“How was school? How was your day?” That’s what I eagerly ask my 5-year-old daughter every day when I pick her up from school. My anticipation of an exciting and enthusiastic answer is quickly shot down when I get the same answer every time: a simple and monotone, “good.” That’s just not going to cut it. I need more than that!
In my quest to find out what’s really on her mind, who she’s playing with, who’s not being nice to her, what’s upsetting her and what moves her and gets her excited, I decided to dig deeper and start up a different type of conversation.
With Sofia now in kindergarten and in four different extracurricular activities, two days a week of mommy-and-me classes with baby Olivia, my traveling husband and my busy work schedule, we are pulled in different directions. To keep our family connected and strengthen our bond, my husband and I came up with three important questions each of us casually ask and answer at the dinner table. This helps us open the lines of communication with one another every night.
How did you help and serve someone?
We came up with this question to make sure Sofia – and, one day, Olivia – knows what we believe is our true purpose in life. Show love. Be helpful. Be compassionate, thoughtful and sensitive. None of that comes naturally to children. Asking your kids this question sets the expectation that helping and serving others is something we should be doing on a daily basis. My grandfather used to say to me, “It isn’t enough to just be human, you have to be humane.”
How did you fail today and what did you learn from it?
We all have bouts of failure and we know as our kids are learning about life, they will experience failure – from falls on the playground to making bad choices. My husband and I want our girls to confront failure and not to be afraid of feeling defeated. We ask this question to cheer on the glory of overcoming our failures. Here is a recent real-life example.
Sofia: I told my friend Harper she’s not my best friend anymore because she didn’t want to share the swing. I saw her cry and I apologized and told her a joke to make her laugh.
Me: It’s great you realized your words can hurt people, even if we don’t mean what we say. Now tell me the funny joke.
What about your day made you happy and feel good?
We intentionally save this question for last because we like to end with a positive feeling. This is a great opportunity for us to celebrate our good fortunes, our victories and what makes us happy. It helps our kids learn to appreciate when good things happen to them.
One day, we asked this question and my husband said it made him happy to be able to take our daughter Sofia to school each morning. She suddenly seemed to realize and appreciate the time she has with her dad every morning as they sing and play games in the car on their way to school.
Try asking questions that best fit your family, and be consistent. For us, a reminder to always be helpful, recognize our failures and celebrate our triumphs around a bowl of spaghetti at the dinner table is enough to help us feel connected and united.
Although the answers to these questions may change over time as our girls get older, the love, acceptance and support we give each other will always remain the same.
Daniella Guzman is the anchor on NBC4 Southern California’s “Today in LA” weekday morning newscast, 4:30-7 a.m. A mother of two, Daniella’s column, On the Record, brings her views on parenting, fun family activities and her take on work-life balance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @daniellanbcla.