Most of the parents ask this question when they pick up their children from school, or when the children return home.
The problem with this question is that it is quite open ended. If the child feels happy according to their emotions that day, or how the day’s events unfolded, they will answer something like ‘great’ in a happy tone. On the other hand, if the child is down or feels bad according to how the day’s events unfolded, they will answer something like ‘very bad’ in a displeased tone.
Notice the expression according to how the day’s events unfolded above. It is the same child in both cases but they are driven by something out of their control. Or by their emotions which keep going up and down any way. In other words, this question leaves significant room for them to complain if they want to.
While 10% of life does depend on what happens to us, the rest 90% depends on how we respond to it. A young child, incapable of understanding these nuances, learns this pattern that then carries on with their lives.
As an alternative, a better question to ask is the following.
What was the good thing about today?
Responding to this question, they will have to think hard and extract from their minds nice things about today. The negative experiences need to be necessarily filtered out. This sets up a consistent habit of extracting good and filtering out bad from the surrounding events. Practised over many years, this simple change reprograms the mind to focus on the positive side of things and ignore the negative aspects. Gradually this leads to happiness, ability to override their emotions and eventually stable relationships.
To inculcate this attitude into them, I also ask my children over the dinner table what they are grateful for today. It has to be something different each day and now they are excited about telling me their choice for that day. Sometimes their answers are funny but they become happy even during this process.