Two girls in blue coats, Libby and Lia, playing inside a tree trunk with a rectangular hole cut out of it at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

Good things and bad things

Is it a struggle to find out anything about your child’s day? When my eldest started preschool, we’d have the same conversation with her day in, day out.

“What did you to today?”

“Sing songs, play toys.”

We never got much more out of her than that. Some days, her teachers would tell us that she’d ridden the pony, or made a new friend. She never mentioned it. Other days, she’d be a bit subdued when she came home, and we had no idea why.

Talking over dinner

One thing we’ve always insisted on with our children is that we sit together at the table to eat dinner. They do get the odd treat where they’re allowed to sit on the sofa at the weekend, but on weekdays it’s electronics off, sitting to the table to talk. As you can imagine, conversation was a little stilted with a child who didn’t want to talk about her day. So, we came up with a solution.

I’m not really sure when it started, but for several years, we’ve had a routine over dinner. Libby shouts:

“Good and bad things, starting from dad!”

Then, we all take it in turns to tell each other at least one good thing and one bad thing that has happened to us today.

Sometimes, my husband and I talk about work. Other days, it’s something we’ve done for ourselves. A hobby like outdoor swimming or a coffee with a friend. This serves as a good reminder to the children that we have lives outside of being mum and dad. Other days, our good thing will be something that the children have done. Good things might mean winning an award, being helpful around the house or being kind to another child.

Our bad things might be hearing that the girls have done something a bit unkind, or that something unpleasant has happened to them. Or, it might be that something bad has happened to us, or we’ve had bad news. Whatever it is, we tend to share it and talk about it as a family.

Talking frankly to the girls helps them to open up to us too. Their good things are often little, day-to-day occurrences like somebody being a good friend or having their favourite lunch at school. They tell us about their achievements and their hopes for tomorrow. Hearing about their bad things is a great opportunity to spot any worrying patterns with friendships, or find out if they are struggling with a particular subject at school.

What are you grateful for and how have you been kind today?

Relatively recently, I started to feel that the girls could be a little bit ungrateful. They have so many amazing opportunities and as many material things as a child could want. So, their sense of injustice when things weren’t going their way bothered me.

Chatting to children about how lucky they are never seems to work. Without knowing any other way of life, how can they understand that others go without? So, I decided we needed to help them appreciate what they have.

These days as well as talking about good and bad things from our day, we all tell each other what we’re grateful for and what we’ve done for somebody else that was kind. To start with, the girls found it difficult to think of anything. But talking about it has made them more mindful of being grateful for the little things.

Having to tell us how they’ve been kind has definitely made them more thoughtful too. There was one occasion when Lia couldn’t think of a way she’d been kind that day. She was sad that she didn’t have anything to say and both girls do try on a daily basis to be kind at least once.

Do you have a trick to get children talking or help them to appreciate what they have? I’d love to hear what you do, particularly with older children because I know we’ll have to change our tactics as time goes by.

How to get kids talking | if you find it's difficult getting children to talk about their feelings and what they've done on a particular day, here is our quick solution. Families can talk to each other using four simple questions to facilitate communication between parents and children. #talking #children #families #connections #emotions

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  1. I love this, what a brilliant thing to do. I love that it helps kids reflect on their own behaviour and celebrate the small things, but also that it can serve as an early warning of any problems. We’ve never done anything like this, but my daughter is a real chatterbox and goes into great detail every day about everything that has happened. I drive my younger son to and from school every day and tend to just ask questions like ‘What subjects have you got today?’ until something sparks his interest and he starts to talk.

    1. Thanks Sarah. It’s great that you manage to naturally get your children talking. The drive to school is a really good idea, my two always seem keen to talk when they see I am trying to concentrate on something else i.e. driving 😉

  2. This is such a lovely way to encourage children to talk about their day and reflect on things. I might have to try doing this with Sophie – it can be a struggle to get her to talk about school at times. Love that it also helps encourage your girls to be kind too x

    1. Thank you Louise. I hope it is helpful for Sophie, we’ve always found it to be an easy way to get them talking about their day because it brings out the things they are excited about and the things that are worrying them.

  3. What a brilliant thing to do as a family, Nat! We used to try things like this ie ‘share the best thing about your day today’ but of course sometimes there are negative things and it’s SO important to talk about those too. Wish I’d read this post 10 years ago! xx

    1. Thank you Suzanne, it works for us although I know we’ll have to adapt as they get older. I hope it will at least encourage them to tell us the things that matter.