How to get your child to talk about their day

Girl keeping quiet

You pack your children off to school for the day and, after several hours of wondering how they're getting on (well, sort of), you pick them up and ask: “How was school?” They say… “Fine” or “OK” or… Nothing. It's baffling, frustrating and can be worrying. Just what is it that happens behind the school gates that they find so difficult to talk about? Here's Mumsnetters' guide to getting your children to talk about their day.

When you pop the question – “How was school?” – you probably expect, against your better judgement, your child to give an enthusiastic answer full of colourful details. Instead, they glum-up and you're lucky if you get a single word. Don't take it personally and don't worry. After school taciturnity is extremely common and the reasons for it vary.

She might be tired or hungry. Remember, the school day feels long for her, even if for you it zooms by. Another thing to consider is that, after having to speak for herself all day among other kids and teachers, she might struggle with the transition back into the family environment where others often do her talking for her. She might just need a bit of time to adjust from her school self back to her family self.

But never mind the reasons – here are Mumsnetters' thoughts on how to get your child talking sooner rather than later.

Interrogation technique one: Bargaining

Mum and girl bargaining over laptop

“I say to my son that if he tells me three things that happened at school, then I'll tell him three things that happened at work – it usually works.”

“You could ask her to tell you the best, worst, funniest, weirdest, smelliest, noisiest things that happened today. Make it a game and then says things like 'Which friends were there when that happened?' 'What was the teacher teaching you when they did that?'”

Interrogation technique two: Subterfuge

Cats hide and seek

“I resort to forensics. Today my daughter's tie had clearly been dropped in yoghurt; she had done something with whiteboard markers, according to the horrific stains; and they had quite possibly been using sand.”

“Check the class timetable and the school menu. That way you know a bit of what they've been up to, and you can ask leading questions.”

“My daughter has always adopted the 'what happens in school, stays in school' approach. Luckily I am good friends with her classmate's mum, so I find out from her.”

Interrogation technique three: Mind games

Mind games gif

“Reverse psychology often works. 'Whatever you do, I really don't want to know what you did today… Nope! Don't tell me…'”

“Ask who was naughty. Guaranteed to work!”

Sometimes, no news is good news

George Clooney spying

“It's like pulling teeth just finding out what she had for lunch. The only thing I do know is that she is enjoying it, because if she wasn't I'd never hear the end of it.”

“It's full-on noise and having to pay attention at school, and mine often wants to just zone out and decompress afterwards.”

“My son is four and just started preschool last week. He will only tell you about things which offended him, hurt him physically, hurt his feelings or seemed terribly unfair. I am assured by staff that he has a really lovely time – but he comes home, sighs, lists his concerns with the Early Years Statutory Framework and begrudgingly agrees to go back tomorrow.”

Success? You may live to regret it

cartoon gif - blah blah blah

“It's like pulling teeth just finding out what she had for lunch. The only thing I do know is that she is enjoying it, because if she wasn't I'd never hear the end of it.”

“It's full-on noise and having to pay attention at school, and mine often wants to just zone out and decompress afterwards.”

“My son is four and just started preschool last week. He will only tell you about things which offended him, hurt him physically, hurt his feelings or seemed terribly unfair. I am assured by staff that he has a really lovely time – but he comes home, sighs, lists his concerns with the Early Years Statutory Framework and begrudgingly agrees to go back tomorrow.”