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Helping your kids move from one-word answers to conversation
MONDAY, OCTOBER 07, 2019 09:38 AM

Having a conversation may take some practice. When you ask your kids how their day was at school, do their answers often start and end with, "Fine,"? It's frustrating as a parent to try to learn about your children when they only speak in one-word sentences. That's why it's essential to teach your kids how to have conversations instead of merely answering questions. Here are some ways to facilitate better communication:

Ask open-ended questions

There is one easy way to better gain insight into your kids' school days - stop asking closed-ended questions. If the query you are about to pose could be answered in one word, find a way to rephrase it. Here are a few examples:
- Instead of, "Did you learn anything in school today?" ask, "What did you learn in school today?
- Instead of, "How was math class?", say, "How did your teacher explain algebra differently today?"
- Instead of, "Are you having fun in gym class?" ask, "What did you do in gym today?"

There are many ways to alter any question so that your children have to respond with full sentences. This provides a lot more information for you to use to form another question and learn more about the subject. You can also teach your kids to do the same open-ended questioning when in conversation with their friends. This will help them become better listeners and communicate better with people in school, their personal lives, and once they enter the workforce.

Give and take

Have you ever been in a situation where one person keeps asking question after question? It feels more like an interview than a friendly chat when a speaker provides zero information about him or herself. When talking with your kids, keep this in mind. Intersperse questions with personal anecdotes or helpful comments, like this example:

Parent: "Hi, honey! What did you learn in school today?"
Child: "We talked about dinosaurs in math class."
Parent: "Oh yeah? In math class? In my 4th-grade math class, we never would have talked about dinosaurs! We learned all about patterns and factors! Why did you talk about dinosaurs?"

Because the parent added that little fact about his or her own math experiences in the same grade as the child, the conversation feels more natural and less like an interrogation.

Encourage different questions

Kids often query their parents, "Why?" or "What?" These questions are considered penny-questions because they don't require much thought and won't usually receive a helpful answer. Instead, when your child asks these one-word questions, encourage them to think again. Dollar questions have a topic, require some thought, involve details, and overall receive better answers. Here's an example:

Penny question: "Why are you doing that?"
Dollar question: "Why are you whipping those eggs before putting them in the pan?"

Penny question: "Why do I have to?"
Dollar question: "Why do I have to put on my coat if we're only going outside to the car?"

Not only will using the tips above help you have better talks with your kids, but your children will also be better prepared for school because they will know how to pose better questions.

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