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Should Parents Pay Their Children for Good Grades?

I have known many parents who pay their children for honor roll grades. In some cases, this is okay. But, if you are a learning disabled (LD) student, the quality of your work does not reflect how hard you worked on it. Sometimes, your assignment looks great and is complete. Other times, it is a mess and there are lots of questions with no answers. This inconsistency can be due to a number of factors. For more information on this, see “What Does it Really Mean When a Child is Learning Disabled?" for help understanding the problems.


Problems with working memory, attention, vocabulary, anxiety, fear, or difficulty with executive functioning can all affect how an LD student performs in school. None of these relate to motivation. And none can be overcome by bribes to perform better.


For these reasons, I am against parents paying for grades in school. This is especially true for struggling students. Imagine working very, very hard and still getting a “D” or “F” on the work! Someone else whips off the assignment in just a few minutes and gets an “A.” Does that child deserve a reward when they rushed through and perhaps did not even do their best work? The LD child who is trying her best feels completely defeated in this situation. She gets more and more discouraged. She already calls herself “stupid,” and this, to her, confirms that verdict.


If you pay for good grades, consider whether or not you are being fair to all your children. If you are not sure, read "Is My Child Working Hard Enough in School?"


If that doesn’t convince you, read Nelson Lauver’s book Most Unlikely to Succeed. Lauver explains what happened to him in school when, no matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t successful. After reading his book, it should be clear why no one should judge another person’s motivation to learn.


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#6 Livia McCoy 2012-05-08 01:33
@crogers--You are asking very good questions. "Paying" kids for good grades is certainly ingrained in our culture. Having spent my career working with struggling students, I have seen many incidences of when this was totaly unfair to them. For kids who are not working up to their potential, these motivational strategies may help, at least temporarily. Recently, my first period class of seniors asked if I would reward them since they were all there on time all week. I said, "You should come to school every day on time because that's how you will learn the most. It's what you should do all the time for yourself, not for me. Will you need a reward every week to get you to school on time?" But then, I brought them donuts and OJ the next day!
#5 Carissa Rogers 2012-03-01 18:32
So where are we on 'school related' rewards for grades? In elementary school it's movie days and 'parties'... and for older students it's about being eligible to play sports or in my kid's case be in the school play...

You know what I mean? In a lot of cases (I suspect) kids keep grades up in order to play sports is that a good thing or not??
#4 Karyn Hodgens 2012-02-23 16:41
I love the idea, crogers, of taking your daughter out to lunch as a reward. Not only do you fill the 'reward' category, but you get to spend quality time with her which, in my opinion, is much more valuable.

I, too, don't agree with paying kids for grades. I believe we need to encourage intrinsic motivation which Robin mentioned (positive feedback). Countless studies have been done that show extrisic rewards (money) to have a short shelf life - once the reward is removed so is the "motivation". In addition, we tend to habituate easily, so in order to have the same effect, the reward needs to be increased.

Your point, Livia, that some kids put in a lot of effort but don't get the A or B, while others breeze through without effort is also important to keep in mind. Effort absoultely needs to be rewarded...just not with money.
#3 robin schafer 2012-02-23 14:36
To reward kids for good grades is not wise. You should give them positive feedback for their effort. Encourage them to do well for themselves because it will make them feel better. As a mom of three and a Certified Life Coach this is what I have done. If children have good self-esteem they will do well. Robin Schafer
#2 Livia McCoy 2012-02-22 21:45
@Crogers--That is a totally appropriate response to reward your daughter for working so hard. Your example is exactly what should be rewarded. My concern is that we make sure we are rewarding effort and not grades. I have a few students who should get rewarded for having a C- this quarter in my class, because they did exactly what they needed to do to pass. And, no matter how hard they tried, they probably could not get a better grade.
#1 Carissa Rogers 2012-02-22 18:43
I agree! NOT a good idea.. but I've been struggling for a while, how to reward a kid then? I want them to value good grades internally of course.. but you know ... how about when they come home with all A's after a particularly hard semester?? CUZ Mine Just did!!

(I'm taking her out for lunch btw as her 'reward' during the school day.. shhh don't tell on me!)

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
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