Allow me to set the scene: It’s a Tuesday evening, your child just got home from school or practice. You ask them, “How was your day?” They say, “Good.” You say, “Oh okay. That’s good.” And that’s that. How many of us have found ourselves in this situation? How many times have we just accepted that this is “as good as it’s going to get”? Alternatively, some of us might experience some frustration about why we can’t get more than just a “good” from our kid. We take it personally- like they must not want to talk to us. While that may genuinely be the case for some children, often it’s a conditioned response and there’s not much thought behind it. Think of when we are checking out at Target and the cashier asks how we’re doing. We automatically say, “I’m doing good”- whether it’s true for us or not. But that’s what we’re “supposed” to say, right? Surely, the cashier isn’t expecting us to unload all the stress of our day on to them just because they asked how we are in that moment. We’re simply exchanging pleasantries.
But what do we do when these “pleasantries” become the norm in our household? How can we re-stimulate conversation so we can have intentional interactions with our children? The answer is simple- we must dig deeper. As a therapist, one of my favorite questions is “What does that mean?” The reason I like this question so much is because it forces people to think past pleasantries and consider what “good” means to them. If you really think about it, “good” looks different to everyone. For some people, “good” can mean, “I’m two seconds away from a breakdown.” For others, it can mean, “I managed to avoid the person who bullies me today.” It can mean, “I had an incredible day and have amazing news.” And sometimes, it can literally just mean, “I had a good day today.” You’ll be surprised how much more children will share when they are given a genuine invitation.
The most important role you as the parent or caregiver can play in this exchange is that of the listener. If you open the door for your child to go past “good,” then you need to be able to hold space for them as they answer. Give them your undivided attention and ask follow up questions. Put down your phone, step away from the computer, and show them you’re interested in what they have to share. Respect any boundaries they put in place in terms of how much they would like to share with you. Offer minimal encouragers by nodding and maintaining comfortable eye contact. Lastly, remember the things they say so you can check in and ask for updates later.
Most of this may seem like a no-brainer; however, it is so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day life that we forget the importance of simple, engaging conversation.
If you’d like more support around getting past “good” in a way that feels authentic to you, don’t hesitate to connect with us at The Purpose Center! We’re here to help! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.