kids

"Susan Carland taught me a game that finally got my kids talking around the dinner table."

“How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“What happened at school?”

“Nothing.”

It’s the universal car pick-up conversation. The dinner table debate that goes nowhere.

You’ve been away from your beloved offspring for several hours. Surely, during that time, a whole lot of exciting stuff occurred. Tests were passed or failed, friends were lovely or cruel. Delicious food was devoured, puppies were patted, goals were scored, knees were scraped…

But somehow, when you ask the question, that’s all you get: “Nothing.” Often followed by the classic, “Stop asking me! Muuuuuuuuum!” leaving you with only a severe case of parental FOMO.

This is where smart parents come in.

Parents like writer and academic Doctor Susan Carland, who has a son and a daughter aged 14 and 10 with her husband, Waleed Aly.

The family live in Melbourne and they like to talk to their kids around the dinner table, too. So since their children were little, they’ve unlocked the day’s rundown with a simple game.

Susan Carland and husband, Waleed Aly.

"It's called 3BT which stands for three beautiful things," she told podcast This Glorious Mess last week, and it starts with, "Let's find three good things in our day no matter what they are, big or small, exciting or mundane."

Susan says the motivation for playing 3BT was to encourage their children to look at life with gratitude. "I just don't want to raise entitled children," she says. "I don't think any of us do. It's okay for kids to be reminded that they have it pretty good..."

Hear Susan Carland talk about her family's daily tradition on podcast This Glorious Mess, here:

Editor Holly Wainwright then attempted it with her children.

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"What's the best thing that happened to you today?" She asked her son. "What was the most exciting thing that happened to you?" But until she started adding the next part that Susan suggested, the enthusiasm was minimal.

Susan advised adding a drop of negativity to the mix - just a drop, mind. And that, as any writer knows, adds drama.

Cue: Results. And results mean: Information.

"When my youngest was two or three I added one bad thing to the game," Susan says. "The reason for this is I really wanted my kids to feel they could share hard things about their day with me and my husband. But it still has to be three good things and one bad thing because the good does outweigh the bad."

why does Susan Carland wear a hijab?
Susan Carland shares her dinner table game on This Glorious Mess.

Holly's kids love The Bad Thing. They hurry to it.  But light and shade has been the key to finding out what the hell is going on in their days - and their minds.

Of course, at seven and five, Holly's kids' good and bads are not particularly dramatic. The bads usually involve some ice-cream she wouldn't buy them, or that time the preschool teacher told them off for snatching Lego from the boy next to them (and possibly shoving it up their nostril, but whatever).

It's the simple things, right, that can make family life. As Susan says on This Glorious Mess, dinner time conversation is the key to keeping things real.

Around their table, they do what many more of us strive for. At meal time, it's: "No screens, no phones, it's just us, warts and all."

Have you got a family tradition that helps you communicate? Share them with us below.

You can buy Susan's latest book, Fighting Hislam, here.

You can listen to the latest episode of This Glorious Mess, here:

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