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!