How Do You Get Your Kids To Talk About Their Life?

I’m not sure why kids don’t want to talk to their parents. The following conversation seems to be universal for parents with kids.

Parent: How was your day?

Kid: Good.

Parent: What’d you do?

Kid: Nothing.

Parent: Hmm.

Kid: What’s for dinner?

End of conversation.

As a parent learning to ask the right questions is so important. Questions communicate what we care about. Questions dictate what is prioritized. Think about it. If no one asked you about certain things they would never get done. With a job, or in a family, some things get done because we know someone is going to ask us a question.

The key is to ask kids the right questions. Once you find the right questions it is like opening the flood gates. At least it is with the kids I interact with.

For a general rule of thumb specific questions equal details. General questions equal general answers.

My wife and I do this regularly with our kids.

I tested this out last week when we visited our kids’ school for lunch. When we showed up none of the kids were talking.

I started asking specific questions and before I left there were 6 kids who could not stop talking to me.

I started with a question that got me no where. I started with, “What is your name?” I received five kids’ names and not one asked for my name. It also didn’t lead to any other questions.

I then asked if they liked Paw Patrol. I got a quick, “No.” And that was it.

Then I asked TV shows do you like. This wasn’t a yes or no question. It was specific and it opened up the floodgates. From that point I heard about cartoons and how all the kids watch the TV Flash. That led to talking about Halloween costumes. That led to them asking me questions about what I liked.

One girl noticed I had a Star Wars t-shirt up and we started talking about Star Wars. One kid was so excited he couldn’t stay in his seat. He wouldn’t stop talking and he had to come to me to say it face to face.

So with my kids I spend dinner time asking specific questions.

When I ask how was your school day I get, “Good.” If I stop there that’s all I get.

So I ask specific questions.

Here are some examples.

  • What was your favorite thing you did at school?
  • What made you laugh?
  • What made you sad?
  • Who did you sit next to at lunch?
  • What did you talk about at lunch?
  • Your favorite part of school today was recess. What did you play at recess?
  • Did anything make you feel scared?
  • What surprised you today?

Not every specific question opens the floodgates. But eventually asking the right question opens up conversation. There are times where my kids couldn’t stop talking about school. All of those times came after specific questions.

I’ve also found that kids open up more when they are in the process of doing something else constructive. For example, during dinner is a great time to talk. Watching TV is an awful time to talk. Playing with legos or toys is a great time to talk. For my kids when they are drawing or coloring it’s an amazing time to talk. Finally bedtime seems to be a time where my kids talk.

If you have a hard time hearing anything but, “Good” from your kids don’t be discouraged. You are not alone. For one week try asking specific questions at dinner time and see what happens. It may take a little while, but I’m convinced the right questions lead to the right right conversations.

What have you done to help your kids communicate about their life? What other questions are helpful to get kids to talk?

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Rob Shepherd

I am the full-time husband of a wonderful woman! I love being married! We are proud parents to twins, Hayden and Reese. In my spare time I am the pastor of Next Level Church. I have a relationship with God and it is an adventure. Oh and I wrote a book. It's called Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You.

8 Comments

  1. Karen
    September 12, 2016

    Your kids are going to be great human beings! You guys do such an amazing job and you’re transparent! One of my favorite questions is- what was your favorite part of today; the trip, the weekend… It tells me what’s important to her.

    Reply
    • September 13, 2016

      Thanks Karen. And that’s a great question to ask.

      Reply
  2. Randal
    September 12, 2016

    My wife and I modeled the conversation at dinner time, asking each other about our days, asking questions of each other, etc., so that our boys could see and hear how that conversation should go. Then we would ask the boys about their respective days. It was part of the dinner time routine to the point that we would sit down and they would ask when we were going to talk about our days and who was going first.

    Outside of the dinner conversation we have been very careful to make sure that our boys know they can talk to us, but that sometimes the conversation has to wait until we are able to give them our undivided attention, because what they are going to say it important and deserves to be heard free of distraction.

    Reply
    • September 13, 2016

      Randal, that’s a great addition. Making sure you are fully present in crucial.

      Reply
  3. Karen White
    September 12, 2016

    I did this with my kids. As they got older they would hang out In the kitchen cooking and helping with dinner as we chat about their days. Even as teens, they started working, they wanted to share their thoughts about thier jobs and life. As young adults, now, we text, but they still are open to chatting.

    Reply
    • September 13, 2016

      Karen, that’s great and encouraging. I hope to have that kind of relationship when my kids are adults.

      Reply
  4. Mary
    September 13, 2016

    Isabella LOVES to tell me what she chose for lunch. We go over her options in the morning. She LOVES the cafeteria food. I love some of these other specific questions and I will surely be asking her them. She LOVES to talk, lol.

    Reply

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