How to correct writing lessons without criticizing your child

by | Nov 15, 2021 | Editing & Revising, Reluctant or Struggling Writers

Problem: Kids and teens often feel criticized when their parents evaluate, correct, or grade their writing.

Solution: Use editing and grading tools that encourage you to objectively correct the writing without criticizing your child.


When it comes to chores, character training, and schoolwork, you can’t always be the nice guy, the friend. Nope. You’ve got to be the parent. That means it falls to you to judge and correct your kids’ work—including writing assignments. But if you don’t do it with wisdom and purpose, you can unwittingly set them up for another stumbling block to writing success.

Worry about criticism from Mom or Dad is a huge issue for children. Knowing their paper isn’t perfect, they brace themselves for disapproval and harsh judgment. You might not react this way at all! But since kids see their writing as an extension of themselves, they project their fears on you.

Our children’s reaction to feedback can be summed up like this: If you criticize my writing, you criticize me.

Many kids feel personally affronted to see marks on their formerly unspoiled pages, It’s a dilemma for sure! But despite your child’s hypersensitivity, you still have to evaluate, edit, and grade.

What’s the solution?

Correct the Writing without Criticizing the Writer

An equipped parent is a confident parent!

Nothing makes the editing and grading chore easier and more pleasant than objective tools that equip you for the task. Your kids can sense your confidence. They know you’ll be consistent, and they won’t worry that you’ll be capricious or unpredictable with your remarks and suggestions. This kind of objectivity and consistency builds a lot of trust.

It’s as simple as using a good editing checklist that pinpoints particular things you can watch for in each paper. Now your students can see that your comments are not based on whim or mood, but on specific lesson expectations they accomplished—or failed to meet.

As you review the writing assignment, this impartial checklist lets you comment in a way that helps your child feel less criticized. Ultimately, when editing and grading become consistent and purposeful rather than arbitrary or illogical, you’ll see a big change in your kids’ attitude—and yours!

RELATED >> Check out Editing Tips for the Faint of Heart for specific ideas

How to correct your child's writing assignments without criticizing your child

Sincere Praise Helps Kids Accept Writing Feedback

Correcting without criticizing means first noticing your child’s writing efforts. Only then should you make gentle suggestions, along with generous servings of helpful comments and kudos. In this way, you’ll encourage improved writing without bruising that sensitive spirit.

When you give a final grade, laud your child with genuine praise. Again, make a point of identifying things done well and correctly, such as writing an interesting topic sentence or using a powerful action verb. And remember: if you use an objective grading rubric, you’ll know what these things are!

RELATED >> Editing Your Child’s Writing: Speak the Truth in Love

Is parent criticism a stumbling block for your children? What objections do you face when you edit or grade their writing assignments? 

WriteShop writing curriculum has tools that help you correct without criticizing

Checklists build confidence by ensuring that you only hold your kids responsible for the writing skills they’ve learned. Are you looking for a homeschool writing curriculum that provides you with specific editing and grading rubrics so you can correct their work without criticizing? If so, you’ll appreciate WriteShop Junior for grades 4-7 and WriteShop I and II for teens.

8 Comments

  1. Kim

    Wow, Tammy! Thanks for taking the time to share that. You made my day!

    Reply
  2. Tammy

    I don’t have any words of wisdom or questions. I want to thank you for making the grading part of Writeshop easy. Your checklists and evaluation form are wonderful. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  3. Kim

    Good suggestions, Diane! Homeschooling does give the advantage of one-on-one time to discuss a composition together. And asking questions is one of the best tools a parent can use to draw fresh ideas from your kiddos. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Diane Allen

    I look at my job as one of support. I have found it difficult to act in that role without picking out all the faults and flaws, though. The toughest part is not to correct the wording so much when I feel it is awkward. Once I get started making suggestions, the next thing I know I’ve written the sentence and most of the paragraph. A good check list is a must to keep me in line as the parent/editor. I stop myself on style issues by underlining a sentence and asking my student for suggestions about how to improve it.

    I also sometimes ask a friend to grade our papers — it is just easier if she offers the suggestions!

    Reply
  5. Isabelle aka Canadianladybug

    It’s easy to go directly to the spelling and other errors. We definitely need to uplift the child before pointing the errors. Recently someone told me that when the kids write something at school, the teacher do not look for spelling errors anymore. I have mix feeling about it because I also discovered that colleges in Quebec have to put the young adults through some writing courses to teach them the grammar that they should have learned in primary school. Young adults these days don’t know how to write properly unfortunately… Which makes me want even more to teach my kids how to spell and write. You never know what job they will have in the future and this skill might come in handy.

    Reply
    • Kim

      Good thoughts, Isabelle. Writing includes three main elements: content, style, and mechanics. The content, of course, is the heart of the composition—the story, main message, or thesis. Style is the way the writer communicates the content through word choice, sentence variation, etc. Mechanics includes all those tricky little rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling that govern how the words actually appear on paper.

      Just as we correctly—or incorrectly—judge a person’s character based on outward appearance, it’s easy to judge a piece of writing by the mechanical errors we see. We don’t mean for them to interfere with our enjoyment of the content, but typically, they do.

      So the whole editing thing is like walking a tightrope, isn’t it? We don’t want to discourage our children from spilling their ideas onto paper, for the freedom of doing so sparks in them a love for writing. But for fear of dousing that fire, some of us sway too far to the left and never utter a word about grammar or spelling.

      And tipping too far to the right are the parents who are so caught up in the glare of dangling participles and grave misspellings that we run amok with our red pens—and completely miss the heart of the child’s writing.

      The trick to finding the balance is remaining as objective as possible and cushioning our suggestions with praise. We really can address content, style, and mechanics without throwing our tenderhearted kiddos to the lions!

      Reply
  6. Kim

    Jimmie, I love what you’re saying. We don’t want to miss the forest because we’re looking at trees. We mustn’t overlook the heart of the composition, and that’s easy to do when a bunch of mechanical errors are clamoring for our attention. So “praise for the prose” is terribly important.

    However, I also feel strongly that spelling and grammatical errors need to be identified and addressed, as that’s part of the polishing process. We parents just have to be mindful of how we do so! Speak the Truth in Love.

    Reply
  7. Jimmie

    Absolutely! When I read my daughter’s draft, I try really hard not to mention spelling or punctuation errors (any grammar or mechanics, really). I focus on her ideas, word choices, and organization. And I PRAISE her for those elements that shine. This step is vital! She has just worked hard on pumping out that prose. How can I nit pick on spelling errors (however obvious they may be) and miss the entire point of what she’s trying to SAY? How rude it would be to do so.

    Reply

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