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Recently my child(3.5 Years old) has joined a pre-school class. A couple of months passed and he participated in all types of activities and events. He has also learned oral words. Sometimes feel he uncomfortable in writing at school and at home. If we force them or try to help it, he will write only few words and then stop writing.

As few days ago, when his teacher started a session where there is a written work (like letter writing, number etc.), my child started crying. Now he cries to not go to school.

His teacher says if this type of behavior continues, his language base will be weak and create problems for him in upcoming years. When at home, if I talk with him about it, he starts crying.

How can I relieve my child's phobia for written activities?

  • 3
    See also parenting.stackexchange.com/q/33474/9327. It matters why your child doesn't like to write. Then you can deal with it on his level in a meaningful way. Also, rewards help. – anongoodnurse Nov 18 at 15:48
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    You don't say how old your son is (as pre-school is very variable) but my son didn't want to read or write until he was 7-8 years old. He is doing wonderfully now he is 13 and in the top streams at school. – WendyG Nov 19 at 11:06
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    Isn't 3.5 years old too young to formally learn writing? ("formally" meaning in school, with pressure, not leisurely) – Pablo H Nov 19 at 13:32
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    Gourav Joshi, As example is a great model, does your child see you write? – chux - Reinstate Monica Nov 20 at 3:36
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    A 3.5 year old barely has dexterity to hold a pencil. The idea that a child at this age should be writing and not playing seems fairly crazy to my European perspective. Where are you located? – Davor Nov 21 at 11:33

12 Answers 12

55

First, please know that I agree 100% with @David Hedlund's answer in its entirety. I just want to address one particular point that needs to be stressed.

His teacher says if this type of behavior continues, his language base will be weak and create problems for him in upcoming years.

Language skills aren't weak because a preschooler can't/won't write their letters. I would question (seriously) how that teacher came to that conclusion. Having said that, I would, as David suggests, have a conversation with the teacher as tactfully as possible about backing off from forcing the activity at preschool. Preschool should be a fun socializing opportunity, not a stress-inducing hurdle in life to overcome.

Read to him about things he loves, about funny things, about animals and insects, etc. Reading (or listening) and vocabulary acquisition/comprehension are the basis for language skills. Babies learn language skills before learning the alphabet.

If you want to encourage letter writing (after a period of backing off), make it fun. There are some suggestions in the link under your post. Making learning and doing a positive influence are far more likely to help him in the coming years than forcing him to do something that makes him cry.

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    "Problems in upcoming years". The OP doesn't say how old their child is, but children in Bavaria often don't go to pre-school (Bavaria is very conservative and many mothers are stay-at-home), and they don't start school until six (it used to be seven). Bavarians, as a class, don't have weak language skills. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Nov 19 at 6:53
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    exactly so all the authors in the time of oral storytelling had weak language skills because they couldn't write!!!! – WendyG Nov 19 at 11:04
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    This. If only i could award +2 for both points: the 'weak language base' argument (at this age) is nonsense and also try to make reading and pre-school fun again. – Ivana Nov 19 at 13:33
  • I just wanted to throw a hissy fit over what the teacher said, but I give you an upvote instead – Wilson Nov 19 at 14:15
  • @MartinBonnersupportsMonica But the question states the child has just started nursery/pre-school (edits) so we can assume the child isn't 6 yet. – EpicKip Nov 21 at 11:25
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Your child is apparently distressed by writing tasks. We don't know why just now, so I would back away from writing for now, to alleviate tensions surrounding that activity at this point, and I think you should ask your teacher to help you in that regard.

You are not likely to see much progress in writing as long as your child has an aversion to it, and while it's a natural reaction to parents to try and lean in and put more attention where support appears to be needed, I'm getting the impression that this is just putting pressure on your child that he is not able to handle at this point, and the increased focus on writing tasks has understandably spilled over in an aversion towards going to school at all.

Next time your child is crying over this, try to go along with and validate his feelings. He is entitled to them. Let him know he is heard and that he is safe, and put aside trying to fix the problem. As long as writing feels threatening, I don't think your child will be able to get through this. For further reading to that end, the technique is called staylistening.

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    ask the teacher for help? The same one who said "if this type of behavior continues, his language base will be weak and create problems for him in upcoming years"? – Wilson Nov 19 at 14:16
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    @Wilson: As in, ask the teacher to comply with your chosen route forward, not ask for input on how to proceed. This teacher has access to the child for a significant portion of the day, and seems to have made a point out of stressing this. I'm saying the parent should make an effort not to focus on the writing at the moment, but what's in the parent's immediate control is only half the picture here, at best. We also need to get the teacher on board, or the child will still be distressed. – David Hedlund Nov 19 at 14:34
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If your child is 3.5, this is a bit young to learn to write. You could look at the Montessori way of learning how to write. They first do a lot of hand exercise (fine motor skills). Then they use their finger and touch sand paper letters. Then they write with their finger on sand. They do a lot of drawing, drawing inside the lines. And only after doing a lot of those do they start writing letters. Also, they should be able to recognize letters and know their sounds before writing.

I would also suggest you write a lot at home (grocery list, ect…) and show how useful it is to write. Kids like it a lot when they see something as useful.

  • +1.kids love to mimic adults/parents. Just let them see you writing and they will try to do the same – jean Nov 20 at 13:17
  • Yeah, well, it's 2019 and people who want to be even remotely efficient write grocery lists on their phones. Handwriting simply isn't that relevant of a skill anymore. – Davor Nov 21 at 11:36
  • @Davor Generally I still scribble shopping lists on paper even though the phone is theoretically better. Can't speak for my handwriting though, it's something of a scrawl. – Ruadhan2300 Nov 21 at 12:04
  • Start a Bullet Journal - that's a great way to practice writing in a meaningful way. I found eraseable pens in many colors, so I can slow down to improve legibility/usability. – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Nov 21 at 14:01
  • @Davor that is true, but at home we changed our behaviors to help the kids learn basic skills (for example, but dishes in an awkward place for adult but very handy for kids). For us, writing is important. – the_lotus Nov 21 at 14:02
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If the teacher is saying, as a statement of fact, that your child's language skills will suffer due to problems learning at this age, then the teacher is flat wrong. More than that, I would be deeply suspicious of their teaching methods. It's not impossible that the teacher is the problem here, and your child's reaction is due to the teacher's attitude towards them. If this is the case, it's even more important to work out what the problem is.

Hand-eye coordination and other motor control skills don't always arrive on time. More practise at things like drawing which stimulate those skills might help. See for example this link about pre-writing skills. If your child is getting frustrated about not being able to control the pencil, and especially if criticism from the teacher is making them feel bad about the whole thing, then the teacher needs to change their expectations and build up the basics a bit more.

Language comprehension and use is another part of this. Have you started correcting their inevitable misuse of grammar so that the child picks up how to get past "baby speech"? When they're capable of following and expressing more complex concepts in time, positions of things, and what they want to do, then they're definitely able to use "proper" language to describe them. They should be used to you helping them to use that language. If they aren't, this could be a cause of frustration for them and for the teacher. You may need to step up on this, but the teacher also needs to back off whilst your child builds their skills. This link describes those kind of prerequisites to writing in a bit more detail.

But a further issue could simply be that the child is afraid of the teacher and this is affecting his behaviour. I would hope the teacher hasn't shouted at him, or told him off for failing to write well enough, or anything like that - but it's possible.

This isn't an easy place to be. You do need to be talking gently to him about why he's crying though. As usual for children, suggesting what it could be and asking "is that it?" can be helpful, and then showing that it's not something which worries you and it's something you can all fix. If it does come out that the teacher is what scares him, then this link has some strategies for how to work with that. As the link says, the teacher is unlikely to be doing this deliberately, so it's similarly a matter of working it out together respectfully. Your question does make me concerned though, because it doesn't sound from that like the teacher is respecting your child. Whether that's the case, or whether that's just how it sounds from you shortening the whole episode to ask the question, only you can answer.

  • Unfortunately, given the OP's name, she's in India, which means this aggressive style of teaching is all too likely. The problem is that no matter what the parent does she cannot realistically change schools at this point and so this pressure to write is likely to continue, which would become a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of future language skills. – naiveai Nov 21 at 17:29
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    @naiveai The OPhas the best answers we can collectively think of. After that, it's up to them. We can't solve wider problems of bad teaching or lack of choice - the best we can do is give options. The big lesson I hope the OP picks up is that their child is not a problem or a failure, and the easiest way to stop their child's "phobia" is for them and the teacher to stop pushing. If they can't change preschool, the best answer may be just to stop sending their child there. – Graham Nov 22 at 22:09
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Don't push it at this time, at 3.5 your child is way too young, and pushing it will probably make things worse.

Do, however, keep your eyes open for the possibility of a specific learning disability regarding writing, or visual-motor integration challenges.

We were in a similar situation, but now at 11 years old the kid communicates verbally at the level of a 20-year-old. He has a diagnosed learning disability (not dyslexia or disgraphia) that results in printing (and drawing) being very difficult, it looks more like one would expect of a 5 year old! Not surprisingly, there is an "avoidance of written work" problem; however if the teacher is aware of the reasons then things will go better.

Good luck!

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One thing not covered in the other answers an eye test. My son showed very little interest in reading/writing/drawing when he was in nursery. He got an eye test at 4 years old (it's standard here) and it turns out he requires a very strong prescription. He's long sighted (so had never seen things in focus close up so he didn't hold things closer to his eyes to try to see them). It turns out he's actually a very good reader and enjoys writing his own stories. No lasting damage from not writing (or even drawing much) at age 3.

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When we learn new things, we very rarely do them right the very first time. Your child is now at an age where he can understand when he does something like writing correctly and when not. It is possible he is unhappy because the outcome is not what he would want it to be, and he has to do two things at once:

  • Learn to handle disappointment
  • Learn to write

Neither are easy for a child that young and require a lot of patience and practice. I think this may be what is going on. Anongoodnurse has a good answer how to handle the situation.

  • No need to link to my answer; your answer stands very well on it's own, so +1 from me. I love the insight that doing two things - two life skills - at once can be overwhelming for a child this age (I still find it a challenge!) – anongoodnurse Nov 19 at 16:29
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  • Ensure that the the child doesn't feel pain in the hand while writing. When we press too hard or hold the pencil too hard, we feel pain in the fingers and palm.

  • Get her a smooth pencil to write with. I am talking about a 4B drawing pencil. This "glides" on paper. So, there is least pressure that you have to put to write something.

  • Write with her. Children like to copy adults. Write one sentence yourself and the let her write one. Write about something that she likes to talk about. Copying is boring. Tell her to write what she likes to talk about.

  • Do NOT force her. Start by writing just two sentences and then let her go to play. Gradually increase the number. Your aim should be to develop her interest in writing rather than following the rules because they are necessary. For a child only playing and food are necessary.

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When i was a child, around 5-6, i had issues holding a pencil as it caused severe pain in my hand, which led to many issues i still have yet to fully address. though i can use a computer just fine, writing, was a serious problem for me in school. (i think i had/have juvenile arthritis)

try having them use the computer, with assistance, and see if the aversion is still present, if not have them see a doctor, as this could affect the entirety of their life.

(also, try to ensure that the teacher understands, that preschool is meant to introduce children to the idea of socializing, cementing a "fun" reason for the child to go to school (friends) to off set the fact that it is effectively the worst part of their childhood, given most of the day they just run around making helicopter noises. :p)

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As a child I was very adverse to writing, and specifically writing "neatly", up until about the age of 10, as a result of my Autism and Dyspraxia. Eventually the school stopped attempting to force me to write things and gave me a Laptop, which turned out to be a fairly good fit for me. Eventually my handwriting fell in to place during secondary/high school. Being forced to write was one of the big reasons why I hated going to school back then so I would very much reccomend against it.

So, I would reccomend giving your child the opportunity to type in the place of writing, if at all possible, and on top of that I would reccomend consulting a doctor or psychiatrist to find out if your child has any learning disabilities related to writing, communication, etc, so that if they do, they can get the support they need.

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How can I convince my child to write?
How can I relieve my child's phobia for written activities?

An example is a great model. Show that you write and that it is fun.

Try writing with your other hand and you might experience the same challenges as the child. Learn together.

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Talk with the teachers of the primary school (or whatever it is called where you are, the school kids go to when they are 5, 6 or 7) and ask whether they think it a good plan for your kid to learn to write before they come to their school.

I have heard many times that primary schools do not want children to already write as they do not learn the letters the right way, the advantage of already writing is very small, children who learn at 7 are not behind and often advanced over earlier learners when they are 8 because they learn it the right way and do not have to relearn in a different method.

I am with all the answers where they wonder if the pre-school or the teacher there is good.

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