08/12/2014 02:19 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2014

The Powerful Habit That Helps Kids With Homework


In The Learning Habit, I've identified strategies that both parents and educators can use to help children achieve their goals. Sometimes the way we reward and negotiate with children just needs to be reviewed.

The Habit of Limiting Consumption Media for children means setting specific, regular times that recreational media use can occur in the home. This is a powerful motivator, because media is terribly addictive and children crave it.

I've seen this firsthand. Many wonderful parents across the United States were kind enough to open their doors to me so that I could observe their family routines while writing case studies for my forthcoming book, The Learning Habit. One of the most popular after-school trends I observed was for parents to let kids "chill out" for an hour or so before starting their homework.

These were caring parents who wanted to help their children relax before studying. Rigorous school work is hard; it requires a child's full concentration. It was no surprise that the most common activity for kids to pick was something mindless, usually a television show or video game.

It also wasn't uncommon to observe kids negotiating for "more" television time or video game time in an attempt to delay the start of homework.

Here's why one of the most popular after-school trends is lowering your child's chances of academic success. In households where media was used before homework time, assignments often took twice as long for children to complete. It wasn't because the assignments were more challenging. In fact, I observed several families whose children were in the same classroom and who had the exact same homework assignment that evening.

These children required the intervention and help of their parents to complete academic assignments. They were not learning anything constructive.

When media was used before homework, there was just more negotiating both before and during homework time. Children asked for help more frequently and tended to get frustrated more easily.

This brings me to one of my favorite tips from the book. It's a personal favorite because it is so simple and yet it's so powerful.

Have a firm rule about electronic use after school. Make sure that it is only used as a reward, not to help kids "wind down" from school. When children complain that they are tired, many times they are actually saying that they are bored or frustrated. It sounds counter-intuitive, but tired kids often need exercise.

Try using the Habit of Limiting Consumption Media, and watch as your child's attention span increases and homework time decreases.

Tips included in this post are from The Learning Habit by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, Rebecca Jackson, and Dr. Robert Pressman by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright © 2014 by Good Parent, Inc.