By Daniella Dautrich
As a mom, you step into the role of teacher every moment of every day. Your toddlers and teens alike look to you for guidance and approval as they navigate a complex world of social interactions, household responsibilities, and time management.
Whether we’re talking chores or schoolwork, clear expectations from you make all the difference in your kids’ learning experience. If they don’t understand what you want from them, confusion quickly turns to frustration or discouragement.
When it comes to teaching writing, you’ll feel prepared and confident if you avoid these two common pitfalls!
The Insecure Parent Gives “A” for Effort
If you find it stressful to teach and grade writing because you’re insecure and feel inadequate to the task, your natural response may be to require too little from your kids. For example, you might only ask for 15 minutes of journaling each week or assign a book report here and there just to say, “Hey, we did writing!”
If writing is a bit hit-and-miss at your house, so is grading. Sometimes you comment on your kids’ papers, and sometimes you don’t. You’re an encourager at heart and want to praise any of their efforts. You freely give checkmarks, smiley faces, and passing grades. It’s possible their writing and grammar mistakes continue to multiply simply because giving realistic feedback is hard for you.
The problem isn’t your fun-loving, soft-hearted spirit! Insecurity about teaching writing creates low expectations and inconsistency. This makes for a haphazard teaching style that not only creates a stumbling block for overwhelmed kids, but it quenches their confidence as well.
The Unrealistic Parent Gives “A” for Perfection
The pendulum can swing the other way too!
If you have a background in English, love to write or blog, or consider yourself a grammar geek, you may have especially high standards for your children. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—but it can become a problem if you don’t set boundaries or communicate your expectations.
High standards are important—we all want our kids to do their best and strive for excellence. At the same time, we need to account for their age, small-motor development, writing experience, attention span, spelling and grammar skills, etc.
Make sure your standards are realistic and your expectations clear so you don’t turn them off to writing. Give your children achievable goals so they know what to aim for. And if the way you’re approaching writing isn’t going well for your child, trust your instincts and be willing to reevaluate not just your methods, but your expectations.
The Write Solution
Giving clear writing expectations will help you raise better writers and reduce stress during writing sessions. That’s why I’m such a fan of teaching writing skills the WriteShop way. Red-pencil corrections such as “too vague” may leave your child scratching his head and wondering what he did wrong. Instead, before he first begins to write, make tasks concrete and give him measurable targets such as:
- Write one 5- to 7-sentence paragraph.
- Include emotion words to add a stronger voice.
- Choose vivid, exciting words instead of dull, vague words.
Now, instead of marking your children’s writing as “too vague” or “too short,” you can instruct, guide, and correct with greater confidence. As you and your children practice communicating specific ideas, requests, and concerns, the clear expectations might just overflow into the rest of your home life as well.
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband are the parents of two little girls. They fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science.