When Baby Girl started preschool last year, I wanted to hear all about her day. I would ask what she did, what she learned, and about the new friends she was making. However, she was much more excited to tell me what she had for a snack and whether or not she got to play outside during recess. I soon learned that in order to get her to talk about her day, I first had to address the emotions of her day. The excitement, the upset, the lonely – in other words, the good, the bad, and the ugly. After several weeks of experimenting, I came up with the below questions with successful results. Baby Girl talks so much more when I ask for specific examples based on how she feels. I still let her tell me about snacks and recess first though. 😊
Question 1: What made you sad or angry today?
This seems like a negative question to ask, but there are a few reasons I ask it. 1) It helps Baby Girl get things off her chest before we make room for other conversation. I find that if we don’t address her unhappy emotions, she can’t focus on the positive ones. Once we discuss her negative feelings, she talks much more about the rest of her day. 2) We are able to discuss how she handles situations and identify appropriate responses. We are able to problem solve together and discuss how she can handle similar situations in the future. This question helps her learn how to process her
One day when I asked this question, Baby Girl told me she was mad because she got in trouble from her teacher. When I asked
Another time, Baby Girl was mad because her teacher wouldn’t allow her to talk during
It’s important to note that when I ask Baby Girl this question, I do not get angry with her or show any judgment of any kind. I ask all questions very matter-of-factly so that she doesn’t feel as if she’s in trouble. Encouraging her to share is important to me, as is building that trust. By listening and
Question 2: What made you happy today?
On this one, Baby Girl tends to default to “I got to play outside at recess.” She loves playing outside, so there’s no doubt that doing so makes her happy. I generally follow up with questions about who she played with and what they did. These follow up questions always get her talking excitedly about her friends and the creative games they play.
When I first started asking Baby Girl this question, she sometimes struggled to answer it. Because most of her day makes her happy, I think it was a challenge for her to identify specific aspects. I helped her narrow it down by following up with questions about her friends, the books they read, and the things they learned. After a few questions, she was better able to identify the parts of her day that made her happy. Now she normally has a long list! We spend the most time talking about this portion of her day because I want her to learn to focus on the positive! It’s important that she identifies what makes her happy, and that she
Question 3: What did you do today that was kind? Or what kindness did someone show you?
Of all the questions, I think this one has had the greatest impact. Before Baby Girl’s winter break, her teacher approached me. She wanted to share that Baby Girl had taken a fellow classmate under her wing. Apparently, this particular little boy missed his mom and was homesick during the day. According to the teacher, Baby Girl had asked the little boy to play with her. She had also informed him that “
After this conversation with the teacher, I remembered a conversation I had had with Baby Girl one day after school months earlier. I had asked her this question about kindness, and she had mentioned that her friend missed his mom. She tried to make him feel better and because of it, he was less sad. We spent some time talking about the situation and what she felt she could do to help. I let her know that I was proud of her for stepping in to make him feel better. After that day, I didn’t really think about it again or the impact that her kindness may have had. It amazed me to find out that months later, she was still following up with this kindness.
The answer Baby Girl gives me to this question is not always immediately sensical. Sometimes it is hidden in creative play and she has to explain herself a bit before I always understand. For example, one day Baby Girl informed me that she had taken her friend to Yellowstone during recess. In return, her friend had taken her to the fair. In Baby Girl’s mind, she had shown her friend kindness by taking her somewhere she loved. And she thought it was kind that her friend took her to the fair (another place she loves). I love that even in play, Baby Girl is finding moments of kindness (both from herself and others). It is important to me that she not only learn kindness (I don’t want to raise a mean girl after all), but that she recognizes the kindness others show her.
Since I started asking these questions, the conversations I have with my daughter have become more enriched and full of information. I get to hear all about her day, from the highs to the lows. By talking openly, not only are we working on communication, but reinforcing the emotions she has. She knows that I am her safe zone and that it is okay to be sad, angry, happy, or whatever other emotions she is feeling. I want my girls to grow up knowing their feelings are valid, but also that there are constructive ways to deal with them. Only time will tell if Baby Girl continues to share with me the way she does now, but at least we are building the foundation, one question at a time.