Why “Did You Have Fun?” is the Wrong Question

by Laura on August 19, 2012

As I send my kids to public school for the first time this week, I have been reminded of the importance of asking them the right questions. Matt and I have been doing little “coaching sessions” for them in the mornings– how to be friendly, how to recognize a bully, how to respect the teacher, how to be a good friend. It’s been complete with role play, which, if I were really brave, I would record and let you have a good laugh, but I’m not, so I won’t. But, ultimately, the two premises I keep returning to in our school-for-the-first-time discussions are that 1} Jesus is with them wherever they go, and 2}Loving others is much more important, always, than being cool. Enjoy this re-post from last year as you get your little people ready for another school year . . . 

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Sweaty heads and dirty feet tumbled into the car after an evening last week at BHJ Girl’s Home in SE Asia.  And we waved goodbye out the window as the gate was closed behind us, and I asked my three kids in the backseat, “Well, did you have fun?”

And, immediately, my son started in– “I didn’t like the food.  And they wouldn’t play with me much.  And I didn’t get to play soccer. And those dogs were there.”  {I assumed that was a “no.”}

Deflate Mother-Dreams-of-Kids-Serving-the-World Balloon.

But, then, I asked {well, fired-back} a different question, “Well, did you love well?”

Pause.

“Wellllll, not really,” admitted one.

“I think I did. I helped with the dishes and played with Yada a lot,” said another.

“I totally did,” claimed the 4-year-old who just figured that “yes” was a better answer.

Drop Parenting-Revelation-Bomb.

Because every time my kids have gotten in the car after soccer practice or a school day, a playdate with friends or even a night spent with impoverished girls in SE Asia, my default question has always been about their own personal fun.  I’m typically asking, first, about their good time, the friends they hung out with, the general awesomeness of the event itself.

And, ultimately, though subtly, I fear I’m communicating that their pleasure should be the focus of hours spent with others.  And is that, really, what I want to be teaching my kids–

That if their _____{insert activity here}_____  wasn’t “fun,” then it was a waste, a thing to complain about on the car ride home?

Cue Mom’s New Brilliant-Master-Plan.

My kids will be getting a different question from now on when they plop their taekwondo belts or their book bags or their soccer cleats into the backseat.  I’ll be asking first, “How’d you love?” {or some non-cheezy-version of the same type of ask}.

Because shouldn’t our default be more about what we gave, than what we got?

And if we really believe that, shouldn’t the questions we ask our kids reflect it?

*originally posted September 8, 2011

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What’s the default question you ask after an event?  How do you shift your kids from being self-focused to others-focused?  Uh, how do you shift yourself? And, what are you doing to prepare your kids for school this year?

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{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia F August 24, 2012 at 9:08 am

thank you for this. My son is entering public prek this year, I am nervous. And asking the right questions (he is also ASD) will make all the difference. And prayer, lots of prayer.

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Tina August 2, 2013 at 8:16 am

Wow! I needed this, not only for my children but for myself. Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m sharing it on my facebook page today!
Tina from mommynificent.com

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