Do You Pay Your Kids For Good Grades?
When I was a teen, I noticed my friends got cash for good grades. Wanting in on this gravy train, I asked, "If school is my work, why don't I get performance bonuses?" Okay, it probably sounded more like, "But maaaa and daaaad... everyone else gets money!"
"No go," my parents answered, "Trying your best at school is your job and benefits you in the long run."
Turns out there is a lot of research supporting for my parents' decision not to pay for an "A," which has many of the same problems as bribing kids for good behavior.
If You Pay, Will She Get an A?
As a teacher, I get why some parents resort to paying kids for good grades. There is an immense amount of pressure to compete and succeed in our culture. Unfortunately, grades have become the gatekeepers to college admissions and all of the good things in life that people believe presumably follow. While it would be hard to argue that grades are not a factor in admissions, research suggests they are not good predictors of future success--or happiness.
Given, though, that colleges will be looking at high school grades and graduate schools will be looking at college grades, is paying for grades a necessary evil?
Not according to Hilary Levey Friedman, a sociologist and author of the upcoming book, Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, who said paying for grades simply does not work. "Rewarding kids can be bad because they are less motivated in the future. It doesn't even have to be monetary-- if a child is awarded a certificate for a task, they are less likely to do as well in the future unless they get the same thing. And even if a parent in a classroom/school decides not to do this for their child, if another child gets this and your child finds out (which I find in my research on elementary school-age kids), they will expect the same and it can still impact their motivation."
Far more important to future success is learning to delay gratification and take pride in one's work--the very motivations thwarted by external rewards. When paid for performance, the child learns that the only reason to work hard is to earn rewards. Once the reward is removed, the child will perform even worse, not having developed any self-motivation.