3 Questions to Ask Your Child Every Night

Night Questions

I had an adorable conversation with my three year old right before he went to sleep tonight. In fact, I have a pretty adorable conversation with my three year old almost every night before he’s off to bed, so I thought I’d share what we talk about. In addition to warming my heart, these conversations, I believer, are paving the way for future communication.

As part of our bedtime routine, I ask Charbel three questions each night:

  • What is something that made you smile today?
  • What is something that made you cry today?
  • What is something that you learned today?

With these three questions, our little son opens his heart to me each evening, and starts smiling and laughing all over again as he remember what he enjoyed that day, gets more serious as he talks about something that made him sad, and feels proud when tells me what he learned.

Although this is a very simple conversation, it serves several purposes:

It is helping our sons learn how to communicate. Our two year old is just starting to participate in this discussion as well, and has already been learning about communication by listening to Charbel and I talking together. Sharing is something normal in our family. I want our kids to feel comfortable coming to us later on in their life when they find something challenging, need a shoulder to lean on or just want to share a success. That won’t come out of nowhere. Teaching our children when they are very young that sharing as a family is something good and normal builds a sense of security and trust that will help keep communication pathways open later on.

It shows me, as a mother, how my son viewed the day. Sometimes he brings things up that I wouldn’t have expected, or tells me something about how he felt that surprised me. It helps me, as a parent, to know him better, and to enjoy and share even in moments I might not have been present for. It also tips me off if something my husband or I said/did was misinterpreted. It’s one more way of helping my child become a life long learner by reflecting each day, albeit briefly, about something he learned that day. This also gives me the opportunity to teach him that even the “negative experiences” (things that made him cry) don’t have to end negatively. Mistakes are normal, and the lessons we learn from them are valuable. It’s helping my child learn how to pray spontaneously. After he shares about things that made him happy or sad, we take a moment to thank God for the happy things and ask him to help us or forgive us for the tough moments. It helps Charbel practice expressing his thoughts and emotions verbally. Finally, it’s something we both love that involves laughter, snuggles and growth, and brings us closer together each night. On his own last night, after answering the questions, Charbel looked at me and said “Your turn, Mommy! What made you happy today?”. So it goes both ways now! If you don’t already have a similar routine, I highly suggest incorporating these questions into bedtime prep. This conversation with my kids is one of my favorite times of the day because it lets us really CONNECT and helps my sons go to bed happily and peacefully.

Looking for more parenting ideas? Check out the following posts:

When Your Child Talks Back

9 Ways to Raise a Responsible Child

Hitting: Why Kids Do It, and How to Help Them Stop

14 Ways to Get Your Child’s Attention When They’re Ignoring You

Teach Your Child to Choose Friends Wisely

10 Ways to Teach Your Child to Share

Helping Your Child Calm Down

15 Ways to Avoid Power Struggles with Your Child

74 thoughts on “3 Questions to Ask Your Child Every Night

  1. Thank you for your post, we do something very similar. And ensure we pray for the things that made them sad, happy, and how we can ask God to help us help others. It is just a special time. I am “mostly” very proud of the conversations. Sometimes they are “water cooler” talk the next day:)….

    • Thanks for passing by, Steph! I agree – it’s one of my favorite times of the day because there are fewer distractions, and the kids just seem to (usually), connect really well at that time!

  2. I don’t all these particular questions, but we read at bed time and after that we tall about their day. They always become so chatty and open with me during this time of day, it is great.

  3. I have been doing this with our daughter for a while now, since reading this post.

    When we went on vacation to visit extended family and she was sharing a bed with her cousins, I asked them, too. They are 5 and 10 and really seemed to enjoy being asked about their day and listened to.

    Tonight our daughter came up with a while list of things that made her happy, couldn’t come up with anything that made her sad, then had a real break through about what she learned. She has been really tense during time outs instead of calming down. Tonight she said she could use the mouse pose from her yoga app to help her body calm down and we decided together to call them “mouse time outs” from now on to help her remember. We talked about how she could do these by herself, too. She was very happy and asked me to share with Daddy, too, so he would know. After I told her I would, her whole body changed. I could feel tension release from every muscle and she gave be the biggest,matron test, yet most gentle hug in the world.

    Thank you so much for sharing this! We will continue this tradition for a long time to come!

    • Hi, Robyn! Sorry I didn’t reply sooner – we were on vacation and I didn’t have regular internet access… Thanks so much for taking the time to share this – I’m so glad the idea is working well with your daughter. It’s a tradition we really cherish with our kids too – so many special moments hearing them share and grow!

  4. As a former police detective who specialized in child sex abuse crimes, these questions are excellent. I always advocated that the BEST thing parents can do for their children are ask at bedtime: What is the best thing that happened to you today?” and “What is the worse thing that happened today?” This gives children the golden, daily opportunity to share if they were sexually abused in any way by anyone. The most common response when children who have been abused (for a long time in silence) and have been gently asked, “Why didn’t you tell anyone sooner?” They always said, “Because no one asked me.” It’s a scary subject that actually needs an invitation to talk……make it a nightly practice!

    • I hadn’t thought of it in that light, but thanks for your perspective! Open channels of communication truly is key!

    • I have to say a big Thank You to you, Ann Tucker Velazco. I am an RN, and worked for 3 years in an emergency room at a Women’s and Children’s hospital. RN’s on night shift helped staff the sex abuse treatment center. These were 3 of the questions we gently asked every patient that came to us, regardless of age or gender. The long silence was there 99% of the time, and frequently, followed by the same response. Thank you for posting–and giving parents and guardians instruction and permission to approach a delicate conversation with gentleness and respect, and always a soft voice. These 3 questions work for opening a conversation with persons of every gender, and every age.

  5. As a family we ask these questions at tea (dinner.. UK! ) time but we use the words ‘high lights’ and ‘ low lights’, we go round the table and everyone has to listen to each others day.it’s a great opportunity for daily discussion and to find out if anything is upsetting them.we have 4 children plus foster children.

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  7. my children are in their early 30’s…I ended their bedtime ritual with; what was the best part of your day, what was the worst part, how did God Bless you,,how did you bless God?….then kisses and hugs!!

  8. I have been doing something similar with my 2 1/2 y.o. daughter but it never seemed to become routine. These three questions should be easy to remember and I love tying them into bedtime prayers. I will use them tonight! To foster her imagination I will continue to add, “What are you going to dream about tonight?” It’s delightful to hear what she’s conjuring up in her imagination.

    • Yes – I like the “What are you going to dream about?” question too! I’m going to start adding that one :).

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  10. Yes! We try these over dinner. Giving each child their chance. We also add “what one thing would you do differently than you did today?”

  11. I used to be a negative person, it’s something I’ve been working on the past three years to turn around. Someone once told me to reflect on good thoughts before bed to help your mind think better thoughts and dream better dreams. It’s made a huge impact on me as an adult and I think what you’re doing with your kids is absolutely wonderful. Thanks for sharing because somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten this.

  12. what a great way to end the evening with your child! I might suggest one slight modification from a counseling perspective. It’s very common in our daily language to say “what makes you happy/sad” which implies that the person does not have control over his or her feelings. So I would suggest saying “what were you happy/sad about” to emphasize to your child they had a choice in feeling a certain way. It’s very empowering to know you choose how to respond instead of seeming like you have no control when something makes you happy/sad. As a child specialist I spend a lot of time helping children learn they have more control than they realize. Thank you for your inspirational post!

    • i really take issue with the idea that we have control over our feelings. We don’t! A feeling is a spontaneous reaction to something. What we DO have control over is our actions–how we respond to the feeling. We can choose to not have negative thoughts about ourselves, not to believe what we tell ourselves or what others say about us… If i feel frustrated, I feel frustrated but I have choices about how to deal with the frustration. I think it is very important for children–and adults to acknowledge a feeling and then be able to chose to move beyond it.

  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuoVM9nm42E

    “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

    i’m a teacher and a young dad. I have this quote from Jimmy V on my classroom wall and share the speech with every class, every year.

  14. Do you think can work with older children?? 10 and 11 years old!
    I want to do something with them before bed to calm them down after a long day of arguments and homework…
    Any suggestions?

    • Hi, Lubna! I hope some other people see your comments and give their suggestions too. My initial reaction is that the “What did you learn today?” question can work for the age you’re talking about also. I think the happy/sad questions are a little too basic to be very meaningful at that age, but maybe you could adjust it to something more appropriate that meets the same objective. For example, “If I could live this day over again, what would I repeat or do differently?”.

  15. I love this idea. We try to do this around our dinner table, but although I try, most nights we don’t eat at the table :( but we do lay in bed and talk so this is perfect.

    • I like it at bedtime too, because it’s good for winding down and gives them something good to think about as they fall asleep!

  16. My son is 3 1/2 and I started asking him these questions 3 nights ago. He already loves it and makes sure I ask him. He makes things up though (I’m a SAHM so I definately know it is made up) and I am not sure if this is normal but since he didn’t start talking until he was almost 2 1/2 I hestitate to stop him and interrupt him for fear he will just stop talking about it. His imagination is amazing but he seems to have trouble remembering what actually happened during the day.

  17. Have been doing this from the time my son said ” oh! I thought THIS was our car ” at a parking lot one day when he was 2.5 years old – I used to ask him what he used to be thinking in his little mind from the time he was an infant with those huge curious eyes – I was so happy that moment when I knew it helped him communicate – to this day we ask each other how was the day and how /what we felt about any particular situation – which leads to pretty deep conversations every evening / night .. All that fear about raising a teenager? I have None….:) btw my folks used to tease me those days for having huge conversations with my toddler – but as days moved to years – they all saw how communication with toddlers is the best way to parenting success ..

  18. This has been our nightly routine for many years. My daughter is now 9 and in addition to these type questions, I have had great success asking “do you have any questions for me?” This helps me understand what might be on her mind – this bonding time is priceless!

  19. I’m going to try this with my 2.5yr old son. I already do something similar when he comes home from day care – I ask him what was his favourite thing that he did today/ who did he play with/ what was his favourite food that he ate. He talks non stop so this will be a good way to wind down for bed time.

  20. Hi everyone,
    I love this discussion and had to comment. My girls are 5 and 8. Tuck in time is when we do exactly this but change it up often.
    High point and low point is always asked but I change up the third often.
    Here’s a few I use and love:
    What is one thing Mommy can do for you this week that will help you feel loved?
    What are the three things you love most about your body or yourself?
    I feel gratitude and happiness are muscles that need exercise. And pride in ones body is so important and sparks all kinds of great conversations and loving messages from them to me and me to them.
    I heard once that most children get less than 15 minutes of attention from their parents a week. My goal is to do much better than that considering how important they are to me. Thank you for your post!

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  22. Thanks for this posting. I will try it with our granddaughters, especially the older one who doesn’t talk much. Heck, I may try it with my husband!

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  24. Great questions, here is one more, What/who do you want to pray about tonight? Every night we pray together about one thing on my child’s heart. Powerful.

  25. I always ask my grandson who is 6, when he gets home from school “what’s the best thing that happen to you today at school”?
    I’ve gotten great answers , someone new played with me, recess , no gym today… but my all time favorite was the day he told me ” seeing you waiting for me when I got off the bus” :)

  26. What a great idea! I think it is so important to find rituals when the children are small.

    When my son was little we started our own ritual. We tell each other every night: “Good night. Sweet dreams. I love your.” He is 10 now, but if I don’t start out ritual he will start it.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Marie

  27. Our boys are 11 and almost-15. They still share a room, BY CHOICE, and refuse to go to sleep until their dad and I come in and chat and pray. We’ve done it since Day One…I wonder who’ll do this when they are in college?? Start NOW, parents…when they are old(er) they will not depart from it.

  28. Thanks for the great idea. Our usual routine with our 4 1/2 yo daughter is a book, a song and a back rub. Before we did those things I told her I had three questions to ask her. She got really excited about it, I think she liked having so much attention about what she was saying. Her answers were VERY surprising. The thing I thought was no big deal that day was her sad moment and the few seconds she stopped me in the kitchen to dance with her was her happy moment. So easy to forget how the smallest things are so big in their world, but who better to remind us and educate us than them. I’ll be asking her these three questions each night…It may not be a revelation every night, but I look forward to all her answers. Thanks

  29. Great ritual! I also have been doing something similar with my daughter for the last 4-5 years (she’s 8). It usually starts out with ‘Tell me about the good things’. We do, sometimes, also talk about the ‘bad’ or sad things that may have happened that day. I remember the first time she asked ME the question & it warmed my heart :) What a wonderful way to connect with your kids!! Thanks for the article!

  30. Thanks alot for sharing your wonderful idea .. I have just finished now from my conversation with my little kids .i will applied theses qustions next time.

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  33. Hi. I ask my almost 6 yr son this every day when I fetch him from school. He will say either Good or Not Good. I’ll cue it from there. The amazing thing is he has been asking out of his own, how was work and if I had a good day. He opens the door and tried to carry parcels. What I will do though is bring the sad question in at bedtime. Tx for a lovely article. God bless.

  34. Do you have any suggestions to help me deal with a situation that is only getting worse. My daughter in law is using my grandchildren as pawns, and is suddenly denying visits and our participation in their lives at school events, etc. in a dispute over money ($5k) that we loaned our son for moving expenses when they relocated and is publicly retaliating toward us because he repaid us….saying we are cheap. My son WANTED to repay it and had the money to do so….any ideas on how to deal with this???

  35. This was wonderful! I only wish I had done this with my children when they were young, but I can now do this with my grandchildren, and like one person mentioned, with my husband, and even my grown children now! I so appreciate your sharing this information!

  36. enjoyed reading this! I ask my kids if I have done anything today that hurt them. I think it’s important to give them the chance to express their feelings about the way they feel I have treated them.
    Love seeing another mom who is passionate about intentional parenting :)

  37. This melted my heart. I have a 3 year old and we have similar conversations each night. It really is special to hear the day from their point of view. Thanks for the reminder that this is so important to do with our little ones.

  38. I LOVE this!! Since my husband and I divorced I had implemented something similar and it totally changed behavior and peacefulness at bedtime. I ask:

    What was your favorite thing about today?

    What was your second favorite thing?

    Was there anything about today you didn’t like?

    The conversations have been amazing. They need it so much that they forced their Dad and even grandparents to ask them the questions before bed.

    I love your questions so I think I’ll start mixing it up a little! Thank you for the great post!

    • Thanks so much for sharing the questions you use too, Casey! It’s a great bedtime routine!

  39. Found your article on Pinterest. As a new mom, I am constantly learning how to raise my son and not only create a special bond with him, but help him grow into a pretty special human being. Your questions really struck a chord with me… I look forward to being able to have these conversations with him at bedtime (he’s 4 months old right now). So thank you so much for sharing this!

    • Hi, Natalia! So glad you passed by and found this post helpful… And congratulations on being a new mom!

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  41. Great advice! As a feminist (and general human being) I think it’s really important to show boys that it’s ok to talk about their feelings, because as soon as they get to school they are taught that men should be ‘brave’ and not make a fuss. Then we end up with angry young men with no outlet to express their emotions. The sexes are really not so different!

  42. This is a wonderful routine and one we use, although with different questions since we’ve got older and younger children. The communication is important; seeing that mom and dad had things to be thankful for and things to try better at tomorrow is essential. Nice post, thank you.

  43. Beautiful way of bonding and I do this nightly with my six years old daughter. My 14 months old daughter, sometimes will sit and listen and other times busy playing. The questions are different but all getting the same results. Building communication, expressing herself and for me knowing her more. We would talk about, how her day went and questioned her more, on how she felt and why? I love the article posted and would love to read more of your experiences.

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  46. That’s wonderful. I read a story to my 5 year old daughter once she’s tucked in and we’ll usually talk about the story for a few minutes and that leads into the fun things she did for the day. I look forward to our routine every night :)

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