You want to interact and make connection when your kids get home from school. Your kids do too but not in the way you might think.
You’ve missed them, you want to know what they did all day, how they got along, if they had any problems. But questions can feel like an interrogation.
- How was school today?
- What do you have for homework?
- When are you going to do your homework?
- What did you get on the test?
- What did you learn today?
They have just spent a long hard day meeting (or not) expectations, doing things they might not want to do, following orders, coping for hours, and hopefully working hard and learning. Probably the last they want to do is go over their day with you. They need a break. They need to know here is the place where I can be myself. They need to chill.
Each of these 5 questions is filled with an expectation.
How was school?
What if school was terrible? Your child may or may not want to tell you because he has a picture of exactly how you will react with his answer. Does he want to tell you the truth and upset you and immediately ask more questions? Or does he want to make you happy so you won’t do the above. Even if it all went well, he doesn’t want to go through the details of the day.
Safest answer: “Fine.”
What do you have for homework?
Homework is the last thing she wants to think about right now. She might be thinking, Do you really expect me to work all the time? You must think I’m stupid. Get off my back. Your child has many more important things on her mind once she is out of school and it’s likely that none of them have to do with homework.
Safest answer: “I don’t have any.”
When are you going to do your homework?
Your child hears from this question that all you care about is homework and grades. Is that true? Make sure you don’t have to police your child’s homework time. Establish ground rules about homework at the beginning of each year. With your guidance, allow your child to determine the best time and place to do homework. Keep it as consistent as possible and let him know you’re there for help. But let him be in charge of his homework.
Safest answer: “Later.”
What did you get on the test?
Asking about grades on tests sends the message to your child that your approval comes in grades as well. If your child did well, he will be thrilled to tell you without the question. If he did poorly, what does he expect your response to be? Will he get grounded, a privilege removed, extra homework time piled on? If he got a D, do you get a D in parenting?
Safest answer: “We didn’t get it back.”
What did you learn today?
Talking about what your child is learning is a subject worthy of discussion—at a later time. Do be involved in your child’s learning, let her know you care and are interested in what she learns, learn along with her, but save the talk until she brings it up or until it is a logical discussion during homework time or perhaps dinner.
Safest answer: “Nothing.”
When your kids get off the bus, climb in the car, or come through the door, welcome them back home. A big smile, a hug, a touch and an “I’m so glad to see you” or “Hi sweetie-pie” will give your kids the grounding that home provides with no expectations. Your unconditional happiness in greeting them will create the stress-free, safe haven they need to refuel and relax…and will set up the way the rest of the day goes — and how much you end up hearing about their day.
A happy greeting can wipe clean any negative emotions left from an earlier conflict that morning. If there was difficulty at school, your child will know that the problem is over for now and he can be himself. And if he’s not interrogated about school, he will feel free to bring up the topic when he needs a sounding board. If you are not always asking questions, you will set yourself up much better to be that sounding board he needs.
Try a smile, a hug, and a comment about how happy you are to see her period. Maybe tell her about something that happened during your day. You may find that dinnertime or bedtime will be full of all the information you want.
Your child needs a mindset shift, preferably into play mode, after a long day at school. Let that happen. There is plenty of time for what you want to know. Be patient and meet your child right where she is.
Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With can help you shift your perspective of your child and his behavior so that your anger can shift to compassion and understanding — frustration probably; annoyance undoubtedly, but much less anger.