Parents are still reeling after the horrific flu/virus/RSV season last winter. We’re all just trying to make it through family gatherings and school days without contracting any number of the illnesses flying through the air. And yet, maintaining perfect attendance is ironically still a thing.

In a viral TikTok video, one dad explains why perfect attendance awards are bogus and should be taken out of the education system entirely.


#stitch with @jayrscottyy can we get rid of perfect attendance awards? #parentsoftiktok #stayhome #gettingsick

♬ original sound – The Speech Prof

In the video, created by @speechprof, he says that his son recently won a reading award. He says, “And at that ceremony they were giving out perfect attendance awards and I was like, ‘How are we still doing these?'”

“After what we just went through and are still going through,” he adds, “how are we rewarding students for something that’s beyond their control?”

The flip side of rewarding one student for coming to school every single day is that the system is automatically punishing another student who had to miss a day. In both cases, the students are not in control of their health, their home situation or anything else that could affect their parents’ ability to take them to school. It really does not make any sense.

The father continues, “In the current state of the world we live in should we really be encouraging parents to send their sick kids to school? Is that the message we should be sending? Or, should we be rewarding the students that are responsible citizens and staying home when they’re ill instead of coming to school and getting their classmates sick?”

Jackie Spinner, a writer-turned-professor wrote for The Washington Post about attendance policies. “But rewarding students for a good immune system or for pushing through illness to be present can be dangerous to individual students and to vulnerable classmates who might be exposed to germs,” she says.

As any parent of school-age children knows, once an illness is brought home by your child it makes the rounds until the whole family is sick. Then, if you’re lucky, your child goes back to school and doesn’t bring anything home again (for like a month). Otherwise, it’s non-stop sick city during sniffle season. Plus, if it’s anything at all like the most recent flu season then dealing with flu in kids is no joke.

By the time your child is even feeling better another classmate has caught it and the fun beings all over again. If it’s possible for children to recover at home and parents are encouraged (and supported) in keeping their child home then, theoretically, the cycle of sick could be lessened.

The video ends with this: “What’s the lesson that we’re teaching children? That they should feel guilty for getting sick. That they are somehow less than. They are not worthy of an award simply because they caught a cold.”

If you think awards are still a good way of encouraging students to go to school then you’d be surprised by the findings of this Harvard-led research study that shows awards are actually, “demotivating.”

The lead researcher found, “There are a lot of educational practices that we assume work because they seem like common sense. But we found that this really ubiquitous practice of giving students awards actually does not work,” she said.

Comments on the TikTok video seem to wholeheartedly agree with this father’s deductions.

“Omg so true. This is exactly it. My kid has gotten so much pressure when he got influenza and covid this year.”

“Honestly the award ceremonies in general are exclusionary and teach extrinsic motivation which hinders intrinsic motivation”

“was shamed from the school for keeping my kid home for 2weeks(recommended feom doc)when he hand HFMD🙄”

“The irony is my kids get the illnesses at the school that keeps them home.”

A version of this story was originally published on Jan. 13, 2023. It has been updated.