As any parent knows, getting your kids to tell you about their day is about as easy as threading a pine tree through a sewing needle. “Good,” “Fine,” and “Boring,” are the usual responses from my tweens. Ask them for details and they can’t seem to think of anything at all; it’s as if their entire day were wiped from their memory the moment they stepped through the front door.
But a few years ago we started a new dinnertime tradition that changed everything. It’s the simplest way to spark a robust dinnertime conversation that I’ve ever come across, neatly packaged in one powerful little question:
“What was the best and worst part of your day today?”
Similar to Pat Brill’s “round robin mealtime”, this is a question that can be passed around the table from one to the next, until it comes back around to the first person who asked. Each person gets a chance to share, each has a moment to reflect on their day, and busy parents receive the yearned-for glimpse into their child’s day away from home.
At my table, we’ve used this conversation starter as a way to problem-solve friend issues at school, celebrate each others’ accomplishments, and even resolve the occasional family spat. The key to keeping this conversation productive and respectful is to make sure that each family member’s response is listened to without interruption or judgement. Consider the dinner table a “safe zone” where all feelings are allowed, and each perspective is honored. As long as the speaker is as respectful as the listeners, difficult topics can be aired and personal experiences can be shared. You’ll learn things about your kids that you never knew, and they’ll, in turn, learn things about you.
Family mealtimes are sacred in my busy, crazy little household. Since the kids eat dinner at their dad’s house half the time, our dinnertime conversations have become the glue that helps us feel connected and loved, even when we’re sleeping on opposite sides of town. And it works just as well with strangers, too. Tell me, I’m listening:
What was the best and worst part of your day today?