It’s a typical complaint that the majority of parents have – that their kids don’t tell them about what is going on in their lives; that very early on they stop communicating. You pick them up from school and ask how their day was, and all you get is “fine”. Have you ever wondered why that is, and how to go beyond just “fine”?
We’re complaining about our kids lacking in communication skills, but who do they learn this from? Us, of course. And what could be a worse example of true communication than asking a child “How was your day?” If you really look at it, you’ll see that it is such a conditioned, automated question that it doesn’t even warrant an answer. We live most of our adult lives asking and answering automated questions: “Hi, how are you?” “Fine, thanks, and you?” Do you really care how the other person is? Do you want a true response or to get into a conversation about their current troubles and successes? Not really. We know this, and our kids watching us know this too, so when we ask them a similarly unconscious question they don’t feel the need to supply more than the typically automated response.
We forget that kids are still fully engaged in the world, and we need to meet them where they’re at, not come at them with our adult switched-offness!
If you want true communication with your kids, you need to start truly communicating with them. Start by asking a question that actually implies that you are interested in them and their lives. Instead of “How was your day?” try:
“Is your best friend back at school today?”
“Is the PT teacher still wearing those silly shorts?”
“Who had the most delicious lunch today?”
“What games did you play on the playground?”
These are just some ideas to get you going, but if you follow the next part of true communication i.e. actually listening to what the other person is saying, I’m sure you’ll come up with some more of your own!
So the trick to going beyond just “fine” is this: If you want a real answer, ask a real question!