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Thoughtful Parenting: Conversations to encourage successful learning

Julie Tourigny
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — I am not a parent, and I certainly do not claim to be any kind of parenting expert. I often look at parents of students that I teach and athletes that I coach and admire their ability to do so well with all they have going on in this modern busy world.

The “advice” I offer in this article comes from many years of hearing the same thing from parents: “I ask my child how school was, and I just get a shrug or a grunt.”

Or the classic, “What did you learn today?”



“Nothing.”

So here, I offer a few suggestions about how to ask open-ended questions about learning in order to elicit some thoughtful answers from children of all ages. You can tailor the questions and conversation to the age of your child and the specifics of what they are learning.



First, give them time after their session/day to process and relax. Don’t try to have the conversation as soon as you pick them up, or they walk in the door. They need time to unwind after being mentally active all day in classes.

These are just are a few suggestions to get kids talking. It’s important to try to keep questions open-ended to avoid “yes” and “no” answers. Once you have an initial answer, you can then form a follow-up question or inquiry to elicit more information. Research suggests that parent engagement in a child’s learning is an absolute key factor to students doing well and valuing learning.

Some suggested questions and statements:

• So, tell me the most interesting thing you learned today.

• What was your biggest learning moment of the day?

• What topic are you studying in science/math/English/geography/etc. class? Tell me some things you’ve learned about that topic so far.

• Is there anything that you’re studying that you already know about? How is that for you?

• If I asked you to tell me three things you learned today that you never knew before, what would they be?

And you can follow up your child’s answers with questions and statements like:

• That sounds interesting/cool/weird. Tell me more about that.

• Did you find that easy/difficult to learn about for any reason?

• What are some of the reasons you think that’s cool/silly/boring/fun/interesting?

Like anything, it takes practice to perfect these conversations, so I encourage you to get stuck in it and give it a try. You’ll get better, and your child will come to expect that talking about learning is normal and easy.

Kirra Dyer is a freestyle ski coach with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club program administrator for school-based mentoring at Partners in Routt County. She is a teacher with 13 years experience in the classroom and school leadership positions.


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