Help kids learn to ask questions

Learn a few tips to help youth ask questions and think for themselves.

Do you ever find yourself talking for your child? Answering questions for them and asking others questions instead of letting them ask the questions? It happens to all of us! Unless we are made aware that we’re doing it, we can’t change.

It can be difficult for a youth to ask questions, especially if it’s asking questions of an adult. However, in 4-H Youth Development, we know how important it is to encourage youth to have positive relationships with adults, which includes reciprocating asking questions and receiving answers. As adults, we can help and encourage youth to build the skills of critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making by asking questions and speaking for themselves.

Here are a few tips to help you encourage youth to ask questions and think for themselves:

  • Encourage youth that when they have a question, they ask it right away so they don’t forget. Remind them to say “excuse me” if they need to interrupt or teach them to wait for a break in conversation to ask their question.
  • Practice having youth ask open-ended questions or questions that aren’t easily answered with a yes or no response. Oftentimes, asking an open-ended question will lead to a great conversation.
  • Be aware of opportunities where youth can be encouraged to ask questions. If you’re on a field trip, listening to a presentation or participating in a program, be sure to leave time at the end where youth are encouraged and given the opportunity to ask the speaker questions.
  • At home, in the classroom, afterschool or in a 4-H meeting, have youth practice asking questions. Rehearsing this skill in a setting that is comfortable for them will help them build confidence so they’re better equipped with the skills needed to ask questions in more public settings.

Try to model the behaviors you expect from youth. Consider role playing with another adult to show how fun and easy asking questions can be.

Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program utilizes a tool from Iowa State University called the Targeting Life Skill Wheel to help identify life skills.

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