Supporting Your Child Writer
There is not a week I do not get a submission to our publishing company without a reference to being a child writer. Most say "I started writing when I was seven years old." That's average.
Most writers report trying novels in their nine to twelve year old time frame. Either shock or surprise me, having both been a child writer and also having done a research project on child writers.
Simply put, if the child is the father of the man, wrote Ben Johnston, then why would not a writer start as a child?
The question is whether or not your child is developing the writing bug. Some people learn to write and be good writers but then there is this group of child writers that we fail to recognize as prodigies. If it was music or art, then right away tongues would be wagging around town about this special child. With writers though, it appears to be recognized as a curse, nothing special and sometimes special but with reservation.
The reasons for this are two fold. Much like a parent who can not control what music their child is listening to on their IPOD, then the same fear is prevalent in the child-parent relationship. We want to make all sorts of decisions for our children, should not we make the same about their writing? Should not we be in charge of this? So in the first instance, we look at it as a loss of control when our child turns into a writer. And that is true. Much like a child that beats to a different drummer, we can not hear the drummer at all alongside our child.
The second reason is that writers when they grow up and pursue publication, they spend years on the invisible sideline, sending off mail to strangers. Nobody comes up to them on a street corner like they would with an artist and buy one of their masterpieces. If you're published, you're in the writing club. If you're not, well then, let's just not talk about you until you earn your stripes. In essence, writing does not seem to have any entry level job before publication. How can writing be a good job? The same fear a parent has for an unemployable child comes into play.
So let's start with the fear. You should be proud of your child for listening to what makes them different. Absolutely. No question. Much like a birthmark, this child has a mark. It is out of your control. Let it go.
As for the second instance, the most successful writers do not usually give up their day jobs until they are established writers. So do not worry about them starving. Your job as a parent is to give them a dose of reality that they need a job or career choice in the future. Let them know they can write on the side or adopt a job that has writing.
As for the mistrust with their 'powers' as a writer, imagine it like this. Surgeons and doctors look at people and can just see all sorts of things about them with a trained eye for observation. The writer is the same. They are going to see the same thing as you but with a different interpretation.
Once you let go of the fear about your child being a writer, you will be happier and so will your child. Most child writers will go underground if you are not open and honest. For example, if you make it a big deal that they write, chances are they are going to find a place where you are not and write there. If you seek to control it, they will go underground away from you and possibly show their stories to teachers and other people, not you. If you push them, they will not want to be pushed and will push back.
Here are some of the advantages to having a child writer:
a. a fresh perspective, a sharp pair of eyes watching and listening to everyone
My youngest son started talking when he was three months old. He was talking to me often, saying a few words for about a month. Well, my husband made me out to be a lunatic of course. But the eldest son, the one that is a child writer, he heard as well because his eyes and ears are always open. It was not for him, I think I would have thought I was wacky, in need of a straight jacket. A fresh set of eyes and ears never hurts anyone.
b. great listing of events of interest
Think of the hours of entertainment as your child writer stretches out a boring, boring recount of a day.
c. amazing works of art freely given
Imagine getting a piece of work nobody else will get to see. Treasure it. In and of itself, it is a masterpiece.
d. intrinsic motivation
This means the child writer does not perform for marks but for the reason of wanting to create. This skill can beaught but is already inherent in the child writer.
There will always be odd remarks and laughter from a child writer. They are just simply out of step with boundaries that other people have naturally.
One of my parents favorite moments with me is the story that makes them throw back their heads and laugh even today. I was two and decided that smoking was disgusting. I took all my grandma's cigarettes and broke each one evenly before throwing them into the toilet. When they asked me about it after getting screamed at a course by grandma, I told them that grandma needed to stop. That's it. Just stop. Nothing more.
f. they get there faster
Because of the odd fish out of water routine, child writers develop a maturity in their work and in their life that peer pressure can not even shake.
g. a real bubble of imaginary world cushions them
In all my years at school, I must have show about five or six people my work. Years later, I met a man who had been in my elementary class every year. My mouth fell open when he asked me how my writing was going. "You knew I wrote?" I asked. "Of course," he said. "You always wrote."
The world does not seem so harsh with an imagination and a piece of paper.
So if your child has the writing bug, here are some things to do.
1. Take them shopping for notebooks just because you think they might need one or two.
All writers need notebooks and paper. Remember the more colorful and interesting the cover, the more inspired the child writer can be.
2. Give them a box to put all their notebooks in.
Let them know that this is their box and not yours. Tell other children that reading anything in their is punishable by a week of grounding. Do not hesitate to buy more boxes as needed. This prevails children from going through their work to lighten their load.
3. Only read when asked. Never read over their shoulders.
There is nothing worse than someone taking snatches of your writing out of context. For that reason, stay away until invited. An invitation to read a budding writer's work is worth a million snatches of words.
4. Take them to author events and buy them books from these real life authors.
The key here is to buy the books. If the child just goes to see the author, it will not last as an inspiration. Get the writer to sign something special.
5. Never push your child away with thoughtless comments or critiques of their work. Just do not do it and also do not correct grammar and punctuation. They expect that from their teachers, not from their parents.
6. Buy writing books for children and leave them on the bookshelf.
The key here is to be shy about your support of your writer. It's not broadcast news. It's hidden parent pride and children can feel that.
Much is made about the first six years of a child's life. I've looked into this in detail. Most people can not remember their first six years of life in particular but if you ask a happy child about their early life, they smile and laugh. The sliver of memory they hold is emotional and that's why it is important. So they will feel parental pride, not to worry.
7. Read to child writers. Always give them more to aspire to so they keep going.
8. Share your observations about people with your child writer.
My dad did this with me. He told me once that a man walks on the outside of a woman like the old days if she's taken. He pointed out one couple after another like this and those that would not last. I know it looks silly that such a thing is a memory for me but honestly, it pointed me in the right direction to watch human interaction.
9. Watch old movies together.
This encourages your child writer to give up his or her work and spend some time with you. Do the same thing. Point out observations as you go through.
10. Respect your child writer.
There is nothing better than respect. Here's how it works. Say you are an Rocket Scientist. You have your thing and your child has his or her her thing. Yours involves rockets. His or her involves words. You can not compare. To do so is to act without respect. So keep that in mind and negotiate the potential land mines by simply ignoring them. He does this and I do that. It's a match.
11. Realize that your child writer needs you just as much as your child that is not a child writer. Closeness builds self-esteem.
If you've taken the time to read this article in full, you're probably a great parent anyway. Do not forget to use that same sensitivity with your child writer.
Source by Robyn Whyte