Every Wednesday, I’ll post about multiple intelligences so we can better understand children and why they do what they do.

Two weeks ago, one of the suggestions I made for strengthening smarts was to increase both interest and ability. That’s valuable to remember as the school year begins.

There’s a simple way to affect both ability and interest. When you talk with your children about their day, ask about how they did and what they learned about. Children need to know you care about both.

Talk about their ability. Realize that many of the important things that happen during a school day do not come home in children’s backpacks. Sure, ask about the grades on the papers you do see, but do more than that. Ask about how they prepared for those assignments and whether they’re happy with how they did.

Ask about their participation and answers during discussions. Ask about group work. Ask about videos they may have seen and lectures teachers gave. Ask about demonstrations they observed.

When you affirm children’s abilities, use the word “smart” when you can. “You did well on that paper by using your logic smart skills.” “I can see that your picture-smart abilities helped you do well on your book report.” “Because you’re self-smart, you were able to draw wise conclusions independently of others.”

Talk about what they’re learning about. Discuss the topics with your children. Your interest can increase theirs. Interest can drive ability.

Don’t ask, “What did you learn today?” That’s too general and overwhelming. Instead, ask questions such as “What’s one thing you learned in science today?” “What’s one interesting thing you talked about in art or music today?” Better yet, if you know from homework and earlier discussions, that your son is learning about the history of your state, ask, “Did you learn another detail about our state today?” This shows your son you’re paying attention to the discussions. He’ll feel honored and encouraged.

Begin a discussion with answers to these questions. Don’t just interrogate your children about their day. Discuss topics. Share what you know about the topic. Ask genuine questions you have. Ask children about their attitudes toward the topics and whether they think they’re important to be learning about and why. Look for applications to current events so you can increase the relevance of the topics in your children’s eyes.

Your real interest in children’s abilities and the topics they’re learning about can further awaken and strengthen intelligences. If I asked your children if you’re interested in both, what do you think they’d say? Any changes you want to make?