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The Surprising Way I Connected with My 3 Year Old

The following is a verbatim transcript from a conversation that I had with my 3 year old in the car after leaving school…

Me: Can you tell me about your day?

3: We did nothing!

Me: Nothing??

3: Nothing!

Me: What books did you read?

3: None!

Me: Oh, were you too busy playing?? Who did you play with today?

3: No one! I played by myself!

Me: Oh, well that's ok… so what did you play with by yourself?

3: Nothing, I played with no toys!

Me: I see… so… ok, what was for snack today?

3: There was no snack today!

And so on and so forth…

When school began in the fall, I found this dialogue to be disappointing, I SO wanted to hear about her time away from me! At first I thought that as the day went on, little snippets would eventually sneak out, but they never did. So, as many of us do when we are in a bind, I turned to the trusty Internet for insight into how I could get my daughter to open up. I read article after article about asking the “right” questions, using the “right” tone, getting her to draw or act out her day. Every author had a different expert opinion on how to subtly get the answers or even how to trick my child into divulging every detail of the day. But none of them worked. Until I came across a mom blogger who suggested a novel approach… instead of asking question after question in the hopes of getting insight into her day, I should simply ask about hers once, get whatever I get, and then, tell her about my day! The author assured her readers that once our curious little ones heard all of the exciting details of what we had done between the hours of 9am to 1pm, they would be begging to share the details of her own day! I loved this idea and gave it a shot.

The next day I asked my daughter about her day, she told me “nothing”, and then I said, “Do you want to hear about my day??”She nodded enthusiastically. So, I spun tails of the excitement of getting the baby into bed for a nap, working voraciously on a new blog post, encountering traffic on my way to yoga but still getting there on time, and then my delight in seeing my friend in my class and the fun we had getting coffee afterwards. And as I detailed it all, I was sure that she would be bored and uninterested, and then a surprising thing happened. She asked me a dozen follow up questions! Hearing about my day was new and exciting for her and she loved it! The next day, I used the same tactic and after hearing nothing about her day (ugh!), told her all about my day and she interrupted with endless questions. We continued this little ritual and after about a week, she jumped in the car and before I could even ask my question about her day she said, “Mom, tell me about your day!” When I told her I went to yoga, she asked if my friend had been there as she had the week before. And then it hit me, though I was definitely not getting the result that I had initially intended when I started this little ritual, in some ways, I was getting something better. I was inadvertently teaching my daughter that my life was happening too. That I too, had an interesting day filled with highs and lows, excitement and disappointment, friends and time alone, challenges, and new discoveries. Hearing her ask me about what I ordered at the restaurant for lunch or if my client’s baby was sleeping better is so incredibly satisfying that I almost forget that this exercise was born out of my interest in HER day!

Now, five months into the school year I still know less about her day than I would like. She has gotten better about sharing bits and pieces about the funny thing that happened or the new teacher who came to sing songs, and I savor every detail I get. But, she now knows so much more about me as a mom, as a friend, as a yoga lover, as a sleep consultant, as a person, than she ever would have had we not started this and for that I am grateful.

Samantha Shinewald, M.S.W. is a certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant at

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