Getting kids ready for success in school is on the minds of many parents this time of year. Parents often feel helpless to make a difference, and yet there are several simple steps to get children on the path to a great school year.

The key is to understand what to do at home, and then committing to consistency. Without persistent follow-through, this is all just another good idea. But it can be much more than that if you will stick to this plan! So let’s let to it!

Prepare the children for the best year ever.

How do you do this? Sit down with your kids, and let them know that you’re going to be making some changes. Approach this in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. Explain that you’re not going to be talking about the past. You aren’t going to lecture them about problems last year.

More importantly, let them know you’re not going to be nagging, pushing, or prodding. Explain that there will be a change in the daily routine…

“From now on…You do your homework first…and then you play.”

I call this approach the structure of success? When we study successful students, we find that a clear pattern emerges. Students who consistently do well organize their life in this way: They take care of their work…and then they play. Of course, this isn’t by accident. Parents are the force behind this approach. To get kids on track academically, this is absolutely an essential strategy to adopt. The “Work…then play” approach allows parents to stop nagging and pushing and arguing over homework and daily chores.

Instead, you create a simple daily plan that DOES NOT allow play (toys, TV, video, computer, etc.) until you see that the homework and daily chores are done.

Sound simple? It is simple. When parents stick with this proven approach, kids learn healthy habits very early on. They learn to get their homework done first. They learn to take care of their chores around the house. Kids become efficient at getting their work done quickly, to enjoy the benefits of play. This helps to create a more “automatic” way of organizing daily life, and thus requires less effort to accomplish these daily routines.

So what is “work, then play” really mean?

It means that when your children get home from school, you offer them an opportunity for a five or ten-minute break. After that, it’s time to do their homework and take care of responsibilities.

You explain that during this time, there is no TV, no video, no phone calls, no going outside, no toys, no extended conversations with Mom and Dad. No friends over. No nothing.

In other words, you establish a single fundamental ground rule that does not change. They must finish their work…and ONLY then can they play. Once you have enforced this magical rule, you can now start to relax a bit. What’s next?

Don’t force compliance…let them learn from their choices.

Notice that under this approach, you don’t try to force your kids to listen. Instead, you allow them to make choices. If they do their work, then they can play. If they choose not to take care of their work…then there is no play. They WANT to play…and they will learn to make smart decisions. If you are dealing with a resistant child, you have to be patient. Allow your kids to learn from their choices. Over the first week or two of school, the kids will see that you are serious…if you stick to your guns. No homework…no play. That’s the way it will be… every day!

Stop all nagging and lecturing and begging and pleading. NOW!

Let’s get real for a moment. How often does nagging and lecturing the kids work? In my experience, it’s always a short-term solution and rarely keeps kids on track for the long term. Such nagging and pushing only leads to more nagging, more pushing, more yelling, and more prodding. These strategies are destined to fail. So what do you do instead? You make clear what the requirements are. You make it clear that “Work, then play” is the rule every day. You do not lecture. You do not remind. You do not repeatedly discuss the daily plan.

Instead, you remain firm and unwavering in your denial of play activities until the work is complete. This includes all play in every form. But under no circumstances do you nag or push or prod.

You may fear that they will never move from the couch. But it’s not true. You have the secret weapon. They can’t do anything they want…until the work is done. Just trust the power of this approach.

Don’t rescue them if they don’t like the new plan.

Remember…if they are upset…just let them be upset. Don’t rescue them from a few moments of anger and frustration with you. They probably preferred the old approach, because the only consequence was the nagging and battling over homework. Now you have more power…because they cannot play…until the work is done.

These are the fundamentals to promote healthy academic habits at home. You can learn more about these principles by exploring my website, at, or by attending one of my free parenting seminars on Academic Success.