Paying Kids for Good Grades: It’s not about the Money (Part II)

Posted January 30, 2008 by

Is paying kids for good grades a good idea? An article in USAToday this week mentioned that some states are getting in on the act–and paying students for good academic results.

In my home, we had a system where if our son got on the honor roll, he got a monetary reward—one we could afford. Not one that was a stretch for us. If he didn’t get on the honor roll, he didn’t get punished. He just didn’t get the reward. And I asked him, “What did you learn from this?” And, “What are you going to do differently next time to make the honor roll?” We focused him on the steps to take to get the reward next time. That fit our family just fine. Yes, we used money. But this is a decision that has to be made on a family by family basis.

Rewards motivate kids reach their goals. It’s that simple. Rewards need to be things kids understand and value. The reward should be child-focused, and parents should have a menu of things that their children like and will work for as an incentive to teach performance and achievement. There’s nothing wrong with money. If you have it to give, use it as one of the items on the menu. The fact is, we all work to get paid. We look to sources outside of work to develop personally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We try to better ourselves to be better rewarded. There’s nothing wrong with that. What does your child value? More one-on-one time with you? A movie outing with friends? 15 bucks? Create the menu with your child and offer the reward he values. It will keep his eyes on the prize and give him a way to meet his goals that he will understand.


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  1. MsLauraMae Report

    For Owen….what IS he spending his $7.50 remainder of his lunch money on??? Is he eating $10 worth of $2.50 lunches? I would do exactly as you did. If that money is the only thing you can use to get any cooperation from him, by all means you found the tool that works…then use it. Don’t let him manipulate you by telling his mom you “starved” him. It is the best solution in all situations that both parents agree how to take a stand together. Your son is playing a game of ‘good parent against bad parent’. Don’t play with him…take control, you and his mother need to take a stand while you can. A year from now may be too late. Good luck my friend.

  2. barbarajo Report

    I have never felt the necessity to pay my son for good grades because he has always been a good student, always on the honor roll. Suddenly now in the eighth grade he has a serious problem in accelerated algebra. Near the end of the first grading period I found out that he had an F. Imagine my shock! [His teacher is rather elderly and does not post grades on the school website in a timely fashion.] I didn’t want to “bust him one up side the head” as his dad suggested so I decided to hit where it really would hurt. His pocketbook… He had gotten a $50 bill for his birthday so I told him to bring it to me. He had purposely not told me about his grades probably trying to buy himself some time to improve so he was pretty sure that his punishment was nigh. Of course he tried to argue, act pitiful, etc. but I stuck to my guns. He could have the money back if he brought the grade up to a C, have some added to it if it was a B by the end of the next grading period or forfeit the entire amount to be paid on tuition if it was a D. I did not feel like this was unreasonable since he had brought the F up to a D in less than two weeks before first report card. We have less than two weeks until the next report card and he is only a few points away from a B, thank goodness! If by chance he bombs out on the nine weeks test and it is back down to a D I am going to make his tuition check for $50 less and have him take it and the $50 bill to the office and turn it in himself. Maybe he will then try harder [he can do it] and appreciate the value of going to the best school available in the meantime. I am also planning some more consequences for chores ‘forgot’, smarty mouth, etc. I am going to let him set some of them for himself. We did this when he was younger and it really did work. Now it is time to revisit the subject. Some of his suggestions had to be vetoed but some were well thought out, as well as some really outrageous, but it was a good tool and he thought it was fair since he had so much input. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with at 14 instead of the 8 yrs old when we did this before. Needless to say we have to leave dear ole dad out of this. I figure I have dished out all of the parenting up to now and will continue to do my best.

  3. james Report

    Sue » Hi Sue. I want to congratulate you on your persistence!! You’re right, there are a lot of views on handling kids and money. Frankly, no one system works for all kids. Parents have to be flexible about what
    they experiment with, and consistent with their values. No matter what else you’ve taught your children about money, you’ve demonstrated it’s something to be taken seriously. Congratulations. Many kids aren’t taught that, and it effects them during their young adulthood. Don’t forget, as parents we’re responsible for doing the right thing; we are not responsible for the results of our children’s behavior.
    I think kid’s should have basic chores to help out around the house. Certainly cleaning their rooms is one, as is straightening out any area that they’ve used. Depending on the needs of the family, they may need to help out with dinner and cleaning up; but after school activities and homework load also have to be considered.
    I think setting up a system where kids can earn money is a good idea. It teaches them that money has value and they have to earn it. This is a very important lesson. It’s better they miss a movie or a CD and feel the sting of squandering their money than for parents to try to insulate them from the pain of not having earned or saved the money by giving in.I tend to stay away from check-off lists the kids have to do because I think it sets up a power struggle for no good reason. I also think if kids earn the money, they should be able to spend it however they wish, as long as it’s legal and not self-destructive. The important thing is to teach the value of money, the necessity for work and the concept of sacrifice and delayed gratification. These are the experiences that make adults out of children. Don’t put them off. In closing Sue, you sound like you guys have really put a lot of thought and effort into this. I really admire that. Good luck, James

  4. Sue Report

    What abot allowance? i’ve heard 2 schools of thought. One is that as a member of the family, the child should receive an allowance just to learn how to manage money without having the allowance tied to doing chores (which should be done just to be a contributing member of the family). The other school of thought is to tie the allowance to the completion of assigned chores and a variation is using a check off list as part of receiving the money like punching the clock at a workplace (ie., not checked off = no allowance, even if the chores were done)…We started off by trying it the first way and tried to teach the value of having part of the allowance go into savings for purchasing a larger item (or activity). Both kids would want to race out and purchase candy and small junk toys and the money was gone instantly. We didn’t force the issue of saving, but rather would bring it up each time we paid allowance and on occations when the child would say they wanted a bigger item (AND we would not purchase the item for them but would suggest then start saving for it). Still the minute they had the money it burned a hole in their pockets. Then we decided to tie the money to simple household chores such as cleaning their rooms once a week and setting the table. Our daughter actually refused to use the check off sheet (therefore no allowance even though she did the jobs) and our son continued to use the allownace as a candy fund. We ended up just removing allowance altogether and the only things they were able to buy were with gift money from relatives for bithdays and Christmas. We still did not purchase items for them except when we did activities as a family we’d pay for admittance (to movies, aquarium visits, etc.) and usually a treat there. Once in a while they would ask to do a job for money (often at the last minute when they were going to do something with a friend). We went along with this because we felt it should initiative on their part,but still it was spent immediately. Finally, our son got a part time job at age 18, which he spends the entire paycheck of the minute he gets it and of course we don’t supplement it if he needs more money. Our daughter at 12 has gottem some babysitting jobs which she is starting to save for something bigger but spends a good portion on treats as well and says it’s her money to spend as she wants (however her eating habits are very unhealty, often skipping meals, eating treats instead.) Can you help us with these issues?

  5. owens Report

    I have a very unusual 14 year old son who does not have a lot of reward incentives. He does not care about money…so money for good grades or chores fall on deaf ears. He does not have many friends…so grounding him is useless. He likes to ski, go to NBA games and watch movie sometimes but those rewards don’t drive him and doing without them don’t seem to bother him. The only thing that he cares about is food. He uses $10 plus in lunch money…a bad habit started last year by his mom…her excuse, “he is growing, let him eat.” The school cafetaria manager says $2.50 is all that is needed for lunch. Is it OK for me to start having him earn his $10 lunch money? Nothing else seems to work or bother him. When I cut his lunch money to $5 one day, he got very upset and refuse to eat any lunch and told his mom (we are separated now) that I starved him and gave him no lunch money. He has a lot of bad habits that needs to be corrected…not completing his school projects, refusing to make up tests when he is sick, refusing to help around the house like raking leaves, shoveling snow, picking up after pets. Also, poor hygiene…needs to be nagged to shower, doesn’t care much about his appearance or pimples. Please help.

  6. Justin22 Report

    James, thanks for this great advice. We have our son work towards special days he can spend with me or my wife. On his next report card if he gets all A’s and B’s, I’m taking him out fishing for the day. The last report card when he made the grades, my wife and he went to a movie he wanted to see. Nothing that costs a huge amount of money, but he loves the time with mom and dad!



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