“How was school?” “Fine.” Surely there’s a way to have better conversations with our kids.
Do you want to pass your values on to your children? Do you want to talk about what’s truly important? Maybe you simply want them to do their chores? It can be done, but we may have to learn some new tricks.
One of those tricks is the ability to draw out your kids, to relate to them in a way that they want to share their thoughts and feelings and the happenings of the day.
Many dads have a long way to go in this area. They ask their kids questions like, “Did you have a good time?” or “How did school go today?” Now sure, that shows you’re interested, but how does your child respond? “Yeah.” “Nah.” Or maybe just a grunt or a sigh. Sometimes our questions come across as obscure, or they require no thinking from the child.
A better approach might sound like this: “What’s one thing at school that went well today?” Or, “What’s the worst thing about the worst teacher at school?”
Better still, ask a about a specific teacher, class, or activity. Jot down notes from your previous conversations and you’ll have a natural reason to follow up. Keep a photocopy of your child’s class schedule in your desk or even tucked in your planner. A generic question usually gets a generic answer. But if you get specific, they’re much more likely to open up.
Also, if they do share a problem at school, don’t rant, lecture or give your famous pat answers. Just listen and acknowledge their frustration. Remember, dad. First connect. Then share your great wisdom … with respect.
One more thing to keep in mind. When you ask can be just as important as how you ask. Maybe your daughter needs to unwind a bit before she’s ready to talk. Or, maybe going out for a soda or for a walk will help get rid of busyness and distractions.
With practice, dads, we can learn to probe beneath the details of where a child went, what he did, who he saw, and so on, and get to the real heart of what’s happening with your child—his ideas and feelings about all of it.
It’s a real breakthrough, and it’s one of the best rewards in fathering.