My Child HATES to Write
Help! My child hates to write!!!
As a homeschool coach, moms are constantly asking me to help them figure out how to help their kids write. Or at least not hate it.
There is so much pressure out there to get our kids on target and writing sooner rather than later. Homeschool moms are no exception to this academic pressure.
The problem is when we mommas react from a place of fear when our kids don’t meet academic expectations. I’m no exception and have fallen into this trap way too many times.
But when it comes to helping our children learn to write, let me encourage you. It’s all going to be ok.
First, don’t panic. Second, don’t push your kid out of fear. It doesn’t work.
Trying to shove our square pegs into round holes does NOT create round pegs. It creates broken squares. Stop fighting against your child’s wiring and work with it.
In this post, I’ll share some of the major reasons why children hate writing. And I’ll offer my best strategies to help your child become a more confident writer.
What’s The Ultimate Goal?
Goals for Our Children
Before we get into the writing, let’s ask ourselves the most important question when it comes to our kids.
What’s our end goal?
Specifically, what is your goal for your unique child? Who do you want your child to be as an adult?
I’m convinced that on some level, we all will land along similar lines. We all long for our kids to develop into confident, healthy and well-functioning adults.
So if we agree on that point, let’s address this whole writing debacle through that lens.
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The Goal of Writing
What is the objective of teaching our kids to write? Really think about the ultimate goal of a writing assignment.
- Is the end goal of writing handwritten letter symbols on a page?
If the answer is yes, then we are talking about the physical act of handwriting or penmanship. That is definitely a worthwhile skill. No doubt.
But I’m pretty sure the objective of a writing assignment is
- To learn to communicate ideas and thoughts to the world.
Assuming this is the case, we need to keep that goal in mind if we want our kids to become confident writers.
Behavior is Information- Why does my child hate to write?
As I’ve mentioned a million times before this (and will likely do so at least another billion), when our kids resist learning, there is a reason.
And while our culture tends to favor the belief that our kids are just lazy, there is often much more to it.
Friend, our kids hate writing for a reason. It’s our job to help them find the reason. Then we can help them fill in the gap so that they can move forward.
As an example, let’s take a peek at the one writing assignment most Americans kids (and adults) have had to face.
Let’s talk about the dreaded creative writing assignment.
Open your writing journals and write about what you did last summer.
For some kids, this is the kiss of death.
- Some kids are not as naturally imaginative and creative.
- Many children struggle with working memory (the ability to hold information in their head long enough to process it).
- Tons of children struggle with oral language gaps that make it difficult to process and organize their thoughts.
These kids may stare at that sheet of paper in horror.
What kills me is that they are often fully capable of writing. When given the chance, they can totally summarize their latest book, create a story and communicate a powerful message.
If we want our kids to write, we’ve got to make writing as accessible as possible. For your child who hates to write, this means we have to remove the barriers.
#1 Give Them A Purpose
First and foremost, I don’t care what anyone has told you about your kid. Your child is a blessing to this world.
As a Christ follower, I believe wholeheartedly that God has created each of our kids with gifts, passions and purpose. Every.Single.Child.
We must instill in our kids a vision for themselves that they cannot see yet. An effective teacher inspires greatness in her students.
In the case of a child who hates writing, that may look like this.
You, my friend, have a valuable message that needs to be communicated to the world. We may not know what that message is right now, but I know God has a plan to use you to change the world.
The power of intrinsic motivation cannot be forced. But we mommas can create a spark that may develop into an all-consuming fire for our kids to see themselves as communicators.
We must make writing (communicating) an inherently valuable activity for children who hate to write. And we can do this by giving them a purpose.
#2 Reframe Our Adult Thinking
When our children hate to write, calling them lazy doesn’t solve the problem.
He’s just being lazy. He can hold a pencil just fine.
When was the last time you struggled with a new skill? How would it have felt for someone to call you lazy?
Think about it. How long has your child been printing or writing letters?
A year? 2? 4? 10 years? Relatively speaking, the physical act of writing is a new skill for kids.
If a child has eye tracking or fine motor weaknesses (even without a diagnosis), the physical act of writing can be the nail in the writing coffin.
When we are teaching a new skill to anyone who is not internally motivated to learn it, the last thing we want to do is combine multiple skills at once. Or push them beyond their capacity to achieve success.
Lifting Weights in the Gym?
When a grown adult decides to get in shape, they often need support through coaches or trainers.
During their first session, a good trainer doesn’t walk up to an obviously out-of-shape client and tell them to lift the 100-lb barbell.
The objective of the trainer is to support and push just far enough so that his client sees the possibility of success.
He does not look around to see what weight everyone else is lifting. He looks at the client in front of him and determines their ability and needs. Only then does he choose the appropriate weight for his client.
This is referred to as the zone of proximal development.
The Zone of Proximal Development
When it comes to teaching, we must look at the unique child in front of us. Then we determine the zone of proximal development for this unique learner.
How far can we push THIS child based on what we know of THIS child? If we want THIS child to take the next step in writing, we must shift our thinking and stop looking at all the kids around them.
Writing as Communication: A Complex Process
Writing by hand is a complex process that requires our brain to:
- Manufacture thoughts and sentences that make sense,
- Search it’s memory bank to retrieve the proper sounds that make up those words and ideas,
- Associate the letter sounds to images of letter symbols,
- Transpose those letter symbols onto paper by coordinating the tiny muscles in the eyes, hands and fingers
Language development and handwriting are not always automatic in our kids when we begin to insist on writing activities.
This is why it is essential that we reframe our thinking to look behind the behaviors to see the unique needs of our own children.
#3 Provide Concrete Baby Steps
Let’s circle back to our summer creative writing assignment. In order to help our kids move forward, we can offer simple supports.
As long as the act of handwriting isn’t the main barrier, we can provide them with concrete baby steps.
Start with one or two specific questions to answer.
- Tell me one thing you did this summer that made you smile.
- Who were you with when you did this?
- If you could enjoy that activity again, would you want to change it in some way? In what way?
By offering just a few concrete questions, anxiety is reduced because the child doesn’t have to wonder what to write about.
Accept What They Write
And the next step is KEY. We must accept what our child offers. This is critical for our children who hate to write.
Use what they’ve written to ask questions and show genuine interest. This stimulates dialogue, deeper thinking and promotes crucial language development that will only serve our kids in other academic areas.
Homeschool Narration Supports the Child Who Hates to Write
This is why so many homeschoolers utilize the art of narration.
Narration is not simply a way to make things easier for our “lazy” kids. It’s a strategy that starts with communication through oral language and conversation.
This helps develop crucial language skills that are foundational to every area of life and academics.
#4 Scribe For Your Child
If your child is struggling with pencil and paper, move on to this step.
Get your child communicating through oral language first. Momma Friend, if your kid hates to write, scribe for your child in freedom. No one is cheating!
Listen to your child and write down what they say.
You are equipping your child with the support he or she needs to grow as a communicator.
A Note About Dysgraphia
Dysgraphia, a brain-based learning disability, may be the culprit.
It may not, but with or without a dysgraphia diagnosis, kids often need to work on new writing skills in isolation. Remove pen and paper if it will help your child become a communicator.
But What About Penmanship?
Look. These suggestions do not negate the importance of the physical act of writing. Our kids need to work on handwriting skills and other fine motor skills for a variety of reasons.
Using pencil to paper supports the connection of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, increases retention of new information, and is an immediate form of written communication.
Work on penmanship in isolation for awhile until it becomes more fluent.
If the physical act of writing is a brick wall, remove it. Find the starting point. Most often, that will be through oral communication first.
#5 Model The Writing Process One Step at a Time
So if you are scribing for your child, you may want to walk through the process of writing in this way.
You may be able to get your child to sit next to you right away while they share their ideas aloud. You may not. If your child needs to move while articulating their thoughts, take notes first while they process aloud their “rough draft.”
The next day, have them sit next to you while they read their own words aloud.
Prompt them for more details or any other information they may want to add. Have them watch as you model proper sentence structure and spelling.
Once this becomes a more fluent skill, have your child choose one sentence to copy on to a sheet of paper as handwriting practice or copywork.
#6 Slowly Hand Over the Reigns
When this becomes easier, slowly transition responsibilities over to your child at his or her pace.
- Have your child narrate their story or summary into an Iphone.
- Then have your child take on the role of the scribe by writing (or typing) a few sentences. (You pick up where they leave off.)
- Continue with these scaffolding supports and slowly build upon your child’s capacity.
Work this way over a couple of months. This sets up your student to be calm, confident and motivated.
Ultimately, the goal is to watch your child slowly take more ownership of communicating through the written word.
And I promise you that this will yield far greater results than trying to force your child to do that which they are not ready to do.
True learning for the longhaul is often served well by “Less is More.”
Tip #7 Remember The Power of You
You have an incredible ability to influence your child. The words we choose with our kids can make or break their spirits.
When our kids have the undivided attention of a supportive adult, confidence builds. Internal motivation to communicate through words grows.
As the process of articulating and communicating orally becomes automatic, so does the likelihood that our kids will move to the next stage.
I’ve seen this happen with my own daughter, my students and with my homeschool coaching families.
Equip The Child Who Hates to Write
Remember penmanship is not the goal of the writing assignment. Practice penmanship separately from new concepts and skills. Your child who hates writing will pick up a pen when intrinsically motivated.
By God’s grace, we live in a day and age where technology affords us with a ton of alternative ways to communicate our ideas through words.
When the gatekeeper of written communication is the physical act of writing, we doom many kids to fail as writers. We hold them back from communicating their messages to the world.
Just imagine if Annie Sullivan decided the only way for Helen Keller to communicate had to be through oral language or handwritten words?
Give your child the keys that will unlock the writing door. Friend, it’s ok to parent and educate the child that God gave you.
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