So how was school today?” I asked my five-year-old son as he fastened himself into the family van. I turned the radio down so I could hear the answer, not expecting too much insight into the events of his day. Although he’s a highly imaginative kindergartner, getting information from him is like pulling teeth. But, what I heard next truly surprised me. He answered, “Mom, you don’t have to ask that question every day. The answer is always going to be the same. My day was fine.”
Wow! How do you respond to that? His answer sent me into a spiral of introspection. Here I was, a college graduate in education, and my coursework included a gazillion hours of interactive time spent with children his age. I could give a textbook answer on any test. Still, with my own child I had fallen into simple daily routines of asking, “How was your day?”
What is worse, I know how creative his little mind is. I pride myself on my own creativity, yet here I am boring him with the same daily question. I decided it was time to start playing “Mommy Detective.” I needed to find out the events of his day without his knowledge of the daily drill. I created an arsenal of questions:
What did you do today that was the most fun?
Did you have to do something you didn’t like?
Did you have computer (library, gym, art, music)?
How did you get that blue marker on your lip?
What did you play at recess? Who played?
What was your favorite part of your day?
Did something make you sad today?
Who do you sit by at your table?
What story did your teacher read?
Did you try something new?
I found it stimulating and even exciting to come up with a new question every day. I was surprised at the conversation that would ensue after one question. Once I asked a creative question, he was much more willing to launch into a discussion, prompting more questions from me while he was oblivious to my list of inquiries.
I loved some of his answers like, “We didn’t have recess today. When we got outside it was soooo hot our shoes all melted, so we had to go back in.” They assured me he was using his own creativity in his answers as well. Sometimes it’s still hard to sift out the imaginary from the truth. However, now I know who sits on what table, who got their name on the board, what his favorite part of rotation is, who plays with whom at recess and what he enjoys and dislikes about school.
Asking creative questions has reminded me the language of love requires listening and truly inquiring about my children’s lives. It has deepened my relationship with my son and let’s be honest–playing mommy detective is a lot more fun!
QUESTION: What creative questions do you ask your child?
CHALLENGE: Arm yourself with some new creative questions. Ask them while truly listening and learning about your children or use them to strengthen a relationship that could really use a boost.