Questions To Ask Your Child About School
Do you only end up having short conversations with your child about school amidst your busy life? Well, here is how you can improve those conversations by asking better questions.
By Chitra Ravi
'Busyness' taking over Happiness
Family time, conversations with loved ones and quality time with children are almost always the first to get affected because of the so-called 'busyness' of our lives. And there are a million stories that the little school goers are waiting to tell if only we take the time to listen and ask them questions about their days. Stories of new friendships, food shared, things learnt, and much more. Unfortunately, we and our children are bogged down by the bottomless evening checklists. “Oh...let’s hurry and finish up your homework before bedtime…Yeah I know darling, your Sumathi miss sent your rhymes video on the class WhatsApp group. I’ve heard it already.”, “Yes yes...I understand Raj had trouble tying his shoelaces in school and you were there for him. But can you finish your milk fast, we are already late for karate class.”
Does this sound familiar? This academic year, let’s flip the story a bit, shall we? Can we pause to listen to our children? There are stories of some lightbulb moments in and outside of classes, of little pranks at recess, of funny made up songs and even some random acts of kindness – waiting to be heard. Let’s make way for these conversations, which might even be therapeutic for you and your child.
What do you ask your child every evening?
In our mechanical tasks driven life, even our conversations tend to become functional in nature. “Do you have any homework today?”, “Did the English dictation happen today?”, “What do you have to take for the field trip tomorrow?”, “Why didn’t you finish your lunch today? How many times should I ask you to eat your veggies?” “Did you get your science answer paper? How much did you score?” Or worse, “How much did Rohan score?”.
So, why not revisit the nature of these questions itself? Why not ask questions that will lead to conversations rather than simple ‘yes or no’ answers?
Instead of asking “What did you learn in school today?”, why not ask “How did you learn in school today?”
A simple change from “what” to “how” changes the approach of the question and paves way for a whole barrage of your child’s learning experiences. From “Jyoti Miss taught us photosynthesis today” to “Jyoti Miss took us to the school garden today. Did you know that plants make their own food? I found this big heart shaped leaf, but it was yellow and purple. I showed it to Miss Jyoti and she told me how even non-green leaves do photosynthesis. So cool right? I want to become a plant scientist when I grow up.” This might be the shift you get in your child’s answers by just changing your approach to asking questions.
Instead “Were you a good girl/boy at school today?” why not ask “What made you feel good or bad about yourself today?”
Every experience, good or bad, has something to teach your child. While the first question will give you a “Yes amma” answer, the latter might just open avenues to talk about values. Your child could be holding in emotions about being bullied or maybe feeling remorse for having bullied someone. You and your home are your child’s safe space. Let him feel free and emotionally safe to talk about his day. From “I helped Aryan tie his shoelaces” to “I pinched Divya because she didn’t show me her new pink eraser” these could give you a million opportunities understand your child.
Instead of “what questions did the teacher ask you today?” why not ask “what questions did YOU ask, or wanted to ask, in school today?
You know how a child’s mind is filled with a million questions? Well, it is through asking those questions and exploring their answers that your child’s mind grows. The quest for knowledge, both about ourselves and the world begins with a question. Your child’s questions, even if you don't know how to answer them, will give you some insights into her thought process.
For instance, I have a friend whose 7-year-old son asked the following question after watching the movie Gandhi in school – “Why did these people start fighting again if the bad people (the British government) left India?”. He asked this based on watching the scene on the Partition of India. We inadvertently assume children are not capable of deep thinking, when in actual they are. What an opportunity and teaching moment this could be to discuss religious tolerance.
Further, questions like “What was the best part of school today?” or “Did something funny happen in school?” also make way for some interesting conversations to sprout up.
So, instead of trying to tick the ‘busy’ activities off your evening list, make room for some ‘happiness’ time by indulging in some meaningful conversation with your kid. There will be more entertainment, fun, emotions and action than any Netflix show can ever bring into your living room. Here’s to some happy conversations at home!
Chitra Ravi is an educational visionary who has spent the last two decades crusading against mediocre practices in the educational ecosystem. In 2001, she founded Chrysalis, a state-of-the-art educational research and innovation organisation with a vision to awaken the extraordinary Human Potential in every child.
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