Does trying to get your children to open up about their day feel like an inquisition? Do you feel like you’re giving your child the third degree to tell you anything about their life? If so, here are some simple, effective ways you can help your child open up and share more about their day and life.

You: “What did you learn today?” Child: “Nothing”

You: “Do you have any homework? Child: "Nope"

You: “Did you make a new friend?” Child: "Yep"

If this sounds at all familiar, don’t despair. Here are some ways to get children to talk about their school day and help them to become more reflective about their lives.

1) Wait at least a half an hour. Children are generally drained the moment they walk in the door, so it’s the worst time to start giving the third degree: “How was school?” “How was the test?” “Do you like the teacher?” Wait at least 30 minutes to start talking about school. Give your child a chance to decompress and have a snack, take off the backpack, and just breathe - unless, of course, they begin chattering away themselves!

2) Don’t turn questions into a third degree. Think of how your best friend asks you about your day. What would make you want to open up and tell her all those details? The same rules apply to children. Children say they are irritated when their parents: push, prod, demand, coax, lecture and threaten. Make sure you are relaxed and appear genuinely interested when you speak to your child.

3) Ask questions that require more than "yes" or "no". How we pose our questions can be a set up for immediate failure. Examples: ”Do you have homework?” “Did you eat all your lunch?” “Did you give your speech?” Your child only has to answer with a yes or no response so you’re automatically doomed. The same applies to questions that require only a one-word response. Pose questions that require your child to respond with more than just yes, no, nope, sure, nothing. If you want more back and forth discussion, be sure to ask open-ended questions. Phrases like, “Do you think…..” or “Tell me about…” are perfect for this, especially used at dinner time where you can share your stories as well.


a) What did you do today that made you proud of yourself?

b) What kind of problem did you solve today?

c) Tell me about something you did alone today that you enjoyed.

d) Tell me about something you did with someone else today that you really enjoyed.

e) Tell me about something you found difficult to do? Easy to do?

f) Tell me about a mistake you realized you made? What did you do about it?

g) Tell me about a time today where you showed compassion towards yourself or someone else.

h) Tell me about a time today when you were generous. How did the other person look or react when you did this? How did you feel?

4) Stop and Pay Attention. The second your child utters ANYTHING related to school, stop what you’re doing and focus. Don’t push. Just turn, appear interested, nod, and say things like, "Really?" "Uh huh" and "Wow!" Your goal is to catch any little nugget of information your child says and make it seem as though it’s a gold mine by stopping what you’re doing and giving your child your full presence.

5) Assign a question to each day of the week. Write out 7 questions that you feel are open-ended, each on its own strip of paper. Perhaps use blue paper for Monday, red for Tuesday, etc. Put the question on the refrigerator so everyone knows which question you'll be talking about that night at dinner. (Use the questions above as examples or create your own - just make sure they are open-ended) This way, each member will be consciously watching themselves throughout the day so that they have something to share at the dinner table that night! Children will be anxious to learn your answer and will be equally anxious to share their answer.

6) Get into your kid’s zone. Sometimes boys as well as more timid, sensitive kids are often threatened with the “let’s sit down and chat about the day” routine. A good trick is to talk sitting side to side (in the car, for example) instead of face to face (which is less threatening) or talk while doing something the child enjoys (shooting baskets, eating, drawing, or building Legoes). Learn when and where your children are most comfortable talking and use those times as jump off points to get the conversation rolling about their day.

Author's Bio: 

Erin Kurt, parenting & life coach to working mothers, and founder of ErinParenting, is also the author of Juggling Family Life and creator of The Life Balance Formula and the How to Get Your Child to Listen program.