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“Paying” Kids for Good Grades

Do you offer cash or gifts in exchange for your kids getting good grades…or do you expect your kids to get good grades because learning in school is their primary job, one which, when well executed, serves to benefit them.

Many parents perceive schooling to be the “work” of their kids.  They want their kids to take their work seriously because it is their work, not unlike their parents’ work in their offices.  Also, how well kids learn in school affects, to a significant degree, the kids’ professional and socioeconomic future.  Kids who do well in school are much more likely to experience professional and socioeconomic success as an adult than are kids who do not do well in school.  Since parents want their kids to thrive as adults, parents thus want their kids to do well in school.

However, young children have difficulty conceptualizing how their choices today may affect their adult lives 20 years from now.  Further, some children are insufficiently motivated by “because my parents tell me this is what I should do” as an impetus to action.  Parents may choose to provide additional incentive to action.  This is to say that parents may “pay” kids to achieve good grades.  Whether the “payment” is a literal payment of cash in exchange for achieving good grades or is the giving of desired gifts (i.e., a popular game console, a trip to a favorite restaurant, etc.) in exchange for achieving good grades, financially incenting kids for good grades is a controversial yet somewhat successful tactic.

Some adults feel that “paying” kids for good grades is unacceptable because it implies that parents have more to gain from the good grades than the kids do, that kids don’t need to be responsible for their learning absent a cash stimulus, and that a mercantile way of approaching life choices is generally appropriate.  Further, these parents point out that such “payments” are no consistently successful in motivating kids to achieve good grades.

Other adults feel that “paying” kids for good grades is acceptable because it is akin to paying kids an allowance to perform household chores.  While these parents acknowledge that such “payments” are not consistently successful in motivating kids to achieve good grades, they argue that no one motivator works well in every individual to whom it is applied.  These parents point out that parents are responsible for knowing their kids and finding the motivators that work best for them.  When “payments” work as motivators, these “payments” should not be overlooked as a viable option for incenting academic success.

With valid arguments made by both sides of this debate, it appears that there is no objective “right” and “wrong” on this matter; instead, there may only be “right” and “wrong” as assessed subjectively by each family.  In the end, how each family views “paying” kids for good grades depends on the perspectives of each family.

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