'What Matters' in Parenting

When it comes to parenting, it can be hard to know which issues are important and which ones are not.

Even experts disagree on how families should prioritize.

"Good Morning America" parenting contributor Anne Pleshette Murphy recently broke down three fundamental parenting concerns: family dinners, homework, and the importance of an Ivy League education.

Eat Together

According to Murphy, a family dinner matters, though today's times don't reflect that.

"It's not a Norman Rockwell, 'Leave It to Beaver' world anymore," she said. "With so many after-school activities, only about a third of us families eat dinner together most nights."

But Murphy says the quest to sit down at the table is not hopeless.

"Having a family dinner doesn't mean hours of multicourse meals," she said. "It means getting together for as long as you can -- even if it's just 15 minutes for pizza. Or make it breakfast or lunch -- whatever you can do."

Turn off the TV, don't pick up the phone, and keep the conversation upbeat -- Murphy says it makes a difference.

"A key study by Columbia University has found that teens whose families eat together are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have less stress, better grades and -- perhaps most importantly -- better relationships with their parents," she said.

Homework: 10 Minutes Per Grade Level

Homework has become a hot-button issue of late.

According to a study by the University of Michigan, the amount of time kids spend on homework has increased 51 percent since 1981.

"The point of homework is for learning to continue after school hours," Murphy said. "However, piling too much on runs the risk of turning kids off of school and even worse -- turning them off learning in all forms, such as reading for pleasure."

A recent Gallup/University of Illinois Extension study found a negative relationship between test scores and the amount of homework.

But just because homework isn't fun doesn't mean kids shouldn't have to do it.

"One expert came up with a great rule of thumb -- kids should get 10 minutes of homework a day per their grade level," Murphy said. "So kindergartners and first-graders get 10 minutes. Second-graders get 20 minutes, and so on."

Murphy offered tips for parents who think their children are getting too much homework.

"Talk to other parents to see if they are on the same page, and then talk to the teacher in a nonconfrontational way," she said. "Foster a discussion about it, and let the teacher know that you want to work together on a solution. If there is still resistance, present your case to the PTA."

Ivy League Doesn't Guarantee Success

Some parents push their kids to Ivy League universities from the moment they're born.

But Murphy cited evidence that the name on a college degree isn't such a big deal.

A survey by executive recruiter Spencer Stuart found that only 10 percent of CEOs currently heading the Top 500 companies had received undergraduate degrees from Ivy League schools.

And according to the Wall Street Journal, more than half of the CEOs of the 50 biggest U.S. companies graduated from public colleges.

"By the time you're going for that corner office, no one is checking your resume to see if you went to Harvard or a state school. Ultimately, it's all about accomplishment," Murphy said.

What matters more than where children go to school is what they do there.

"The most successful people remember throwing themselves into activities they loved, forging relationships with mentors or other student," Murphy said. "College is really what you make of it. … And you don't have to go to the Ivy League to have a rewarding experience."

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