You have waited all day to pick up your child from school. It has been a tough day at work, the car has broken down or the queue at the supermarket was horrendous! The first smile you receive as they see you always warms your heart and just makes everything seem worthwhile.

The first your thing you ask is, “How was your day?” 

The response “Fine.”

So you try again, “What did you do today?”

The response “Nothing” accompanied with a shrug.

Really in the last eight hours you have done nothing! Your shoulders slump and the conversation stops there. 

Have you thought about why you received that first smile? Your child isenjoying the moment of seeing you again and may be full of gratitude for that moment. If in that moment, you ask, “How was your day?” or  “What did you do today?”   they may be caught off guard and unable to answer your question. In their mind, they are enjoying the present and not recapping the day in their head. The ability to recap the day is a function of the reasoning mind of an older child, not the absorbent mind of your young child.

Next, children who feel compelled to answer their parents when asked, “Did you do any work today?” “Did you finish it?”  May feel unneeded pressure to perform. If they do not have an answer at that very moment they may come up with an activity they remember, “Snack,” and you are still left scratching your head.

So you drive home in silence, continue making dinner or play on your phone.

What if you asked the following questions later on in the evening?

  • Who are 3 people that you talked to today?
  • Did anything surprise you at school?
  • Did anyone do something funny?
  • What games did you play at recess?
  • What is something new that you learned today?
  • Did you help anybody today?
  • What made you feel proud of yourself today?
  • Did you talk to anyone interesting today? What made them interesting?
  • How was today different from yesterday? How was it the same?

Personally, my favourite question to ask my children whilst folding washing is, “What made you smile today?” This always launches an anecdote about some joke that happened in class or lunch time and sparks a conversation which encourages other family members to join in. At some point a text to self-connection can be made to “When I was a little girl…”  which is guaranteed to bring an eye roll but continues the conversation. 

But imagine if you changed the question and asked, “Did you make somebody else smile today?” Your child is encouraged to think about and to see others. They become a compassionate, kind child who helps others.

Imagine if they made somebody else smile today just the way you did when you first saw them.

Trudy Tounson - Head of Student Wellbeing 3 - 6 (DB)