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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How can you help a child enter a children’s writing contest? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.
How can you help a child enter a children’s writing contest? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach.
I have a question from Shirin Shaikh, a writer based in Tampa, Florida. Here’s what she’s asked by email…
“My 2nd grader wants to compete in a writing competition. I was wondering if you might have some expert advice on how to get started. This is my first time doing something like this. I’m concerned that I might not approach it in an interesting way and the child may lose interest halfway through. I would hate to push her to finish. Any suggestions?”
Thanks for your question, Shirin. It’s always tough knowing where to draw the line between supporting kids, and demanding too much of them.
I’m a mother of three — they’re triplets, in fact, although they are now fully grown. And I know from experience that kids are hard-wired to behave in certain ways and to be interested in certain activities.
The first suggestion I’d make is to be really sure your daughter WANTS to enter this contest. Was it your idea or was it hers? If it wasn’t her idea, please tread very carefully.
You seem mindful about not wanting to “push” her, which is good, but also be sure that you’re not creating expectations that she’s going to feel obliged to live up to. While some children are very firm-minded, others are much more eager-to-please. If you have an eager-to-please one, I suggest that YOU be eager-to-back-off.
Your relationship with your daughter is much more important than any contest.
If you are certain that this contest is something she really wants to do, make sure you honour her interests. She should get to choose the subject matter and the focus.
Don’t ever mention the words ‘winning’ or ‘judging’ or ‘prizes.’ You don’t want her to associate writing — which should be fun, creative and interesting — with something that’s intense and competitive.
Focus instead on letting her create something. Most 7-year-olds love to draw and write as long as no adult starts imposing too many rules on them.
Now, it’s also true that some children are highly competitive and if your daughter falls into this category you might want to gently discourage any sense of working for a prize.
As a parent, hold yourself back from making corrections or even offering suggestions. This project should belong 100% to your child, not to you.
Learning how to write and getting some pleasure from the exercise is far more important and valuable than any prize.
Finally, let me wrap up with the words of American writer Joel Salatin: “I won every essay contest I ever entered.”
Shirin, I offer the quote from Joel Salatin because I want to emphasize how ugly it is to see people focus on contests and prizes as though they have any meaning. The best thing you can do for your daughter is help her develop a lifelong love of reading and writing.
And, if you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.