Should we reward our kids for good behavior or good grades? I have an internal struggle on this topic that rages within me and has for many years.
Well before I had my own children, I had an idea of how I thought parents should handle certain circumstances such as an allowance for chores or rewards for good grades. That said, I find that what worked for my family even 2 years ago doesn’t necessarily work now.
Today I had an opportunity to meet with an old high school friend who I know was never rewarded for making good grades — and in fact, was often punished for grades that managed to fall below excellent. I couldn’t help but ask him how he handles the situation at his house since has four children, with the oldest one in college and the youngest in his first year of high school. Needless to say, his views were much like mine. He agreed that indeed, rewarding a student for doing what is expected of them seems unreasonable. (I know that since he and I fall into the “self-motivated over-achiever” category, this may have some influence on our views, so I’m willing to lend an ear to any obvious rebuttals.)
As I said, in our house, there was basically the concept that chores are to be done because that’s just what we do. My husband and I go to work because that is our job and our kids go to school because that’s just what kids do. Technically, that’s their job. With that in mind, my oldest son who is extremely self-motivated and definitely an over-achiever left us with no reason to question our tactics. However, the youngest, who happens to be extremely intelligent, prefers to excel in those activities that already come easy to him and simply leave the more difficult tasks untouched.
Our general reward we gave our kids for good grades in the past was simply the ability to choose a special dinner at a restaurant of their choice. Now however, we have two children in the realm of earning actual letter grades every nine weeks. And while the oldest was still excelling, the youngest was simply not motivated.
I presented my case to my husband and to a few peers that I already respected in the parenting arena. The conclusion we came to was that if individuals who go to work each and every day take an extra step to excel, they often receive a bonus. That said, we won’t be rewarding our children for the general tasks or the grades that we know they are capable of making. However, we will reward them in the form of a “bonus” if you will, if they can excel.
So the new era of “reward versus punishment” was born in our house. When the first grading period came to a raging halt, the oldest finished the first nine weeks with straight A’s and was given the option of choosing a restaurant for a special dinner and $20 to use at his own discretion. The youngest, who made a “B” average, was not given the restaurant choice but we did give him $10. Thus far this seems to be a fairly reasonable plan, as my first grader who spent the majority of the first nine weeks of his school reading program saying “I don’t know that word” or “It’s too hard” — even though I knew otherwise — has resorted to reading much more difficult books with much a much larger vocabulary.
We did, however, recently revise the plan in that a report card containing all A’s above 95 will receive that $20 reward and special dinner choice. All A’s with even one grade below 95 will result in a decrease in the amount to $10. If there are any B’s on the report card, there is no bonus pay at all. We will simply give encouragement and offer to help more than we did in the previous grading period. (Which, in reality seems a bit daunting to me since I spend a lot of time with this already!)
And with that, a new tradition has been born in my house. I’m not even sure it’s a good one or a positive reinforcement-type change, but the bottom line is, times are changing and I’m giving someone else’s suggestions a choice instead of sitting firm and being stubborn and set in my own ways.
Let’s hope I can be so agreeable when I’m old and need my children to take care of me and maybe give me a few dollars when I excel.