How do you motivate your child to write?
Motivation is an interesting thing, and we often miss the fact that there are a couple of important components. Most of us get stuck because we both want to do something AND don’t want to do it. This is common with motivating a child to write. Most kids love stories, and they like making them up as well. Motivating a child to tell a story is not so tough, but motivating them to write is another beast altogether.
The problem often involves what they are afraid of when it comes to writing. In fact, here’s a question you will find helpful in figuring out how to motivate your child to write:
WHAT BAD THING(S) DOES MY CHILD THINK WILL HAPPEN
IF HE WRITES?
If you can find out what’s really going on in their heads, then solving motivation is back on track. What kinds of negative things interfere with motivating a child to write? Here are a few common issues:
- My handwriting is bad
- I’ll be in trouble
- What I write will sound stupid
- Others will make fun of me
- I don’t know how to punctuate / do grammar right / spell correctly
Actually, almost everything will come to the simple thought that IT WON’T BE PERFECT. Perfect is where nothing bad happens. Unfortunately, all children picked the wrong world if they wanted to be perfect in a perfect world, true?
Motivating your child to write comes from both removing what is in the way and adding to what they would enjoy. This is why we teach kids to write in three steps: 1) OK, 2) GET HELP, 3) MAKE GREAT. When they simply aim at writing something that is OK, then there is no expectation or demand for perfection (so fear diminishes and they are more motivated to write).
HINT 1: Why not help your child rediscover the joy by writing a story (maybe several) with her? She can tell it and you can write it. You can make suggestions and build it with her. A week of this with most kids gives them a different level of confidence and hope for what they can do themselves. Reading a finished version to the family or grandparents can add momentum to motivation. As Emerson said, “They greatest part of courage is having done it before.”
HINT 2: Quit grading and correcting daily writing. Turn it into giving HELP (feedback). Explain that you won’t grade anything but a final version. Even if it takes a week to get a few pages ‘just right’, then they will have learned to separate OK from GREAT. And that, my friend, is a victory!
Hint 3: It doesn’t really have to be GREAT (or OK), that’s just a way to describe writing as a process instead of a destination. We want our kids to practice writing, not practice handing in a completed paper.
How do you motivate your child to write? Get them interested in stories by reading to them and having them tell stories themselves. Next, move into helping them grow by putting their stories on paper; making sure that the aim is OK (at first).
Our son Forrest had two younger brothers who would stay awake until he came to bed at night to tell them a story from his imagination, made up on the spot. For some reason he caught on to the fun of stories (and how it’s no big deal if they aren’t just right). As a result, he’s a writer today (Check out Trixie and Roy for a fun read).
Motivation is about movement forward. Look at what you want long-term and start removing the obstacles in the way. That’s about all there is to it. Yes, you can motivate your child to write. I guarantee.
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand