Whether working with children in a professional space or raising children in the home, it’s vitally important that we have strategies for building the self esteem of young people. Confidence, especially in Australia, can often be mistaken for arrogance, but if we teach children how to mix confidence with humility we can end up with empowered young people who know how to show initiative.


It’s very easy to fall into the trap of telling children what to do. It’s even easier to believe that “showing them how to do it” is always the right thing to do. Giving an example can be a powerful teaching tool, but it is not always the correct strategy. When a child is forced to engage in the instruction process they will process information far more deeply. For this reason, questioning is a valuable asset at ones disposal.

Questioning involves guiding children towards the answer, but allowing them to reach that answer themselves. Of course, this process must be managed by the adult, but that doesn’t mean we need to give the answers away. Some simple examples include:

  • Instead of spelling the word ‘train’ for a child, we could question their prior knowledge to help them unlock the information themselves. “What are the ways in which we can make a ‘long A’ sound?” Let the child make a list and have them try each example until they reach the correct answer.
  • Instead of telling a child how to catch a netball, ask them to tell you what some important things are to remember to do with their hands to prepare to catch the ball.

There are so many instances where questioning is a useful strategy to help build understanding. But it’s the development of the child’s self esteem which is the unique benefit here. By taking ownership of the learning process, the child has seen that they are capable of learning and executing tasks without being heavily directed throughout the process. Yes, the adult has guided them through the questioning process, but in the child’s eyes they have figured it out for themselves. This gives them confidence and empowers them to show initiative in future tasks.

If your child lacks initiative and seems to always need step by step instruction for every task, you might want to add questioning to your armoury.


Want to learn more? Book an appointment with one of our psychologists or visit our clinic and wellbeing store in Bulimba.