Have you discovered how hard it is to show love to our kids when we’re not feeling especially charitable? It takes a lot of self-control to keep a calm and gentle spirit when the toilet is overflowing, your son locks his sister out of the house, or the school day has gone south in the blink of an eye.
Take writing. If you’ve been working carefully on grammar, story organization, and descriptive details, it can be frustrating as all get-out to edit a paper that’s riddled with errors. How easy it is to whip out that red pen and begin circling and crossing out with a vengeance!
Truth be told, most of us don’t feel very loving when we’re having a staredown with misspelled words, poor punctuation, and disorganized reports. So how can we put a positive spin on editing and grading when we’re feeling peevish?
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some heartfelt tips for how to love your kids’ writing, especially when you’d rather wad it into a ball and toss it across the room.
Show Love with Words!
Frustration over seeing the same old mistakes can keep our emotions at a slow boil. The poisoned words: “How many times do I have to tell you…” erupt from our lips before we can call them back—and by then, the damage is done.
It’s easy for me to tell you to start by looking for the positive. But I’ll be the first to admit how hard that can be.
We see: His barely legible sentences
We miss: The strong verb he chose
We see: Misplaced apostrophes and wild erasures
We miss: That meaningful idea or correctly spelled word
No matter how bad the writing, no matter how many errors, there’s always something to praise. We only have to look for it—even if it’s hidden between the lines.
Don’t use comments as an opportunity to vent your frustration at your child. Always evaluate the writing with grace and kindness so your suggestions are more readily accepted.
It’s easy (though unhelpful) to say “good job.” Instead, write a note on the paper that says, “I love how you used the word ‘splash’ here. What a strong verb!” Or, “I’m proud of you for remembering to indent this sentence.”
Keep a collection of comments on hand that are both constructive and positive, and refer to them when your own well runs dry.
Show Love with Colors!
When correcting a paper, it’s so easy to zero in on mistakes, isn’t it? Instead, show love by looking for things your kids did well!
Try a bright highlighter pen to circle a challenging word your child spelled correctly.
Ditch the Red
The color red often goes hand in hand with anger. Some children have a negative association with red pen marks. Even if the same pen has been used to write positive comments, they still believe they’ve been graded harshly.
This isn’t to say you should never use a red pen, but add variety from time to time by also using pens of different colors, such as purple, green, or hot pink.
Mix It Up
Try using one color to circle spelling errors, another to circle punctuation errors, and a third color to identify weak or repeated words.
Use Proofreading Marks
Instead of making big red Xs or circling certain errors, use simple, consistent markings when reviewing a paper.
Introduce your children (even your younger ones) to basic proofreading marks, choosing different colored pencils or pens to add an element of fun. [This chart is one of the handy printables found in WriteShop Junior Book E and Book F.]
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Show Love with Sticky Things!
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Affirm with Smiley Faces
Young children love stickers, but sometimes, older kids like them too! If stickers appeal to your child, use them to brighten a paper and make her feel good about her writing.
Stickers are just another way to point out good work. When you notice a great word choice on your child’s paper, put a small smiley-face sticker above it. Later, when she looks at the corrected paper and sees three or four of these cheerful stickers peeking up at her, she knows right away that you noticed her efforts.
Point in the Right Direction
Arrow stickers are another great way to draw positive attention. Write a short message on the arrow, such as “WOW word!” or “Very descriptive!” and point that arrow toward its target. Bright semi-transparent arrow stickers are fun too.
Say It with Sticky Notes
There’s always room for improvement, but some children are extra sensitive about having you write on their paper. You can lovingly make both comments and suggestions by using small sticky notes along the margins of the paper. Your child can remove them or keep them in place.
Try: “Let’s add one more descriptive detail here.” Or, “I like your title. It gives me a good clue about your story.” Or, “Hint: A punctuation mark goes here.”
These are just a few ways to express love to your children, even when you need to correct their work. How do you encourage your kids’ writing?
Photos: Marin (boy writing), Loren Kerns (hug), Elle* (pencils), courtesy of Creative Commons
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