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Talk To Me: Three Scandalous Questions to Ask After School

Posted by Jen on August 28, 2008 at 7:00 AM in Jen
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madeleine first day of school
Madeleine on the first day of school

See that happy, lighthearted girl? She's got nothing on her dear mother who has been using the last three days to lie on the couch and silently cheer. Listen--a silent house! Look--six uninterrupted work hours in the studio! Imagine--no competition for the last remaining bag of chocolate chips!

To say I have been enjoying the bliss of work life without my kids at home is to put it mildly. The only thing that would be better is if I actually had a television with TIVO so I could watch the convention at my own speed--which would involve occasional naps and lots of ice cream.

Still, I'm enjoying picking my kids up everyday and hearing how the new school year is unfolding. Here are three scandalous questions that are sure to get your little Walter Cronkite chatting away in no time:

Who got in trouble today? It sounds wrong, I know, but trust me, there is no better way to unlock the flood gates than to ask this one very simple question. What's so helpful about opening up this conversation is your kids get a chance to reveal their thoughts on adult authority, fairness and strategies for better behavior. With their candid insight about other kids' in-big-trouble woes, you'll get the inside scoop on how it feels to cross the lines and what your kids think adults should do about it.
What did they serve for lunch today? Whether your kids bring lunch from home or order at the cafeteria, your children will be happy to dish on the latest disaster or diner's delight from the school lunch menu. Lunchtime conversation is always a colorful insider look at life in the kid lane. And let's face it--wasn't lunch one of your daily highlights when you were in fourth grade?
What happened on the bus today? By far, there's no drama like the drama that occurs on the big yellow school bus. With a little luck, this will be just the in you need to discuss kid power, peer pressure and everything else that impacts your kids the most. Find out who's who in the politics of kid world and how your kids perceive their own place in the inevitable pecking order. You'll be surprised at how many strong feelings the bus can bring up and how your listening ear can ease the journey.

What questions do you like to ask when you see your kids at the close of a busy day? Feel free to add your own tips to unlock their inner chatty-cathy in the comments below.


Amy writes...

So true! we ask some of those same questions here, the "who got in trouble today" question is a must! it gets them to talk about behavior but also helps ours feel non-threatened if it was them who was the offender. and we talk about what could have been done differently, blah, blah.

another favorite, "What did you do at recess?" and always, school or no school, what was your favorite (and least favorite) part of the day.

no one feels left out and it gives everybody a chance to talk.

Jess writes...

I've discovered that my 5 y/o responds well to my "wondering". If I ask a direct question, it's bound to fall flat, but wondering usually gets the convo rolling. Wondering about a specific classmate often reveals what the whole class got up to that day. "I wonder if Ella was on the playground today..."

Jennifer writes...

I've been asking Brene Brown's three questions: who'd you eat lunch with, who got in trouble today, and how do you feel about your friends. In place of the last one I've been asking who they played with at recess.

Yesterday was funny, b/c my 6yo dd, who always tells me who got in trouble even if I don't ask, chose not to tell me when I asked. She was uncomfortable about it for some reason. Not sure why yet.

Pat writes...

Great questions. My oldest is going to kindergarten in just over a week, and she's most excited about these three changes from preschool:

1) More recesses
2) Lunch
3) Riding the bus

I think you're on to something here :)

Marion writes...

I always ask who got in trouble today. I am a wife, mom and social worker, along with all sorts of other hats and I have used this question since before I became a mother. I used it as a big sister. This question does get to what the other person sees, feels and thinks about others in their lives. It is also a way to reinforce good decision making and a way to encourge redecision about how our children engage with others. When Lucy was in kindergarten and I asked this question she reported, this was at the end of the year, that she had never been to the "pit stop." I was sort of surprised and asked her repeatedly if this were true. She repeatedly said, "Mom I never got more than a caution sign." I then asked if anyone else had only gotten a caution sign. She then reported that there were only two other children who could had only ever received a caution sign. I took this as affirmation of our parenting after getting over the initial shook. Lucy is a little of the charts most the time she is at home. But we have done a good enough job that she knows what is expected of her in the classroom. It was an great opportunity to reinforce the value of respecting others. All this came from that little question, "who got in trouble today." I also ask "who did you play with today?" This is my variation on the line from a little board book I read to the girls that goes "Little calf, little calf what happened today that made you laugh?" An equally important question. Its cool to see that other moms ask these say questions. Great Post!

amy writes...

As a middle school teacher, I love it when parents find creative questions that go beyond "How was school?" because it does allow kids to divulge bits of info and bridge into bigger discussions as you mentioned here, Jen.


Amy writes...

I am an elementary school teacher at a low income school. I wish that more of my parents would ask how my students day went. Even if a parent is busy, it means so much to a child for their parent or guardian to show interest in their day. As most of you probably agree, it feels amazing to us when our signifigant other asks how our day went! :) Keep asking those awesome questions because you are creating a home-school connection that every teacher dreams of!

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