This article analyses the role played by panel members in the Scottish Children's Hearings System. In particular, the article focuses on the ways in which panel members attempts to involve children in the decision‐making process by seeking their views. Section 46 of Part II of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 comes in for particular attention in this regard as it empowers panel members to clear the room in order to speak privately with the child. Based on interviews with 40 panel members, the article considers the use of discretion in relation to confidentiality and the general level of confidence in current policy given that the section, as currently drafted, requires disclosure to excluded parties of the substance of what has been said in their absence. The authors outline various ways in which panel members negotiate the interpretation of ‘substance’ and reveal significant areas of discomfort relating to their current practice and examine the Scottish Executive's proposals for reform.