Parenting has certainly changed over the years. In most families today, both parents need to work and there are a lot more kids attending after school care. Evenings have become rushed and more chaotic than ever, with less conversations happening around the dinner table and many parents get the usual answer to the “How was your day?” question: Fine or I don’t remember.
But this doesn’t mean that evenings have to be this way. Dinner time is the perfect opportunity to have meaningful conversations as a family. Conversations are a two way street, it is just as important for the parents to share their days and what is going on in their lives with their kids as it is for the kids to be able to openly share what is going on with them.
I consider myself pretty lucky in that my daughter shares a fair amount of her day with me. But it wasn’t always like this. Initially, she would give me the typical, “I don’t know” response when I asked her what she did that day, so I learned to ask more specific and more thoughtful questions – “who did you play with at recess”, “what did you do”. And I do tend to ask her a lot of questions.
I was having a conversation with several other mothers from my daughter’s class recently when I realized just how lucky I was. Perhaps, it’s because they have boys and that girls are more likely to talk about their day, but I think it all boils down to having engaging conversations by using open ended questions. So put all the devices away and really pay attention to what your child says and then ask follow up-questions. Often, it is not just about the responses and the words they use but the body language that goes with it.
Download 20 question sample deck
There are several approaches to having more meaningful dinner conversations:
- Taking Turns – Everyone has a turn at the dinner table talking about their day without getting interrupted, although everyone else is allowed to ask questions.
- The Question Deck – print out a list of age appropriate questions for your child, shuffle them, and then pick a card, any card will do…Or just put them in a hat or a bowl (it doesn’t really matter).
- How Full is Your Bucket Today? – Based on the book, go around the table and talk about how full everyone’s bucket is. Who helped fill it and who took drips from it? Whose Bucket did you fill and take from today?
In time, everyone starts getting more comfortable talking about their days and it does get easier.
The point of asking the questions is to
- get to know your children better
- help determine what their strengths are,
- Help determine whether they are introverted or extraverted
- To discover what they enjoy.
- And most importantly, to improve your relationships with them.
Really listen to the responses and watch the body language to determine what topics gives them energy and what topics drain them. Some questions are also useful to get a better understanding of who their friends are and what the friendships are like. If you find that your child suddenly starts talking faster and with more passion about a topic, then it is more than likely that this is an area of strengths and you should follow-up on this topic to understand what it is that is the source of the passion.
It is also important to remember that there are no right and wrong answers to these questions and conversations. At the end of the day, it is about having more engaging conversations as a family, getting to know each other better and being willing to share things.
Try it tonight. What’s the worst that could happen? You ask a silly question and get a completely unexpected answer that surprises you!
Click below to get a sample of questions for your Question Deck.