And they use a stick—like the removal of certain privileges—for receiving poor grades.

But research has shown that such tangible incentives and punishments do not necessarily raise grades. They may even lower a child’s performance. “If a child has a skill deficiency, promising him money isn’t going to correct the problem,” points out school psychologist Kenneth Shore.

Plus, contracting to pay or reward kids for good grades puts too much emphasis on grades and material things and too little on learning for its own sake.

This doesn’t mean parents can’t recognize a job well done or show concern for poor grades. A better approach is to problem-solve with your child on how to improve poor grades, and praise and celebrate accomplishments. Good ways to celebrate with teens include:

  • A trip to a favorite restaurant.
  • A Saturday with you—doing what your child wants to do.
  • Deciding together on something new to do together.
  • A homemade dinner with foods of child’s choice.
  • A slumber party with two of your child’s close friends.
  • Not having to do a chore.
  • Weekend use of the car.

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