Paying for Good Grades: Taking the money out of motivation

How do you get good grades without breaking the bank?

good grades

Book report or soccer practice? You can probably guess which one your child would prefer. Each year, our kids have more opportunities in school, more sports to play, and more clubs to join. How can we prevent studying from falling to the bottom of their to-do list?

Many parents take the seemingly logical approach of rewarding children when they earn good grades. And nothing says “Nice work!” to a kid like money. After all, what’s wrong with paying for a job well done?

Unfortunately, these monetary rewards – and all rewards in general – have more negative effects than positive ones. To begin with, when we offer rewards, we are letting our kids know that we don’t have the confidence they can achieve good grades without being rewarded for it.

No only that, but a cash payout rewards the outcome of the work, rather than encouraging the good study habits themselves. A growing body of research is finding that rewards diminish – rather than encourage – the behavior with which they are associated. Students end up becoming less intrinsically motivated to do their studies and don’t develop a love for learning. Instead of an internal drive to do something, they now simply expect an external payoff.

Well-intentioned parents need not worry…there are simple steps we can take to develop good study habits without robbing our wallets.

Use encouragement, not rewards.
Regardless of what system you’re currently using in your home, it’s not too late to make a change. The first step is to introduce the new policy to your children. Your message should reinforce the fact that they are old enough to put forth their best effort without needing to be rewarded for it. Be sure to also let them know that you are confident this is something they can handle.

school boy

From here, we need to resist the temptation to reward. Instead, switch the focus to identifying and encouraging the good study habits. For instance, it’s Tuesday night, and Sarah has been studying for Wednesday’s history test for the last few days. Rather than reaching for our pocketbook when she gets her test result, this is the perfect opportunity to encourage the good study habits she’s showed. Take a moment to tell Sarah, “You’ve been studying hard for this test tomorrow – you should be proud of yourself!”

Connect good habits to good grades.
Sarah takes her history test and brings home an “A” the next day. This is great news! Now is the time to follow through on our new rewards-free system, and tie Sarah’s grade to her work. “Sarah, you planned ahead and studied hard for this test. That “A” represents all your hard work – you really earned that grade!” Sarah has learned that while an “A” is great, what matters most is the effort behind it.

By using encouragement instead of rewards, and by linking good effort to good grades, we set the groundwork for our kids to develop positive study habits. In our next blog post, we’ll look at a few more tips to keep the hassle out of homework.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.