I think there are times when we would all like to be able to get inside the heads of the children we know, to better remember and understand what it’s like to be them.
There are plenty of middle grade and young adult novels that help us with that, as well a number of excellent books on child psychology and parenting. Last week I mentioned How To Develop Self-Esteem In Your Childby Bettie B. Youngs.
Youngs has spent years talking with children and young people. And, among other things, she’s put together a list of things kids say they want from parents. Here’s her list:
- “I want my parents to think I’m somebody special.”
- “I want my parents to be warm and friendly to me, just as they are to those who phone or come to the door.”
- “I want my parents to be concerned about me.”
- “I want my parents to know the ‘me that nobody knows’.”
- “I want to be able to talk to my parents about what’s important to me (and have those views be valued).”
- “I want to be part of a happy family.”
- “I want my parents to ‘lighten up’.”
- “I want my parents to learn more about my feelings.”
A sixteen-year-old in Boston said, “My dad is always telling me what he does for me. I wish he would do less for me and more with me.” The other kids in the room clapped and cheered.
I don’t know about you, but it makes me wish I’d read more books like this when my children were young! And it’s also reminding me to listen even harder to my grandchildren right now. As someone said, “Your kids will tell you everything you need to know if you listen long enough and hard enough.”
What does this have to do with writing a children’s story? Quite a lot, I think. One of the basic rules for writing is: first, know your audience.
In the weeks to come we’ll be looking at many insights into how kids see things—especially as they go through the struggles of pre-adolescence and adolescence. I’ll be drawing on thoughts from children’s literature as well as from non-fiction books about child development. Hope you enjoy it.
Geoffery Alan Moore