Have you ever heard of a child, perhaps even your child described as being a 'lazy child' when it comes to writing?
This is a common phrase used to describe a child that may not be performing as well as expected within their handwriting.
However, I believe that the phrase 'lazy child' is a misconception. There really is no such thing as a lazy child, it is more a case that we haven’t found the perfect way to capture that particular child’s imagination yet. This article looks at some of the reasons why a child may be showing messy handwriting, which could lead them to be labeled incorrectly as a lazy child.
Fear of being different
Children often develop an awareness of being different to their friends around the age of 6 or 7. Even noticing things such as their writing being different. This self-awareness can have a negative impact on their desire to write. Often leading to them avoiding writing in general, or completing any writing tasks really quickly, all to mask their “different” handwriting.
By doing this, the teacher will not see their true capabilities. Rather than being a reflection of a lazy child, this shows intelligence of the child concerned, with them finding a short route in order to complete something that they do not life or want to do.
Lack of motivation or enjoyment
We all as humans are more likely to do something if we find a meaningful context in it. That is because it will activate both hemispheres of the brain.
This can be often be seen in the fact that children will enjoy writing things for family and friends more than they will their set schoolwork (1).
The answer is to find handwriting activities that will motivate the child, involve them in their tasks and ask them what will really encourage them to complete it (2).
Simply telling a child that they can do something if they really try may not work. Instead, we should try to connect with the child and in this, we are much more likely to be able to improve their handwriting skills.
The difference between boys and girls
Around the age of 12-14 years, girls start to be able to write faster than boys. Not only this but girls will develop a greater awareness of their own ability to write on the line. Boys in comparison see their handwriting to be faster than it actually is, however, both genders under estimate their own performance and abilities (3).
The important thing to remember is to engage a child and appeal to their own interests. In doing this we can encourage their writing abilities and grow confidence in their own abilities.
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Read Aiden’s story…
Aiden was a bright boy who was very aware of the difficulties he had with handwriting. In class, he would complete all his work however his answers lacked depth and if you did not know him you could be mistaken for thinking he did not know the topic. Aiden was never the first to finish his work. He was aware that it took him more time than his friends to write. If you spoke to him about an answer, he could show great imagination and was able to retain all the major facts. This never translated to his written work.
A handwriting assessment was completed by myself. It was identified that Aiden had completed all the major handwriting milestones. However, he needed to feel confident to express his ideas on paper and to speed up his handwriting.
The aim was to find handwriting activities that captured his imagination and allowed him time to build up his handwriting abilities.
Aiden received a series of 10 treatment sessions, each one lasting approximately 45 minutes. During this time, he did a combination of handwriting and fine motor games. Six months later Aiden won a school story writing competition, something his Mum never thought would have been possible at the start of the school year.
Department of Education (2012). What is the research evidence on writing?. Education Standards Research Team, Department for Education. Research Report DFE-RR238
Goldstand S et al (2014). Respecting the child’s perspective: Effective assessment and intervention for handwriting difficulties. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, p129.
Lahav O et al (2014). Gender differences in students’ self-awareness of their handwriting performance, British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 77(12), 614-618.