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Four Ways to Help Kids Talk About School

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Updated on Aug 4, 2009

Getting kids to share about their day can be like pulling teeth, and often with similar grunts and groans. Even talkative kids may respond with nothing more than “Fine,” leaving parents with the feeling that the path to their child’s inner world is blocked by a solid brick wall.

But, fortunately, there are ways of transforming a child's one-syllable answers into meaningful discussions, says Jim Fay, co-founder of parenting program Love and Logic. Here's what he suggests:

No Questions Asked

There are two classic questions that flop with kids. “I call them the Golden Rules for Killing Communication,” Jim says. The first question: How was school? After a hectic day, kids need to unwind. The request to sum up a day full of classes can make them feel like they’re being put on the spot for yet another speech assignment. The second question is even more deadly: Where’s your homework? “Kids get grilled about their assignments all day at school,” Jim points out. As a result, this question can make them feel like school followed them home – and they won’t be in a very welcoming mood. When grownups have a hectic day, they want to close the front door and be done with it. Let your kids enjoy that same feeling of rest when they walk in.

The 30-Minute Rule

Instead of questions, make recreation the new rule. For the first half hour after kids get home, let them have fun – and better still, do it with them. You can enjoy a snack together, go for a walk or a bike ride, start a game, or just let them play. “Give kids something to look forward to when they get home,” Jim advises. Free time is a welcome pleasure after a day of regimented classes.

You Go First

Instead of placing the burden of conversation on kids’ shoulders, take the lead and share something from your own day. “It’s especially helpful when you can describe for them how you learned something new,” Jim suggests, such as a new skill at work or some interesting fact from the Internet. This tip works for several reasons. First, you create a positive atmosphere. The conversation is focused on sharing things of interest, rather than questioning suspects. Secondly, you demonstrate the joy of learning. They see learning not as something unpleasant that’s forced on kids, but as an enjoyable life experience at every age. Finally, you give them the opportunity to be like you. “Kids always want to do what grown-ups are doing,” Jim adds. “As with everything else, the more you talk about your day, the more they’ll want to talk about theirs.”

The 30-Day Challenge

The three tips above won’t transform kids from tight-lipped to talkative overnight, Jim points out. “Challenge yourself to try these for thirty days,” he says. Don’t worry if your kids only listen to your tales without offering their own right away. “Kids learn best by watching what we do. With time and patience, they’ll eventually start doing what we do, as well.”

By avoiding the killer questions, providing down-time, and modeling the joys of learning and sharing, you’ll transform disappointing question-and-answer sessions with your kids into dynamic family conversations.

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