We’re always asking our kids questions. How was school? How did baseball practice go? Did you stay out of trouble? What did your teacher say about your math grade? Did you have fun with your friends?
We ask these questions because we want to have something to talk about. We ask these questions because we’re concerned. We ask these questions because the answers matter to us. Our kids realize this. They are smart enough to understand that these questions are a reflection of their parent’s values, of how the world measures a person and determines what success looks like.
Which is why it’s important that we go out of our way to ask questions that reinforce what is actually important in life. That we don’t just consider it insignificant small talk. A while back, we wrote about how Diana Ross never asked her daughter Tracee Ellis Ross about results but about whether she did her best. That’s a great example.
But here’s another. Instead of asking your kids if they behaved well or performed well or even if they had fun, be sure to check in with them about whether they did something kind. Ask them, every day, What good turn did you do today? What was something you did for someone else? Who did you help?
Think of the message this sends. Think of how it makes them think about their own day–to review their own actions through the lens of empathy, how their actions affect others. Think of the priorities it sets through your monitoring–that their parents are on top of not how many answers they got right but how many right things they did. Think about how much better the world would be if everyone thought this way, if everyone was raised this way.