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The Homework Problem: How Parents Help Kids Build Good Habits

By Jean Tracy, MSS

All Parents want to build good habits in kids. But all kids have some bad habits because they need training. Today we will offer a common problem with an uncommon solution.

If your child avoids homework to play video games, you can help him or her make a positive change. To do so, you can raise the hurdle for bad habits and make it easier to develop good habits. Start by including your youngster in the behavior that needs changing.

Discuss it without lecturing. Preaching makes kids stubborn and uncooperative.

The Homework Problem:

Let's say your Tammy is captivated by video games. Everyday after school she grabs a snack and for hours plays her favorite games.

When you say, "Tammy, do your homework", she keeps playing her games. Finally, you yell, "Do your homework or else!" She frowns and puts her games aside but only for a short time.

Tammy quickly does her homework and goes back to her pastime. When you check her homework you think, ‘This paper looks like a wild turkey dipped in ink walked on it.' You scream, "Get back here and do this right!" A fight follows.

Play the Game, "Raise the Hurdle"

Research tells us if we want to get rid of a habit, make it inconvenient and harder to do. Ask Tammy what her video games are doing for her. Explore the positives first, then the negatives. "How do you feel about spending so much time playing games?" Maybe she'll say, "Not good." Ask her why. Perhaps she'll say, "Because you get so mad at me," or "Because I waste time."

Ask her if she's willing to try an experiment. Hopefully, she'll say "Yes." Then describe a game called, "Raise the Hurdle." Tell Tammy, "This game will help you get in control of your time. To raise the hurdle for playing your games, put them in the garage instead of in your room. Do this before you go to bed. This is called "Raising the Hurdle," because it will make it easier to do your homework and chores before you play. When I look over your homework and it looks good, you may get your games."

Lower the Hurdle for Good Habits:

Research also tells us to build a good habit by making it convenient and easier to do. With Tammy's help create a good place to study. If you're like many parents you keep the computer in the kitchen, dining room, or family room to make sure your child is on task. Tell her to, "Make sure your pencils are sharp, your paper is ready, and the computer is ready if you need it."

By making the study place ready and close, it will be convenient for Tammy to sit down and do her homework.

Reward Good Habits:

Create a small weekly chart on the fridge. Every time Tammy does her homework well, give her a star. The rest of her reward will be to get her games out of the garage.

The chart will be her visual reminder that she is building a positive habit. Give her a compliment when she adds a star. She'll feel good about herself too.

Conclusion for Building Good Habits in Kids

It doesn't have to be a fight to solve bad habit problems when you play, "Raise the Hurdle." By clearing the lowered hurdle of homework, Tammy cleared the higher hurdle to her video games.

Use this example to raise other hurdles for your children's bad habits and lower the hurdles to their good behaviors. Be creative!

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