MIAMI — For so many of us, the quarterly report cards we'd get from our elementary school in Miami Beach brought dread. How would we explain that C- in Mathematics? And, another check mark for Self Control — as in "lack of" — from Miss Polichetti.
Can you imagine the stress of receiving a daily report card?
But that's precisely what the experts at Florida International University's Center for Children and Families are suggesting to help your children navigate at least another few weeks, or a semester, of virtual learning thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But we should explain what that daily report card, or DRC as FIU is calling it, really is. It's not like what you took home after a semester.
Rather, the DRC is something you can add to your checklist of COVID-era tricks to help your child do better with the assigned classwork and, according to the Center for Children and Families, may also improve their behavior at home.
"Our research has shown that a DRC is very helpful in motivating children to get their work done effectively and efficiently," FIU psychology Professor Gregory Fabiano said in a media release. "If parents follow the format of the DRC, not only will they get their child to complete their schoolwork, but it will also help with their behavior at home."
How do I implement a DRC at home?
Here are some of the center's tips for its daily report card plan of action.
Get organized. "Set your child up for success by choosing a place that is prepped with all the supplies your child needs including pencils, paper, calculator or a computer and that is free of noise and distraction."
If you aren't organized yourself, developing this skill set could help your own virtual work from home for the foreseeable future. COVID-19 cases are declining in Florida — including in Miami-Dade, which has had the highest coronavirus cases and deaths in the state — but not fast enough that life is going to put its February 2020 face back on any time soon.
Set goals. These should be daily goals set for your child. The center suggests three to five clearly defined behavioral goals that focus on areas that need improvement. This might mean implementing goals to complete all the assignments for the day.
Also, advising your child to try the assignment on their own first before asking for help. This could allow them to find solutions for themselves, which leads to satisfaction and learning.
The goals should also include ones that promote following instructions from the teachers and participating in the class (Even if it is from a seat in your kitchen-turned-homeroom).
Set up a rewards system. "Your child's efforts to meet their daily report card goals will depend on the incentives and rewards you provide," the center says. Allow your child to create the menu of rewards — with your approval, of course. This, the experts say, will increase their motivation to meet their goals.
Rewards can include screen time, a special treat, art time, a day off from chores and staying up 30 minutes past bedtime. In our day, we liked getting comic books for good school reports. But that was a long time ago.
Monitor their progress. Let your child know throughout the day if they are meeting their goals. Remind them what that goal is. Be encouraging, especially if they are struggling. Keep it a positive experience.
Praise your child. Let them know they did a great job when they have — with genuine, specific or labeled praise. FIU suggests a way to express this: "I love how you stayed at the table and finished all your math assignments."
Provide the reward. Connect the reward to the goals. A suggested way to handle this: "You're doing such a great job working hard on your math. You definitely earned that screen time today."
Tweak goals and rewards. As they respond to the DRC, they should be able to meet behavior targets more consistently, FIU's center believes. When that happens, raise the bar. If you had built in three or fewer violations into the goal of following class rules, make it two or fewer next time. And so forth. If you see your child is no longer motivated by a reward, change it to maintain their interest. Maybe pizza for dinner or getting Taylor Swift's new album might be more enticing.
Be consistent. "The DRC only works if parents are consistent in implementing it," FIU's experts say. "Make sure you hold yourself accountable to implement it on a daily basis. Create a visual board or have a special notebook to keep track of all goals and rewards."