The designs of the texting programs draw on research about child development, parenting practices, and behavior change strategies. When appropriate, the skills the text messages seek to build are linked to state standards. The standard program delivers three texts each week during the school year to parents and caregivers sequenced on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.
Some versions of the program target literacy skills; others target math and social-emotional skills, or a combination of skills.
The first text of the week is a FACT text.
This text provides context and information, and explains why the topic of the week is important. The FACT text provides incentive for follow through with the upcoming week’s activities.
The second text of the week is a TIP text.
This text gives parents or caregivers specific advice about how to do an activity that will build the week’s skill, often using props available at home. Activities are designed to be fun and easily incorporated into existing routines. By relieving the stress of decision-making and activity planning, TIP texts lessen the cognitive demands of parenting and caregiving.
The third text of the week is a GROWTH text.
This text describes a follow-up activity building on the week’s skill, and offers the parent or caregiver encouragement and positive reinforcement.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Sample Texts:
Math Sample Texts:
Literacy Sample Texts:
Why this approach?
While parents almost uniformly hope their children will thrive in school and beyond, many face multiple barriers (financial, time, etc.) to creating positive home learning environments. Parents face a dizzying number of decisions, from the mundane to the crucially important; they may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices they must make, and end up not evaluating, making or executing their choices at all. Similarly, adults struggle with activities that need to be repeated over time, like exercise and savings. Parenting requires sustained attention and commitment, even in the face of competing obligations, and often it is hard for parents to stay focused on their goals.
In sum, parents need access to easy, default decisions that are good decisions, and they need reminders. Most parenting programs do not provide these types of supports, instead giving parents more to think about and remember, instead of less. Changing adult behavior is difficult, but new knowledge in the field of behavioral economics points to interventions that are more likely to be successful. Programs that maintain attention and fidelity over time, break down the complexity of large tasks into smaller achievable goals, and provide encouragement and useful information show promise, and may result in long-term, persistent change.
A program delivered via text messaging to parents and caregivers provides an opportunity to implement this evolving understanding about how to foster positive behavioral change. Furthermore, because over 95% of adults in the U.S. own a cell phone, we can now reach families who have traditionally not had access to or used parenting support. Texting programs — which can delineate small steps towards larger parenting goals, provide ongoing education and reinforcement, and promote sustained adherence over prolonged periods of time — provide opportunities to help parents reach the goals that they have for their children.