Parents (and now some schools) have often given money for good grades as a tool to motivate their kids to do well in school. During my years as teacher and principal of a private Christian school, I knew about it happening at all levels, from kindergarten through high school. The rates I heard varied from $5 – $100 being offered by parents for kids earning A’s in a class.
Start calculating that out over 6 or 7 classes and it makes me want to go back to school. Seeing that I was a straight A student I would have made a killing.
Some parents had higher standards that required their child to get A’s in all classes in order to receive any money. The theory behind that approach is to develop a well-rounded child who excels in everything. Make them work hard in every class to get rewarded.
Neither of these options ever felt right to me. So early on my wife and I decided we would never give our kids money for good grades. Here’s our reasoning and what we chose to do instead.
Why We Are Not Giving Money For Good Grades
The biggest reason we do not give our kids money for good grades in school is…
WE GIVE THEM ENOUGH ALREADY DOGGONE IT!
My goodness…have you looked around your home and figured out how much money you spend on child related items. You probably haven’t because you don’t want to know the numbers. I don’t know what our cumulative total is either but I do know that “Child Related Expenses” is the 3rd most expensive category in our budget behind food and health insurance.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost a middle-income couple just over $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18. You may squawk at that and think it won’t be that much but those are the statistical estimates.
Aren’t we spending enough to raise them already without having to shell out more money for grades? They should be thankful for everything we already do for them.
Beyond that we felt giving money for good grades wasn’t a good idea for three other reasons:
1. Being motivated by money alone is lazy.
I don’t want my kids to be motivated by money alone. Money is a means to an end. It should be used as a tool to provide for your needs and bless others.
There has to be a deeper meaning to life than the all-consuming desire to possess more wealth. I don’t want my kids thinking life is all about money or that they will get money for any task they complete in a positive way. Especially getting it for something so normal as going to school and learning.
I see this happen sometimes at home with the chores we assign. A child will complete an additional chore (not one on their chore sheet) that we’ve asked them to do and then they’ll say, “Do I get anything for that?” At which point I give them a pat on the back and a “Thank you” for a job well done. Some things you do just because you are part of the family.
I enjoy making more money as much as the next guy. It’s not what ultimately motivates me though and I don’t want it to be what motivates my kids. They need to be motivated to learn for the learning itself and striving hard based on desires that are deeper than money.
2. It puts the teacher in a tough spot.
Every class I taught there were students who were on the bubble to being bumped up to the next grade level. In our middle and high school, an A starts at the 90th percentile. So there were always kids with 88s or 89s heading into the final days of the semester.
Invariably, two things would always happen:
1) They would come looking for extra credit work or
2) Just ask you to bump them up a grade
I never did #2. Sometimes I was OK with #1 depending on how the child had performed during the semester. If the 88 had resulted from missed work due to laziness I’d be less likely to offer extra credit. I maintained they should have done the original work in the first place so they didn’t have to come crawling to me at the last moment trying to bail themselves out.
Either way it puts the teacher in a tough spot. If the teacher doesn’t offer the extra work then there is a chance the child is turned off at the teacher and blames him or her for “taking away” their financial reward. Instead of accepting responsibility for their effort the teacher is blamed for them not getting money.
Once a relationship rift develops it’s awfully hard for the teacher to get that back. To keep that from happening, a teacher might lower his or her standards to “help out” the child get the higher grade (and thus the money).
3. Our kids might not be A students.
The final reason we chose not to give our kids money for good grades is that we didn’t know whether or not our kids would be A students. Some kids aren’t. Their giftedness does not lie in academics.
Many balk at that idea but I think it’s fine. Not every child is blessed with the same brain power. Or athletic prowess. Or artistic ability. Just ask my son about that because he’s already stressed out about 7th grade Art class.
If you tell a child, “I’ll give you $50 if you get an A in math” you’ve just created a lot of stress and especially so if they are not mathematically inclined. Their strength is English or some other subject and they know it. Math doesn’t inspire them in the least, other than to the level they know they must pass it to graduate.
It’s how kids are wired. If they can never get an A (and hence the money for that A) you’ve effectively punished them for something out of their control. It’s not in their DNA.
Our hang-up has never been on the grade itself. We chose to focus on something far more important.
Focus On This Instead of Money for Good Grades
As a teacher and a parent I’ve only ever been worried about one thing – a child’s effort. Grades are important but effort is infinitely more valuable. A strong work ethic will take a child further in life than an A.
As a parent you know how hard your child works. You see the ups and downs, the joys and frustrations that come with all the grades they bring home. Your child leaves for school in the morning on Cloud 9 and is picked up at 3:00 pm a blubbering mess because they got a C on a test.
Know what I’m talking about?
Maybe they got the C because they left their study notes at school. Perhaps it was because they were up until 2:00 am the night before Snapchatting. Or was it because they skipped all the homework for that chapter?
I’m going to be upset with any of those reasons. But if the C was earned and they did their best, then what more can I expect? If they put maximum effort into their studies I’m content with whatever they achieve.
Of course I’ll have to monitor that effort. And it will be up to me to push when needed because kids do have a natural tendency to slack off.
But the reward should be for the effort…not the grade. So if you’d choose to reward effort with money or some other tangible item I’d be OK with that. The kid is then linking effort to money, not grades to money.
Of course maximum effort is a lot more difficult to judge and quantify. But the mental linkage of “effort/work ethic = money” will have long-ranging implications as they move into adulthood.
Questions: How do you feel about this? Would you give your child money for good grades? If so, what’s the reason? Do you think all kids should strive for A’s? What motivates your children to work hard in school?