How to Get an Awesome Response to "How was your day?"

Get pass the "fine" reply, become a better listener, and talk about emotions.

Working Mom coming home
How to calm the chaos and get solid answers to "How was your day?". Getty Images/Blend Images - KidStock

Phew, another day at the office is over!  Now it’s time to pick up the kiddos and see what they’ve been up to. 

You’ve heard the advice to be present with your kids so you begin by stopping your thoughts about work and start thinking about your children.  

You get home, unpack your things and ask the kids,“So, how was your day?”

And what is their answer?


Or, everyone starts talking and you can’t hear anyone.  Then there’s a fight over who gets your attention.  Everyone is sent to their corners including you.


How are you supposed to "be present" with your children if they won't talk or you can’t follow more than one conversation?

Here’s how.

Schedule Some Downtime for Your Kids

To ease the chaos of coming home get everyone settled down doing their favorite thing. Before you start cooking dinner set up each kid with an activity they can zone out with like coloring, reading a book, making an art project, or building Legos

Can’t think of an activity?  Ask the kids what's the one thing they look forward to doing most when they come home. 

While they are settling down resist the urge to grill them about their day.  You (hopefully) have changed gears from work life to home life on your way to pick up the kids or on your drive home, so give them their chance to decompress.

And just in case anyone starting whining about hunger pains, give them one of these snacks.

Different Ways to Ask About their Day

Once the kids are settled and dinner is simmering sit with each kid and start asking your questions.  Tired of just asking “How was your day?”?  Then try one of these that I ask my elementary aged kids:

  1. Who did you sit with at lunch?
  2. What was your favorite game at recess?
  3. How was <teacher’s name> bucket today?  Full or empty? (My children have read the book “How Full Is Your Bucket” by Tom Rath at school so they can relate to this question.  The book helps to explain how people feel throughout the day.  If the teacher’s bucket was empty it means she was sad or upset about something)
  4. How was your bucket today, full or empty?
  5. What was the hardest thing you did today?
  6. If you could pick three friends to play <favorite game of theirs> who would it be and why?
  7. Who made you feel happy today?
  8. What was your most favorite part of the day?
  9. What did you color today?
  10. If today was a color what would it be?
  11. What is one creative thing you did today?
  12. Tell me about a/the book you read today.
  13. (On a rainy day) Did you have indoor recess or outdoor recess?
  14. Were you bored today?  How come?
  15. Tell me about a problem you solved today.
  16. Did you fix anything today?
  17. Was today a fast day or a slow day?
  18. What new rule did you learn about?

    Work on Becoming an Excellent Listener

    Depending on your kid you may only get one chance to ask a question so let’s make it count.  When you go to ask the question, only ask ONE question.  Avoid stacking a few questions together. Then sit, be quiet, and listen.  Sit tight.

    Give them the space and the opportunity to answer. 

    When they have answered you, sit tight some more.  Sometimes they get that afterthought of another story they want to share with you that had nothing to do with your initial question. 

    Learning to sit tight improves your listening skills.  What I mean by listening skills is that you not only listen to their words but you pay attention to what is being said and what isn’t. 

    This is when “being present” comes into play.  When you ask your child how their day was, this is THE most important time to not think about any kind of work.  This is the time for you to look at your child, hopefully gain eye contact, watch them, and listen to them. 

    When they answer a question, be curious about what they just said.  Try saying things like, “Wow!  Tell me more about that!” or “That’s so interesting.  How did that happen?” or even better, “How did that make you feel?”.

    You are the person your child wants to share their feelings with.  So when your child is answering your questions, watch their body language.  If their shoulders are slumped ask them why that is.  They may not have realized they were sitting that way, but in the next minute or two they may have an answer why.  Sit tight.

    Being a good listener shows your child that you are present.  There’s something about someone who truly listens to you that says "I care about you."