Chapter Two - Questioning.3

Chapter Two - Questioning (continued)


The purpose of teaching good questioning is to support the development of an honest and authentic relationship between your child and the world. But questions sometimes can lead to discovering harsh realities and discouragement. As you teach your child to question, teach them to use what they learn to construct rather than to destroy. As they learn to question, make it clear that you believe in goodness and the ability of people to create a positive way of life.

Optimism is a choice. Questions can be asked in positive or negative ways: "Is the cup half full? or half empty?" The tone of the question can influence the answer dramatically. Optimistically phrased questions invite collaboration and expansive answers. Negatively phrased questions can cause concern and result in meager information. Looking forward with a positive spirit results in constructive questions which propel the questioner toward solutions.

Where does optimism come from? Are you optimistic? How do you know? Optimism is often based on faith that things will work out for the best. Many times there is insufficient information to make even an educated guess about an outcome, but thinking the best pays off. Thinking the best is not Pollyanna thinking. It is being prepared for the worst but believing the best will happen. To avoid being unprepared for the unpleasant, the key question to keep in mind is, "What is the worst that could happen?" Answering this question provokes preparation while supporting the forward momentum of positive thinking.

Boxing shadows can drain away enormous amounts of energy your child could be using to learn and grow. Just as you provide a safe physical environment to nurture your child's growth, you can provide a safe psychological environment by encouraging him or her to develop a "benefit of the doubt" attitude. When all the questions might otherwise lead to a negative conclusion, this attitude allows you to step back and consider other explanations.

Parents have an important role to play in establishing the positive spirit that carries us through the tough times and the disillusioning moments. An optimistic view of life is essential, especially in times of uncertainty and rapid change. How each family chooses to establish that optimism or faith is, of course, a matter of individual conscience or persuasion, but every child deserves an opportunity to grow up with a set of ethical and moral principles which will guard against the cancerous growth of cynicism.


You can make questions as important as answers in your child's life. Begin by welcoming all those "why" questions and asking a lot of them yourself. Be content to leave many of them unanswered, but create a collection that testifies to the prominent place of curiosity in your family.

Make your child's life as curious and wonder-full as possible. Your questions about the world mirror your child's sense of the adventure of just being alive. Noticing and questioning the world around you establishes a magnificent sense of teamwork.

Guard against excessive routine. Questions about how, why and what if . . . introduce just enough change into stable routines to make them interesting. Any system that cannot tolerate change is open to destruction. The influx of questions keeps the routines alive and the people flexible.

Admit you do not have all the answers. If every question has an answer, the frontiers are gone. Without experience in the realm of the unanswerable, your child will not be prepared to deal with the riddles of life. Share your wonderment at the vastness of what is unknown.

Collect and relish puzzles. Your child will inevitably find parts of life puzzling. Will they relish the challenge? Will they be able to deal with the ambiguity? If you prize the enigmatic, your child will be prepared to deal with the puzzles of life.

Encourage optimism, faith and the benefit of the doubt. As with most powerful tools, questions can be used to construct cathedrals or destroy civilizations. You can shape your child's questioning skill toward building a positive life by teaching him or her to consider the cup half full, rather than half empty.

Questioning is at the heart of effective thinking, yet many schools provide too few opportunities for your child to ask or investigate questions flowing out of his or her own curiosity. If you begin to encourage questioning from the very beginning of your child's language development, you can establish a foundation which will serve him or her well throughout life. These questioning skills can become the basis for successful adult development and adjustment in a rapidly changing, uncertain world.

The question is . . .

The question is

how come the teacher asks all the questions

when I'm the one who needs to know things.

The question is

why I'm supposed to have the answers

to all my parent's questions when they can't answer mine.

The question is

why scientists ask ten questions for every answer they get

but I have to answer seven out of ten to pass.

The question is

why politicians learn not to answer questions

while I must learn how to answer them.

The question is

why questions have to be answered fast in school

when philosophers take years to answer them.

The question is

why there are so many little questions in school

when Marie Curie spent her whole life on one big question.

The question is

why I must find answers to already answered questions

when I have questions that have not yet been answered.

The question is

why can't I be in charge of the questions?

Return to Outline

Chapter Three - Puzzling

©1991 JMcKenzie
times since January, 1997< Network 609