Sweaty heads and dirty feet tumbled into the car after an evening last week at BHJ Girl’s Home in SE Asia. And we waved goodbye out the window as the gate was closed behind us, and I asked my three kids in the backseat, “Well, did you have fun?”

And, immediately, my son started in– “I didn’t like the food. And they wouldn’t play with me much. And I didn’t get to play soccer. And those dogs were there.” {I assumed that was a “no.”}

Deflate Mother-Dreams-of-Kids-Serving-the-World Balloon.

But, then, I asked {well, fired-back} a different question, “Well, did you love well?”

Pause.

“Wellllll, not really,” admitted one.

“I think I did. I helped with the dishes and played with Yada a lot,” said another.

“I totally did,” claimed the 4-year-old who just figured that “yes” was a better answer.

Drop Parenting-Revelation-Bomb.

Because every time my kids have gotten in the car after soccer practice or a school day, a playdate with friends or even a night spent with impoverished girls in SE Asia, my default question has always been about their own personal fun. I’m typically asking, first, about their good time, the friends they hung out with, the general awesomeness of the event itself.

And, ultimately, though subtly, I fear I’m communicating that their pleasure should be the focus of hours spent with others. And is that, really, what I want to be teaching my kids–

That if their _____{insert activity here}_____  wasn’t “fun,” then it was a waste, a thing to complain about on the car ride home?

Cue Mom’s New Brilliant-Master-Plan.

My kids will be getting a different question from now on when they plop their taekwondo belts or their book bags or their soccer cleats into the backseat.  I’ll be asking first, “How’d you love?” {or some non-cheezy-version of the same type of ask}.

Because shouldn’t our default be more about what we gave, than what we got?

And if we really believe that, shouldn’t the questions we ask our kids reflect it?

What’s the default question you ask after an event? How do you shift your kids from being self-focused to others-focused? Uh, how do you shift yourself? And, what are you doing to prepare your kids for school this year?

Post originally ran on LauraLeighParker.com. Used with permission.

As a freelance writer and avid blogger, Laura wrote gritty and honest about her time in the SE Asian rice fields, where her husband directed a children's home and then later began The Exodus Road, a nonprofit empowering undercover investigations into the illegal sex slave industry. Laura has served as a freelance writer and photographer for Compassion International, and she began and leads an online community of international humanitarian workers at A Life Overseas. Currently, Laura and her family live in Colorado where she is the Sr. Vice President of the ExodusRoad. You can find her blogging at her personal site, LauraParkerBlog, and her book, The Exodus Road, which details her journey as a wife sending her husband into brothels as an undercover agent, will be released next month.

Publication date: August 30, 2013