Do report card rewards work? Circle of Moms member Jen G. ponders this question after hearing from her son's teacher that he's been having behavior issues in school, such as turning in assignments late and talking out of turn. "We've tried grounding [him] from the computer, video games, TV, etc., but that doesn't seem to work," she says, asking the Circle of Moms community whether incentives would provide better motivation for him to improve his behavior and get better grades.
Evelyn W., too, is on the fence about offering payment for good report card grades. "While I think it's OK some of the time to reward for good grades altogether, I think it's not teaching the kids that hard work is reward itself," she says. If you're similarly weighing the merits of offering your teen or tween money for good grades, then consider the following suggestions from other moms.
Keep reading for five key points to consider.
"School is Their Job"
Many moms support the idea of giving teens pay for good grades. Circle of Moms member Lana — whose daughter receives $20 for each A on her report card — reasons that school is like an adult job that receives a salary and bonus: "Do you and your husband get paid at your job? A job well done deserves praise, and going above and beyond needs further recognition to encourage a life-long strive to excel."
Jodi stresses that a reward is appropriate because good grades do take hard work: "An 'A' isn't something handed to a child on a platter! In fact, for some children, a 'C' isn't handed to them on a platter, but that is something to be rewarded for that child." She adds: [I've seen] good work rewarded in many workplaces I have worked in over the last 25 years, with wage increases at annual review time, a bonus or even just something as simple as a team lunch. If you work additional hours, you get paid overtime rates or get additional holiday hours. If you do extremely well consistently, you get a promotion where the pay and conditions are probably better. They are all forms of reward in the workplace that are commonplace."
Anne R. agrees that a lot of jobs are on bonus systems, so school should be too. "If you want to get promoted, you need to perform. If you want to make more than the minimum pay, you need to perform. It's a tough world out there. Even a lot of factory workers get performance-based pay. . . . If school is their job, they should be rewarded for doing it well, otherwise, what incentive do they have?"
Additionally, rewarding tweens and teens with money does seem to really work, several moms say. Michelle M. reports that her 12-year-old son's grades drastically improved after he began receiving $10 per A, $5 per B, and $2 for Cs: "This system has helped my son improve his report card. He was getting all Cs and is now an A/B student."
Reward Effort Instead of Grades
If you decide to reward your child for performance, Circle of Moms members like Jodi advise to reward for effort, not necessarily grades. "Not every child (even in the same family) is capable of an A," she points out. Two teens might put in the same effort and one will receive and A and the other receives a C or D, she explains, and you don't want the A student to receive favorable treatment.
Stephanie M. agrees, noting that "as parents we need to remember that our children may not learn at the same pace as others or perform at the level of other kids. Our objective is to help them be the best they can be so they can grow up to be happy, self sustaining, positive contributing members of society."
To evaluate effort, Jodi suggests parents talk to their child's teachers, who "can usually tell if [children] have given their best effort and reached their potential." Parents also can request full school reports; not just grades, but also discussions about their efforts and class behavior. For example, Sharon B. recommends parents look at their child's papers every week and give praise and constructive feedback. "You can set little goals for the child, give words of encouragement to 'take their time,' 'recheck work,' etc.," she suggests. Then, offer a reward at the end of the year that is "built on a lot of things — citizenship, doing homework, putting forth an effort every week."
Hold Kids Accountable for Poor Grades
In addition to rewards for good grades, many moms suggest setting consequences for poor grades.
Stephanie M. says she works closely with her 16-year-old son's teachers and counselors to monitor not only her son's grades, but to see if she can help clarify subjects in which he needs improvement. "I speak with my son on a daily basis asking him to walk me through his day, homework assignments, and share any fun or exciting happenings. I hold him accountable and there are consequences for poor grades (anything less then a C) some of those include taking away all electronics like Xbox Live, cell phones, computers, etc."
Similarly, Heather K. wrote a contract together with her son, setting the goals, rewards, and consequences down on paper. He receives $20 for As, $10 for Bs, and nothing for Cs or lower, plus is grounded until the next report card improves.
Consider Non-Monetary Incentives
Other incentives besides money — dinner at a restaurant, time with the family, books, etc. — can work equally well, adds Melissa G. "In our home, we help our kids set high goals for what they want to accomplish during the school year. These are challenging, but definitely appropriate and attainable for their age and ability. If they succeed, they are rewarded, but not with money. Usually it's getting to go somewhere fun, or getting a couple of books off their Scholastic book order."
Jeri K. also rewards her children with books, allowing them to choose a new book from the school book fair for a good report card. "Since they really enjoy reading, this works very well for us. Plus, they each do their best [with] no competition with each other or resentment if one child happens to do better in school."
Julia F. uses a bedtime reward system: a straight A report card allows her children to stay up 15 minutes later than usual, and if grades go down the bedtime gets moved up 15 minutes. "This rewards them for being mature and responsible and teaches them to balance work and play," she says. In addition, she says she will take her teens out for a special treat or have a party at home to celebrate a triumph in a difficult subject or improvement in spite of a difficult teacher. Kelly says she rewards her son for all As by taking him out to dinner with this grandparents at his favorite restaurant. "I like this much better than giving him a toy or a wad of cash because dinner with his grandparents focuses more on all of us telling him how proud we are, how much we respect his efforts, and letting him enjoy the praise; it focuses on what he put forth rather than just the end result."
Pride Alone is a Reward
Not all parents are sold on the idea of rewarding teens and tweens for good grades, however. Mom Lily G. argues that children should learn to always try their best without a reward: "Reward for their hard work is learning and a sense of accomplishment . . . kids go to school to develop the skills they need to one day be successful in the workplace and provide for themselves."
For similar reasons, Jennifer D. says, "No way never, I would never reward my kids based on their report cards. What if your child tries their best but can only do as well as a C or D in a subject?" Plus, kids should be taught that they need to not slack on school work because they need a good education to succeed, she reasons. "Their boss isn't going to offer them rewards at work to keep them doing their best. It's just not how the real world works, so why start now?" Sherri C. agrees with that mindset: "School is their job, and we do not reward for doing what they should be. Being proud of the hard work they have done to get those grades is reward enough."
Tina S. agrees: "I am not interested in training them to perform for rewards/bonuses. Instead, I hope to instill in them a love of learning, so that they will be lifelong learners and will create their own place in this world."
Ultimately, Rebecca C. summarizes, it's really up to each family to decide for themselves: "Rewarding children, or not, should be based on your particular family and your beliefs. It's a tough world out there and it is our job as parents to prepare them for it the best way we know how."