Moving Beyond “Did You Have Fun?”
“Did you have fun?”
I have heard parents ask their children this question literally thousands of times. I’ve asked it of my own kids as well; it’s a pretty standard question when reuniting with them after being separated for some activity or function. It’s often used deftly as an icebreaker to begin a conversation with your kids about their experience. If you get their minds recalling the fun they had, they’re usually more apt to recall (and share) the other details of their experience, which sometimes were not as fun. Asking this question can be an effective tool for parents seeking to know and understand their children. It gives us an opportunity to demonstrate an interest and concern about their lives, building a foundation of trust and confidence as our children grow — which can reap dividends in the teenage years. Our kids can begin to trust that we have a genuine concern for them and their relationships outside the home—that the we are interested in far more than whether they simply “had fun” or not.
But often we use this question without any follow up. There is no further conversation about our child’s experience. The conversation is a single question and a single answer:
“Did you have fun?”
Then it’s off to the next thing. This has the potential to lead to your child believing that the only concern you have the parent has — indeed the only goal and purpose of the experience — is fun. Your child can begin to believe, “I am meeting my parents expectations if I have fun. Fun should be my goal.” On the other hand, if we engage our children about the details of their experience and help them navigate the complexities of their relationships and experiences in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will be faithfully training them up in the way they should go.
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not the fun police. I enjoy having a good time just like the rest of us. The scriptures have much to say about fun (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:4, Proverbs 15:13, Proverbs 17:22, etc.); It is a blessing from God that we can have fun. On the flip side, “fun” is not an accurate or adequate measurement of whether something is good, right, or holy. There are many activities that might be labeled as “fun” but are wicked and sinful according to the Scriptures.
This is my point: it’s important that we utilize our conversations with our kids to shepherd them in the way they should go. Asking, “Did you have fun?” with no follow-up is a missed opportunity to disciple our children through the relational experiences they have when we’re not around. It is often these times when the most shepherding is needed. Follow-up questions like “What did you learn?”, “Who did you get to spend time with?”, and “Did anyone get their feelings hurt?” can open up a door to conversations that can give us greater insight into the hearts of our children. And we don’t have to worry when they say things like “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” As I said, asking about their “fun” experiences can be a gateway into their recollections.
Our job as parents is to faithfully steward the lives of our children, bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). This responsibility extends beyond our children’s experience when they are merely in our presence. We could (and may) overlook or dismiss our children’s experiences when they are away from us, but what does that teach them? It might teach that we only care about their life and experience inasmuch as it has a direct effect on us. This is not how God loves us. He cares for us and is intimately aware of us, in every detail of our lives, down to the individual hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7). I pray that we would be mothers and fathers who do the hard work of parenting in a way that emulates the Father’s love for us.