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The Joy of Boy Writers: Helping the Reluctant Writer Part 2

Welcome back to this reluctant writer series ! To catch things up, I suggested in the last post that you drop writing in order to help your reluctant writer.

Boy hates writing + less writing = more writing.

That’s what they’re calling new math these days. As you can see, I’m amazing at it.

Seriously, people. You can’t heal a damaged writer by doing more damage through coercion and demands. But you will begin to heal a damaged writer by understanding their perspective. So how does a homeschool parent go about doing that?

Validated their experience and feelings around writing.

No more convincing your child why they should like writing or why it’s necessary and important. No more lectures about that. They can’t hear you anyway. Not right now. Give them space to feel what they feel about writing.

One thing I found incredibly helpful was taking my son’s narratives about writing. When the time is right (and brownies help make the time right), gently ask some questions that will probe below the surface of their writing life, the type of questions depending on the age of your child, of course. Some questions could look like this…

“It sounds like you really don’t like writing? Does it feel hard? What’s hard about it? When did it start feeling hard? What do you hate about it?

“What do you most remember about writing?” or “When you realize you need to write something, what do you tell yourself?

“If you could say ANYTHING in the world about writing, tell someone how you truly feel without getting into any trouble, what would you say about writing?” 

Have a sincere and honest conversation with your child about their writing life. Ask them if you can take notes. Recording their narrative will help give you insights and, if nothing else, tips for what to not do with them around writing.

Make it safe for boys to take writing risks with you

Is it safe for them to take writing risks in your homeschool? If they write about poop and farts? Violence? Or your teen son takes a political position that is 100% against your personal/family beliefs, say about abortion or gun rights? How do you handle that?

Let me tell you, when my son took up an opposite social position in a paper, I DID NOT HANDLE IT WELL. Yes, it was ALL CAPS BAD. I screwed up both as his writing coach and mom. And yet we still have a good relationship, and my son is still making strides with his writing.

Here’s what I did: I owned my mistake, apologized and made amends. I invested in learning to do better than before.

It’s not that we have to do this thing perfectly. Hell no. But we do need to be mindful of our reactions, admit when we screw up and course correct when we do.

Perhaps we can’t help but pass judgment on the topics our kids select for writing, but we can help how we act on that judgment. Learn to suspend your judgment and let boys show up as the person they are in this moment of time.* That’s the first step. The next is enjoying the person who shows up on the page. But if you’re struggling with their topic selection, start with suspending judgment. That’s fine! And it’s how we learn – one step at a time. 

Let’s sum up a few key ideas for creating a safe environment for boy writers.

  • Appreciate them as individuals. Their ideas are unique and valuable.
  • Invest in being their writing coach. Give yourself tools to help them. Read, learn, and keep trying until you find the mark.
  • Convey to your son that your help and support doesn’t end just because they’re now 10, or in middle school or high school. Let them know over and over that you will continue to be there as they grow into new skills, that your relationship with them will continue.

While this phase is taking place, find other ways to explore writing that doesn’t mean pencil to paper. Play word games. Read and examine other people’s writing instead of their own. Search for creative ways that involve language and writing but doesn’t require physical writing. The goal here is to reopen the door to the wonder of language.

Heather

*Who they are will change with time. But also don’t disregard writing that is truly disturbing, such as signs of depression, suicidal thoughts, or other serious issues.

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