"What's up?" ...Not much
"What did you do this weekend?" ...Nothing.
Sometimes I do it too. And sometimes we forget that changing what we ask, how we ask it, and setting an expectation of participation can make a huge difference in what we hear back.
With some kids that hold tightly to those "nothing" or "I don't know" answers, I change the question to "tell me one thing" you did that day, that weekend or on that vacation. I show that I expect and will wait for a response. I tell them it could be any one thing - interesting or boring: something they ate, a tv show they watched or that they stubbed their toe. Asking for that one piece of information, whether or not they originally thought it was interesting enough to share, opens up the conversation. It sets an expectation that you want to hear about their experiences. It starts to give them examples of things they might start to share next time without you even asking.
For as long as I've practiced this with kids, I found myself on the flipside recently. My husband started asking me what a highlight from my day was. Or he would ask me about what was most frustrating or what was the best moment. One evening as I paused to think of my answer, he said, "I just want to learn more about your day." Touché. I was on the other side. There were parts of my day that I had left where they were, and I just hadn't thought to share them with him. Until I was reminded that he wanted to know. Before long, we were sharing a lot more about our days without even thinking about it.
This tiny change in how you ask a question can open up new conversations and new connections that build your relationship. (And apparently, it works with both kids and spouses.)