A typical conversation around my dinner table sounds something like this:
Daddy to preschooler: How was your day today?
Mommy to preschooler: Did you have fun at gymnastics class?
Mommy to preschooler: What was your favorite part?
Preschooler: I liked jumping on the trampoline. I also liked swinging from the rings.
Daddy to preschooler: That sounds like fun! What else did you do today?
Preschooler: Ate a grilled cheese sandwich and played with cars.
[More baby squeals!]
And on and on.
Do you see a trend here?
In every part of the conversation, a grown-up is asking a question and the child is answering it. Back and forth, back and forth—a tennis game of sorts between bites of pasta and sips of water.
There’s nothing inherently wrong about this scene, of course; what’s most important is that we’re engaging in regular family dinners and using that time to catch up and connect.
But the constant focus of the conversation is glaringly obvious: my son.
(And theoretically my daughter, too, once she’s old enough to field her own barrage of questions about her day.)
Being a strong communicator is all about navigating the delicate give and take of effective conversation.
We want our children to learn not just how to answer questions politely, but also how to demonstrate a genuine interest in the other person.
We want them to know when to speak, yes, but also when to listen.
So what are the 4 surprising words we’re encouraging our child to say every night around the dinner table?
How was YOUR day?
How was YOUR day, Daddy?
How was YOUR day, Mommy?
But hidden in that simple question is the power to cut off the seemingly endless loop of interview questions about crafts made at preschool, games played at Nana’s house, and sandwiches eaten for lunch.
Because he’s asking about our days too.
Give and take.
Speak and listen.
Want to take it a step further? Have your child get more specific with the question.
What was the best thing that happened at work today, Mommy?
Did you do anything special over your lunch break, Daddy?
And then just let the conversation flow.
In the end, these four simple words—how was your day?—are a basic tool for teaching children to express interest in the lives of others. And it’s often the first step in raising kids to be effective communicators for life.