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Report Cards ~ Should Parents Pay For Grades?

Report Cards  Should Parent Pay for Grades?

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Halfway through the school year and we’ve just received the 2nd round of report cards for our children.  Proud of their hard work, it has long been our tradition to take our children out for a special family dinner to celebrate their accomplishments. Because we don’t eat out often, this has always been a much anticipated ritual and no matter what the final grades are, the focus is on their hard work, achievements, and their journey in school.

Lately I’ve heard increasing conversation from parents with children of all ages that paying for grades is an incentive worth offering.  Call me old fashioned, but this one really blew me away.  We have children spanning elementary to high school and in all their school years, the thought never occurred to me that grades come with a monetary value.  It seems there is a trend that considers attending school and getting good grades a child’s job.  And therefore, just like an adult, the parenting consensus is that if a child does a good job and brings home a positive report card, they should get paid.

What does a “good job” mean?

Of course the door is wide open on what constitutes a good job.  For gifted children who get straight As with minimal effort, it would seem paying for good grades is more about paying the child for status quo since they’ve always gotten them and likely always will.  For a child with a learning disability, it can be entirely unrealistic to pay for grades like straight As because that may simply never be a reality.  So then how do you explain to one child they only get paid for As when another gets paid for Cs?  You and I know its all about your individual best but from a child’s point of view, that one is all about “No fair! Johnny always gets a break.”  And then there is the beautiful middle.  The child who is entirely on grade level but in an overachieving 6.0 GPA, 10+ valedictorians in the senior class kind of world, that right on track academic success is lack luster, labeled an average or mediocre student no matter how much hard work goes into those Bs.

Why do children “need” incentives?

So what about incentives?  Our children are being raised in an “Everyone gets a trophy!”, “My Mom will email the teacher and work it out.” and my personal favorite “There will be a test retake to raise your grade.” society where they can almost bank on being recognized merely for showing up.  The character based incentive to own their accomplishments as individual, that those achievements are rewarding because of the journey, is slowing giving away to material incentive.  What concerns me is how this roots in their young minds.   Over time and before you know it, a reward for doing what I believe children are simply supposed to do, go to school and working to do their personal best, becomes “What do I get for it?”  And yes, there are studies the assert that particularly in college when you are truly paying for your child’s education, incentizing for grades will actually diminish your students initiative.

Self Respect.  Pride.  Confidence.

School can be incredibly difficult and our children face more pressure than ever before to achieve in ways that might not suit their natural learning style. Finding ways to succeed that insure they are sharing their greatest gifts no matter the grade is the challenge before parents and teachers.  Demanding standards of learning and rigorous testing diminish other learning opportunities and draw a line in the sand about what academic success truly means.  And children are complicated, each unique in their own ways with parents who simply want to help them learn to do their best.  We can’t let the demand for good grades let us lose site of the value of teaching life lessons about hard work, setting goals, struggle, and success.  We can’t get so focused on grades that we lose the opportunity to help our children find their gifts and develop those no matter what the area of interest.  For parents who struggle with children who are incredibly difficult to motivate and so completely disinterested, the journey has to be so very hard and daunting.

I am not here to tell you what to do.  I am not judging parents who choose to pay for grades.  I had no idea how common this has become and I want to know what you think.

Do you pay for grades?  Why or why not?

Thanks so much for stopping by ~ see you next time!


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  • V Kling February 8, 2013, 11:19 pm

    I faced this same situation 20 years ago. I had 3 very smart children who wanted to be paid for their report card grades. The oldest was going to be entering High School and since all 3 of my kids were very good at math we gave them a choice that would apply to all 3 during thier public education while in High School. To either pay them $20 for ever “A” in an academic course OR pay them $5 for every “A” in a test (not a quiz) in every academic course. In the long run my children attained high GPAs and won scholarships to be applied to their college expenses. Yes, it was expensive during those HS years but I didn’t have to pay for calculus or physics classes in college. I told them that maintaining good grades in school was their job and they didn’t need to get a part-time fast food job just work hard on math, science, and english.

    I’m not sorry we did this and would encourage others to try it but so many schools don’t even offer high math and english classes any longer.

  • Melissa Chapman February 5, 2014, 11:30 am

    I think it is a slippery slope. It might be wiser to pay your kids with kisses rather than dollars. I think you can negotiate a system that works for your family- but personally I don’t think this would work for my kids and I because what happens when I stop paying the money? I want my kids to be successful because THEY WANT IT. And if they fail- they need to have that experience to realize that is not where they want to be- and hopefully raise themselves out of it- of course with help and support from my husband and I.

    • Molly Gold February 5, 2014, 1:41 pm

      Agreed Melissa! Everyone’s kids are so different but motivating grade performance with money just seems so off track for me. Thanks for commenting!

  • Jennifer Bullock {MommyBKnowsBest} February 5, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Our oldest is in first grade. We haven’t really talked about this, so obviously we’re not paying, but I think we probably wouldn’t. Again I don’t have a strong stance on it one way or the other, but I feel like chores she should get paid for but maybe not school….plus we’re already paying for school *LOL*

    • Molly Gold February 5, 2014, 1:43 pm

      Jennifer I was really saddened to hear of this happening in elementary school but it does! More often in high school and with two teens of my own I again can’t say what’s best for every family, only our own. In our case it just never even crossed our minds and once we started hearing about it, felt strongly it wasn’t the answer for us. Thanks for commenting!

  • Kristin February 5, 2014, 9:44 pm

    I’m not there yet, but know I wouldn’t. My mother never did and we knew it was expected that we work hard and get good grades. End of story!

  • Diane February 8, 2014, 12:53 am

    Before facing this issue directly with my son, I always thought the concept was outrageous. I have also heard of this happening in sports – $20 for every goal or whatever – which I personally think is worse, since I believe it encourages our kids to win at the cost of others (even their own teammates!) and at the cost of good sportsmanship (whereas with rewards for grades their success doesn’t depend on or encourage defeating someone else). However, speaking now as a mom of a child on the autism spectrum, I admit (though still somewhat sheepishly) that we have resorted to this. And yes, It is a slippery slope. It started innocently enough, but for our son, who has trouble staying focused for long enough periods of time to complete daily homework much less study for tests, I have found it an invaluable tool in our arsenal of getting him motivated to learn his lessons. We don’t use cash, but rewards such as a game app or a small toy, or sometimes a trip to the movies, however the concept is the same. And yes, I’ve had to explain to him more than once when he asks about a “prize” that not everything he does, just because he’s supposed to, gets a reward. I just hope that I am saying “no” and explaining enough of the latter to balance out the bad effects of the former.

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