"What did you do today?"
You can write the script before you even ask the question... which begs the question... why ask it?
You're asking with the goal of connecting... and you're getting anything but... so let's change it up.
Einstein has a great quote- “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” How often we find ourselves in this situation!? So what can we do?
First let's examine our goal. Most frequently our goal is to connect, share experiences with our kiddo. We aren't actually looking for a detailed accounting of the day. We want to see the world through their eyes. We care about them and want to know what life was like today. What we recognize for our goal is very important because it dictates how we adjust ourselves and what we determine is success. With a goal in mind, we can start to think about what we can adjust to make it happen.
"How was school today?" "What did you do today?" Clearly not working. Let's examine why it might not be working. First know that even among neurotypical children- it's not a well liked or answered question. In thinking about why it's not working we need to ask ourselves - Is it developmentally appropriate? Can my kiddo typically answer such broad questions? These may sound simple- they're not. Often even the easiest of social scenarios is much more complex than meets the eye. To answer a question assumes that you're able to shift your internal focus to mine just by me talking to you. A huge feat!
We might also have to think about the timing. Sometimes it can make all the difference. Being asked right when the kiddo is picked up or jumps in the car, walks in the house can feel like a barrage more than a time to connect. So often less is more. Maybe one day you try not saying anything and see how your child naturally navigates the school -> home transition and when they seem fully transitioned from one activity to another.
So what would happen if we changed it up? What if instead of flat out asking, "How was school today?" We started a little more concrete. You might rifle through the backpack to find some piece of school work that was sent home, bring it to the child and say, "Wow!" or "Math facts again!?" "Pretty!" "You love spelling." Or you point to the big grass stain on the pants and say "Recess was messy!" By having something tangible to look at together we're bringing our goal of connection to a level our child can be successful. We're also tapping into their visual memory which might be stronger. It's much easier to remember something you can see than to brainstorm on the spot. Think of how much more you remember and can talk about when showing pictures of your vacation as opposed to just being asked cold, "What did you do on your vacation?"
In the same vein of providing a clearer map for the recall by using visual memory you might also try purposefully mis-guessing about the day. "It's Tuesday- you saw Ms. Smith." Especially if you know you're child knows that they only see Ms. Smith on Wednesdays. This again brings things down to the concrete level and now you've got a conversation starter. Chances are they might correct you.. and you've got an in.
Now you've got some true opportunities for novel connections instead of the same ol' same ol'. Not everything will go as planned- that's ok. Anything is better than hearing the dreaded... "fine."
And here's the annoying yet very true disclaimer- each kiddo is unique- take the tools and adjust them for your particular needs. :)
What timing- heard this a few days after posting this! "How to Tame a Testy Teenager" Very similar tool box ideas- how can we change our reaction to avoid the scripted power struggle.
Got a Question or Topic for Tool Bag Tuesday? Email rdimaui at gmail dot com.