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The Learning Habit Study, Part 2: Family Time

family dinner

Family Time’s Influence on Academic Performance

The Learning Habit Study is a large online survey that took responses from 21,145 families and at looked at the impact of three variables on children’s academic success: screen time,family time, and parenting style.  In this series of blog posts, we will look at the findings for each variable and how parents might use this information to better help their children succeed.

In the Learning Habit study, parents were asked to estimate the amount of time the spent together sharing dinners, attending religious services and playing games.  The Learning Habit Study then calculated a co-efficient for the combined time and measured it against two academic measurements: grades and time spent on homework.

Study Bottom Line

The study found increased family time corresponded to increases in both time spent on homework and in grades.  The impact of family time on time spent on homework was marginal.  However, increased family time appeared to have an important effect on grades.

Bottom line: spending time as a family is likely to improve your child’s academic performance.

Practical Parenting Application

Where the Learning Habit Study excelled in defining how many minutes of screen time impacted a child’s grades, it does not quantify how much time a family should spend together in order to reap the good grades benefit.  Nor does the study identify if dinner, religious services or game playing as a family had greater positive impact on academic performance.

If you’re looking for a way to increase family time, dinner is a logical starting point.

However, any parent with a baby through a teen knows family meals can be stressful to downright unpleasant.  Positive meal times may take practice, and even with practice, there may be meals where your entire family exhales in relief when escaping the table.  Here are a few ideas to help.

Eight Tips to Improve Family Dinner

  1. Turn off the TV and don’t allow tablets, computers, books or phones at the table – your goal is to interact as a family so remove the distractions
  2. Don’t let meal preparation undermine your real goal which is sharing a meal as a family – take out is fine, PB&J can be amazing when shared in good company
  3. If dinner isn’t possible, share another meal – connect over family breakfast
  4. Don’t discuss or negotiate your child’s undesirable behavior at the table – save nagging and sermonizing for other venues
  5. Have a list of positive topics ready – the internet is full of conversation starters
  6. Reminisce about your family – recalling shared experiences builds closeness
  7. Listen – when your child speaks, focus on them and really hear what they are saying
  8. At every dinner or shared meal make it a point to let your child know you think he or she is a great kid


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