My Child HATES to Write
Help! My child hates to write!!!
One of the biggest struggles homeschool moms face is getting their children to write. Write a paragraph. A sentence. Anything. Ok. Some are just aiming to help their children 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.
Fear Adds Fuel To The “I HATE WRITING” Fire
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.
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How To Help A Child Learn To Write? Don’t Panic
When it comes to helping our children learn to write, let me encourage you. It’s going to be ok. Please 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.
So how do you help a reluctant writer?
When Our Kids Hate Writing Remember The Ultimate Goal
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 for our kids? Specifically, who do you want your child to be as an adult?
I’m convinced that on some level, we all want our kids to develop into confident, healthy, well-functioning adults. So let’s address this whole writing debacle through that lens.
The Writing Objective
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 that writing assignment 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.
Writing As Communication
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.
Why does my child struggling with writing?
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 many adults tend to favor the belief that 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 gaps 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.
My Kid Hates Creative Writing: The Kiss Of Death
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 language processing issues that make it difficult to articulate and organize their thoughts.
These kids may stare at that sheet of paper in horror.
Reluctant Writers Need The Right Supports
What kills me is that they are often fully capable of becoming a writer. When given the right tools based on each student’s individual needs, they can each take their next step in the writing process. Unfortunately, however, the traditional approach to writing instruction places boulders in front of so many children.
Bottom line. If we want to motivate 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.
17 Tips To Help Reluctant Writers
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. 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. Choose Your Words Carefully
When trying to motivate a child to write, the way your approach him or her can make all the difference in achieving that goal. For the kid who hates writing, that may sound 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 our words is astonishing. We homeschool moms can use our own words to create the spark that develops into an all-consuming fire for our kids to see themselves as communicators.
Helping Resistant Writers
3. Reframe Adult Thinking
Within our culture and the church, we often label children based on outward behavior.
He’s just being lazy. He can hold a pencil just fine.
When our children hate to write, calling them lazy doesn’t solve the problem. It certainly doesn’t motivate or encourage. I know that when I’m struggling, the last thing I need is for someone to call me lazy. Again, the words we use (whether we verbalize them or not) are powerful. We must learn to see behavior as information. Ask, What is going on behind the resistance to writing?
4. Check For Visual Or Fine Motor Issues: See An OT
Relatively speaking, the physical act of writing is a new skill for kids and is not a fluent process. Many children struggle with integrating multiple physical skills at once.
The tiny eye movements involved in reading and writing are essential to the ease with which academic skills develop. If a child has eye tracking or fine motor weaknesses (even without a diagnosis), the physical act of writing could be the nail in the writing coffin. This is also true for fine motor skills. Get a private Occupational Therapy evaluation if you’re concerned about fine motor or eye tracking problems.
5. Isolate The Writing Skill From Others
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.
Motivating A Reluctant Writer: Adjust Expectations
When motivating a reluctant writer, it’s essential that homeschool moms use caution with their own expectations. Don’t look to benchmarks, the kid up the street, or even the curriculum to determine what our child should accomplish in that writing session. Focus on your child. What is the next minimal viable step to move forward in the writing process? That’s where you start.
6. Stop Looking Around At Everyone Else At The Gym
Think about it this way. When a grown adult decides to get in shape, they often hire a trainer. During their first session, a good trainer doesn’t walk up to an obviously out-of-shape client and tell her to lift the 100-lb barbell. A good personal trainer does not look around to see what barbell everyone else is lifting. The objective of the trainer is to support and push just far enough so that his client sees the possibility of success.
He looks at the client in front of him and determines their ability and needs. Only then does he choose the appropriate challenge for his client.
7. Understand The Zone of Proximal Development
When teaching anything, think about the zone of proximal development. Very Well Mind describes the Zone of Proximal Development this way.
The range of abilities that an individual can perform with assistance but cannot yet perform independently.
- How far can I push THIS child based on what I know of THIS child?
8. Focus On Moving Your Resistant Writer Forward
Help your child move forward no matter how small the step. If your child is highly verbal, for example, start by having your child orally discuss the concept you want them write about. Take notes for your child and so that they are free to process ideas.
If your child struggles with oral communication, model a sentence. Partner with your child and write together. Just take the next step. Don’t worry about the naysayers in your head who are telling you that you’re coddling or enabling your child. That doesn’t help anyone.
How Do You Help A Struggling Writer?
9. Put It In Perspective: Writing Is A Complex Process
Writing by hand is a complex process that requires our brain to:
- Manufacture thoughts and sentences that make sense,
- Search its 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.
10. Provide Concrete Baby Steps: Writing Prompts & Specific Questions
If you’ve eliminated possible fine motor, eye tracking or language-based issues, we can provide resistant writers with concrete baby steps. By offering just a few concrete questions, anxiety is reduced because the child doesn’t have to wonder what to write about.
- 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?
11. Stop Pushing For More
When we are successful in motivating our struggling writers to take the next step in the writing process, this is key. We must accept what our child offers. During that first successful session, don’t push for more. Start small and allow your child the writing win.
12. Ask Questions & Encourage Oral Language
Take 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. This is why so many homeschoolers utilize the art of narration. It’s a strategy that starts with communication through oral language and conversation, the foundation of reading and writing.
Find the starting point. Most often, that will be through oral language communication first.
13. 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!
Oral communication is the precursor skill to writing and reading. 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?
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.
14. Model The Writing Process One Step at a Time
So if you are scribing for your child, model the writing process one step at a time.
- 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 as handwriting practice or copywork.
15. Slowly Hand Over the Reins
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.
16. Less Is More When It Comes To Helping Any Resistant Student
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.”
17. Relationship First: Support Struggling Students
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.
My Kid Hates To Write- Remove The Gatekeepers
In order to help our children grow in their learning, we must be willing to check preconceived expectations at the door. Often traditional models of education actually prevent our children from learning. When kids consistently struggle with an area of academics, being willing to look behind the behavior will move them forward.
What gatekeepers are standing in front of your child’s ability to become a writer? Is it the physical act of writing? The ability to combine mulitple skills at once? Overwhelm? Language processing struggles?
Find the real problem and your child will be better equipped to move forward.
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. It’s ok to parent and educate the child that God gave you. Even when it looks differently from everyone else.
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