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'How Was Your Day?' Better Questions to Ask Kids

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Updated on May 20, 2013

After school, your child hops into the car or walks in the house and you ask, "How was school today?" Maybe you get a full sentence, or instead the answer is "fine,” "good" … or just a grunt. Getting information out of a quiet child or sullen preteen may seem like it requires CIA-approved interrogation techniques, but you most likely just need to change up your questions.

Class and Homework 

  • Instead of: “How is science class?”
  • Ask: “What did you learn in science class today?”

This more specific question is simple and unassuming, and the answer could be packed with information. Even if your child gives a nonchalant shrug and mutters, "I don't know," you can then try to figure out if he really doesn't know what's going on in science class (valuable information) or if he just doesn't feel like talking.

  • Instead of: “Did you do your homework?”
  • Ask: “What did your teacher assign for English class today?”

The standard question about homework that parents ask every day is rarely effective since it's a yes-or-no question. Instead, hear what the assignment was, then you can ask if your kid actually did it.

  • Instead of: “Why are you doing so badly in social studies?”
  • Ask: “Do you think social studies is too easy or too hard this year? Why?”

Jumping in to immediately find the reason your child is underperforming might put him on the defensive. Avoid awkward silences or harsh stares by easing into the difficult subject. Knowing whether a subject is too easy or too hard can let you know what your next steps should be to help him do better.

  • Instead of: “What book are you reading?”
  • Ask: “Tell me about that book you're reading. What's happened so far?”

When adults talk among themselves about books they are reading, they can usually expect to get more than the title, but your child may play by different rules. With a little prompting, though, you can bond over whether the story is interesting (or super boring) and assess your child’s reading comprehension skills.

Classmates & Teachers

  • Instead of: “How was your day?”
  • Ask: “What was your favorite part of the day?”

You could also ask if someone did something funny or if your child had any difficult tasks that day. Without being specific, your child may just say "fine" or "nothing," and bring the conversation to a halt. 

  • Instead of: “Is someone bullying you?”
  • Ask: “What did you do during recess today?”

Kids aren’t likely to admit that they are being bullied. But asking about recess or lunchtime can give you some clues as to who your child hangs out with and if there are any changes in his social life. If he mentions playing with Bobby every day for a week, but the next week Bobby isn't mentioned at all, you might want to ask if they had a fight.

  • Instead of: “Is your teacher nice?”
  • Ask: “What do you like (or don't like) about your teacher?”

Your child's relationship with his teacher can really make or break the year. Kids will sometimes refuse to do homework or participate in class if there's constant tension in the classroom. This question will help you find out about any issues that you need to address.

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