Photo Credit: Rifka Schonfeld

“He wasn’t so smart, but he worked really hard and he’s super successful!”

“She had so much potential, but she never really finished anything she started.”


“That family has tons of luck. They do well at whatever they try!”


Why do some families raise children who refuse to give up while others raise children who never reach their potential? In the book, The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life, authors Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, Rebecca Jackson, and Robert Pressman talk about this phenomenon:

Parents are frustrated by their inability to get clear information about the right thing the [X] family has apparently figured out. What learning habits and behaviors contribute to a child’s educational success or failure? Why do some children succeed, despite enormous obstacles, while others (from seemingly more advantaged backgrounds) quit at the drop of a hat? Was it genes, parenting style, learning habits, or all of the above? These are questions that have baffled educational experts and research psychologists for decades – until now.

The authors of The Learning Habit conducted studies with thousands of families across the United States. According to their research, they feel there is a “formula” that parents can follow to help children learn resilience, self-reliance, and diligence. Surprisingly, much of the focus centers on homework.


The Ten-Minute Rule

We’ve all heard that children should have ten minutes of homework per grade per night. That means that a first grader should have ten minutes of homework while an eighth grader should have eighty minutes. Many people feel this rule is for teachers; that is, that teacher should give only a certain amount of homework. And, though this is the ideal, we can help teach our children responsibility, focus, and diligence using our own ten-minute rule.

Set aside an uninterrupted ten-minutes per grade for homework. “Homework shouldn’t be a rude awakening. It’s a part of life,” says Jackson. “Schools will change, curricula will change. Your goal is to provide a framework. Homework isn’t a punishment; it’s not the reason you’re not doing something else. It’s part of the routine.”

Having created that structure, says Jackson, parents need to step back and let their children discover that they can do the work for themselves. “The idea of homework is creating a habit of sustained learning. We’re not learning when our parents are assisting us. Parents need to step back from focusing on the outcome – the completed, corrected assignment – and focus on the effort.”

KJ Dell’Antonia explains in a New York Times article, “How do you create a homework habit? You and your child pick a time and place (not necessarily the same time every day). You let your child get set up. You remove, if necessary, any distractions… One of you sets a timer. And then – and this is key – when the time is up, if the homework isn’t done, you tell your child to close the books and walk away.”

That means that if your child needs an extra hour, you don’t allow him to take it. And, if your child only needs twenty minutes, but is in third grade, you give him a book that he can read until the timer goes off. This teaches your child discipline (along with the other skills he might be learning from the content of the homework assignment). The ten-minute rule teaches time management and also helps your child set goals. Focus for an extended period of time, time management, and goal setting are three essential components of success as an adult.



If you think this ten-minute rule is too good to be true (or too simple), the authors have a few other suggestions for helping your children gain skills for future accomplishments. Among those suggestions? Chores. They argue that research shows that children gain responsibility, learn from their mistakes, and develop resilience through work around the house. Below is a chart of what you can expect from your children at different ages.


Family Section.indd


Ensuring that children have responsibility commiserate with their age can also provide a lot of the structure and positive feedback they get from spending time on their homework on a daily basis. I think it’s worth a try. After all, who doesn’t want their children to grow up and accomplish all that they set their mind to? If a timer and household chores can get them closer, I’m in!


Register now for an anger management workshop by Dr. Ross Greene on November 14, 2017. Please call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.


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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at