that my day is different when I look for kindness. My day is different when I am looking for an opportunity to be brave. My day is different when I have a goal that I have set and for which I have to be accountable.

So give it a try; find some new questions to discuss — at dinner, in the car, at bedtime. Develop a routine of sorts and see your child’s day from a new perspective. It just might change your perspective too.