Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Gifts We Give our Children (and Main Characters)

This Christmas I gave the children lots of stuff.  Sparkly stuff, shiny stuff, shrill sounding stuff, swirling stuff and stuffed stuff.   They are pretty good wonderful kids, and I am lucky to be able to give them these gifts.

Lauri Meyers
by foxumon via sxc.hu
But it got me thinking about the other gifts I can give my children - self esteem, compassion, responsibility to name a few.

I'm a pretty good fantastic Mom.  And sometimes I am spectacular, evoking my days as a 4-H camp counselor.  But when I'm tired, overwhelmed, it's Monday, or any other number of situations, I can be a real lousy lady.  

I'm reading the 10 Greatest Gifts I Give my Children by Steven W. Vannoy and hoping to store some of the tips in my parenting purse for those too-frequently-occurring lousy occasions.

I was struck by how consistent the advice for raising kids is with advice on writing for kids, such as:

Let kids develop their own solutions when problems strike.  Quoting the book: "No more rushing to rescue the younger ones, no more moralizing [to older ones], no imposition of adult solutions to the kids' problems." 

Kids watch what we do, so "modeling" the right behaviors is an important parenting tool.  How effective is "eat your vegetables" if you don't have a mouthful of green beans?   May I have another spoonful of "show don't tell," please?

Valuing kids' feelings is critical - even though they aren't 'adult' problems and even though they don't have as many words to express them.  We need to respect the concerns of our little main characters even if they seem like insignificant issues.  

I shouldn't be surprised by the similarities, really.  Writing rules weren't developed to serve some sort of Literary Emperor.  They exist because understanding how children work is necessary to write great books for children to enjoy.  (Well, and to sell those books...what's Christmas without a little bit of capitalism?)

Happy Holidays everyone!


  1. How cool is that?! I've never really thought about it before but a lot of the parenting advice is spot-on when writing for children.

    1. Duh, right? Of course it would be the same. The only advice that differs is to not treat your characters too nice...

  2. I like what you say about respecting our children's feelings -- just acknowledging how a child is feeling, I think, would benefit so many parent-child relationships. A lot of people never receive this kind of acknowledgment and then become incapable of giving it, which is unfortunate in my view.

    1. You are right. Could you imagine if all the picture books in the world only taught morals? Or worse, if all the books ignored kids feelings saying, "don't be afraid, silly child, there's no monster under your bed." Ugh.

      Thanks for stopping by Chris! Nice to meet you.


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