How Can I Help My Son Write More Neatly?
By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator
My son is very smart. He is reading at a third-grade level and very good in all other subjects, but his penmanship is poor. He puts no effort into it. It's always very sloppy, and I know he can do better. How do I motivate him to write better?
Handwriting can be a challenge for students, particularly boys. Motor skills develop at different stages and some students are never neat writers, despite all of their efforts. In the age of computers, this is less of a problem. Yet, we still want your son to learn proper letter formation and to be able to write legibly when need be. Here are a few tips to try:
- Get him a pencil grip to use to hold his pencil. The triangular kind work well and sometimes enable better fine-motor control.
- Let him write on three-lined primary paper. Primary paper available for beginning writers is very large lined and will feel juvenile to him, but you can also find smaller-lined primary paper that will help guide his placement of letters.
- Try different pencils - mechanical with different weights of graphite. Sometimes writing appears sloppy because of all the smudging, erasures and pencil-breaking.
- Allow him to do math on graph paper. Have him write one number in each box to keep it aligned and legible.
Finally, try the reward system to motivate him. Be sure to comment when you see neat work and offer incentives for legible writing. Small positive rewards work beautifully: computer time after school, a quick stop at the park to play or bedtime pushed back 15 minutes. Involve your son in choosing the reward for putting effort into his writing so that he wants to improve. Writing can certainly be cumbersome for some, so it is important to be supportive and encouraging to help him succeed.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.