Avoiding the third degree

Your kids will talk to you, it's just about the right time. Photo: Getty Images
Your kids will talk to you, it's just about the right time. Photo: Getty Images
They've been back at school for a week or so now. How's it been trying to find out how the new year is shaping up, asks parenting columnist Ian Munro. 

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

"Good to be back at school?"

"It's OK."

"Done anything interesting?"


"Got any homework?"


You've probably left it alone at that point as you've learnt that that line of questioning is doomed once you get that sort of response.

Think about it. Ever walked in the door after a hard day or tiring activity and got the third degree? You possibly snap back something like, "Let me at least get my jacket off!"

So, give them some space to catch up with themselves, dump their bag and have a bite to eat.

Have a think about what you actually would like to know about their day. Move away from the same old, same old.

Also note the part of the day when they're a bit more talkative. It could be bedtime or while you're doing something together. If you don't do something together, even if it's just clearing the table and stacking the dishwasher, try it. It has value beyond getting information about school.

Then ask a question that can't be answered with a "yes", "no" or "don't know".

And if you get something, no matter how small, follow it up with an interested response. Don't make a comment like, "Hooray, you've told me something." You may have to wait 12 months before it happens again.

If you can't immediately think of a question, respond with a conversation extender such as, "Is that right?", "That must've been good", "I bet the class laughed themselves silly", or "Then what happened?". Or repeat back part of what's been said, which indicates you're listening and are interested.

Need to be a bit sneakier? Let them have a friend or two around after school or volunteer to be part of a car pool. You learn a lot from discrete eavesdropping while they eat or are in the back of the car. You'll probably find that their friend will open up to you quite readily as no doubt your youngster does to their friend's parents. Don't be hurt by this. Be pleased that they're polite and can actually handle a conversation with an adult.

Dinner time can be an occasion where sharing the day can become just as normal as the eating. It's a great technique for everyone to share one good thing that happened. You never know, you might just find out that they topped the maths test or made a new friend.

And if the teen in the family clams up for a bit, so be it. Take advantage of any moment that arises, otherwise leave well alone.


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