Trying to figure out how to motivate a child to write? Have you ever said, “Help, my child hates writing!” to someone because you felt completely clueless about how to proceed?
You are not alone. I’ve been homeschooling my sons since the beginning and I just graduated my oldest son, Ben, a few weeks ago. Now that he’s 18, he has decided that he wants to become an author. And he just wrote his first book and made it available for sale on Amazon!
But he didn’t always feel that way about writing. This is the same son who used to balk and fuss and complain when I would ask him to write even one sentence!
Wondering what happened? What changed in this son to help him go from a kid who absolutely hated to write anything down to one who wants to make a living as a writer?
Ben’s story is an interesting one that I feel can be told best if he and I attempt to tell it to you together. So I’m going to interview my son and let you read his responses while also sharing my perspective. Hopefully, this format will give you as much insight as possible into your own child’s situation and will give you the tools to be able to help motivate your own child to write.
Question 1 – Do you remember how you felt about writing when you were young?
Ben’s Answer: So when looking back at how I went from hating writing to loving it, it’s a strange journey. My memory isn’t perfect but I will try to relay the information that I do remember as best as possible. From a young age, I wrote my own small stories and enjoyed trying to capture the emotions of my readers.
When I was around 10-14 years old, however, I began to think I hated writing. But more specifically I hated handwriting. I hated the way my hand felt after only a few exercises that, in my mind, were pointless. My mom attempted to switch to typing classes but this also felt like a waste of time. I never thought I would use this skill.
You can say that my mom knew best since I’m now a writer and I would agree with you. But to this day I dislike writing or typing anything without a purpose behind it. Though these skills became more important to me later in life, the process of learning them is still monotonous to me.
I’d much prefer to tell you a story about the good guys and the bad guys fighting for control. Or about characters who struggle with their inner demons. and these were the emotions I wanted to capture someday.
And that’s where my love of stories kicked in. I always loved watching movies. Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings are some of my favorites. But I’ll never forget the tension I felt when I watched Independence Day for the first time. The fear I felt when I saw the massive alien spaceship and the overwhelming sense of joy when the good guys won.
Question 2 – What made you realize you didn’t actually hate to write?
Ben’s Answer: At the ages of 15-17, I began dabbling in casual storytelling. I mentioned my love of movies and how they inspired me, but that’s a terribly difficult industry to break into. So I decided I might like to try writing novels instead.
I started by writing descriptive paragraphs for school, which helped me put together sentences that were interesting enough. Before long, I was writing my first fan-fiction novels inside the Star Wars universe. These are stories that will never see the light of day but I still remember them fondly and there are some moments even in those stories of which I’m proud.
At the beginning of the school year where I turned 16, my mom had noticed my new love of writing and decided to have me try a curriculum called One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN). I was skeptical at first because she had given me creative writing programs to work through before that I didn’t like. But this one was different. It very slowly and casually led me through the process of creating a true story with characters and subplots, twists and revelations. It held my hand in a good way and taught me how to properly make stories. It didn’t take long before I was spending hours in my room listening to music and plotting out my new fictional world of Aragath.
So that’s how I began writing a novel. It seemed easy at first. I would spend about an hour a day writing. Sometimes I would only produce a couple of paragraphs. Other times, I’d write several pages in one sitting. I wanted to finish my book and I think I always knew I would despite the long breaks I took from writing. It was during this time period that I realized I wanted to try making a career out of writing.
Question 3 – Was that all it took for you to actually become a writer? Going through the OYAN program?
Ben’s Answer: When I finished the last few chapters of my book and let my parents read them, it was so satisfying. I felt like I’d just taken the first step in what I hoped to do for the rest of my life. But I hadn’t. That would come when I started editing.
Editing is a tedious process. It’s not fun, and there’s little creativity involved. But at the same time, it’s part of the job. Going through rewrites prepared me for the grind of becoming a writer. I had to start spending much more than one hour a day to get anything done. I had to work during my free time. I briefly reconsidered how much I wanted to be a writer. But then I finished the editing process and self-published my first book, Chimera, on Amazon.
Holding a printed copy of my book, talking to people about it at my open house, and receiving good feedback even if it was from friends and family members. That’s what made all of the hard work worth it. This third stage involves the real work but it also provides the feeling of accomplishment when it’s all done.
When I ponder what made me go from hating writing to loving it, I don’t think anything changed tremendously. I’ve always disliked the act of writing something on paper. But I loved storytelling, so I had to force myself to work around it. The desire to tell stories was already there for me. And not everyone has that, which is okay.
That’s not to say that if your kid doesn’t like writing you should stop trying to help him overcome those feelings. If my mom had done that then I wouldn’t have a book on Amazon right now. But exploring different areas of writing was really what helped me.
6 Tips to Motivate a Child to Write
So, now you know how my son feels about the process he went through to go from hating writing to loving it. Everyone’s journey will be different, but here are 6 tips that should help you motivate your child to write:
1 – Use Narration Whenever Possible
If your young child balks when you ask him to write anything down, you will want to separate the act of writing from the rest of his schoolwork. Otherwise, he may get a false idea that he hates school or that he doesn’t want to learn. In the early grades, it’s easy to ask kids to solve problems while you write down the bulk of the answers for them. This helps to ensure that your child won’t be held back from learning in other ways while you continue to work on his handwriting.
Also, when our kids are struggling to write, it can make it difficult for them to think of anything else while they are focused on forming letters with their pencil. Allowing them to dictate answers to us frees up their brain to focus more efficiently on the other information you’re presenting to them. Some kids struggle with dysgraphia and some of them just need more practice or maturity to master the skill.
2 – Teach Kids How to Type as Soon as Possible
Another important tip for kids who struggle to write is to teach them to type as soon as possible. For some kids, this is all it takes to release them from the prison they feel like they’re in when asked to write something down with a pencil. My sons learned to type at a fairly young age. We tried several typing programs with them but the one which actually taught them how to become touch typists was Mavis Beacon. I’ve also heard good things about Typsey, although our family hasn’t tried that one personally.
3 – Expose Kids to Good Stories
It’s important to inspire our kids with great stories. They won’t know what’s possible unless they’re raised hearing great books, watching fantastic movies, and reading books aloud that capture their imaginations.
4 – Give Kids Purposeful or Exciting Writing Assignments
As Ben said, it isn’t very inspiring to ask a child to write the types of things we generally ask them to write about for their school lessons. Most boys aren’t going to be motivated to write about the last book they read, about what they did yesterday, or about a topic you ask them to research. But if you ask them to write a Sci-Fi story or a tale about the end of the world their imaginations will make them much more eager to comply.
Students can’t always write about something they WANT to write about. But when you have a child who is struggling with writing, giving them an assignment that will make them excited is an important first step.
5 – Try Different Writing Programs Until You Find One That Clicks
We have tried COUNTLESS different writing programs throughout our homeschooling years with mixed success. There are good programs out there so don’t give up. Keep trying different ones until you discover something that helps everything click for your unique child.
6 – Continue Trying Until Your Child is Mature Enough to Respond
To be fair, sometimes the difficulties I faced with teaching writing were more a reflection of the maturity of my sons and what they could handle at the time than of anything else. Our kids are all unique and some of them will take longer to be able to master certain concepts than others. Fortunately, from our experience, it seems that once an older child grasps something it will take him a lot less time to fully learn than for a younger child.
If your child is struggling with a certain aspect of writing, consider taking a short break with it and trying to teach it again in a few weeks or months. Or even years. That short break could mean all the difference between having a child who is overwhelmed or frustrated with having one who feels confident in his abilities.
Having a child who either struggles with writing or is completely unmotivated to write can be difficult. But just because your child thinks he hates writing at a certain age doesn’t mean he will always feel that way. With some patience, persistence, and a whole lot of effort on both of your parts, you may wake up one morning to discover that your child wants to become an author as well. You can do this!
There are plenty of homeschool moms who share their tips and advice on the internet. But sometimes it would be nice to hear the perspective of someone who has been homeschooled themselves. If you have any questions you’d like to ask a homeschool graduate, Ben has graciously offered to try to answer them for you. Either leave a comment or fill out the contact form on this site and we’ll see what he can do!