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Paying Kids for Good Grades: It's not about the Money (Part I)

Posted by James Lehman, MSW

With all the problems we have with kids in school systems today, I’m amazed to find people arguing on the web this week about whether or not we’re misdirecting kids by paying them for good grades. I think it’s a pretty artificial controversy, because the issue is not so much what you offer as a reward, but what your goal is with the child.

Kids are slow to develop ideals, principles and concepts regarding the value of becoming a better person for the sole sake of being a better person. (By the way, I must say that this is not a concept modeled very much by adults these days.) If you’re lucky enough to have a child who understands working harder to achieve more in the sixth grade, you’re very fortunate. But most kids don’t understand that abstract concept this early.

I think every child should be expected to contribute to the family and do their job, which is go to school and perform. I also think there’s nothing wrong with rewards. It teaches goal setting and achievement. And if you want your child to start to understand how to handle money, then use money as a reward for good grades. But don’t spend too much or put yourself in debt. And you don’t need to make money the only reward. Sometimes small family celebrations are enough. In other words, “Michael did well in school this marking period. So we’re all going out for ice cream.” It can be just as effective as money.

(Check back on Wednesday for Paying Kids for Good Grades Pt. II to see how James used this system in his own family, and to hear more ideas about ways to reward your child that don’t necessarily involve money…)

Question: Do you use rewards to motivate your child? What has worked—and not worked—for you? Let us know by commenting below…


About James Lehman, MSW

James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation® Program, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

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