Cash For Grades Essay

Did your parents decide to add a little extra incentive to your school work by bringing money into the fold?
More and more, I hear of parents (sometimes even relatives other than parents) that are willing to financially “reward” students for positive results in the classroom. Is this a smart move, or could it be sending the wrong message, both financially and academically?

Many parents who are willing to pay their children for good grades will argue that it is a child’s job to go to school and learn. Therefore, they should be compensated for positive results just as they are at their jobs. If you ask me, this would be the weakest argument for those on the “pro” side of this practice. Logically speaking, it does make sense, but one could counter that not all jobs are rewarded with money. Parents do not clean the house for money. People at unpaid internships get nothing but experience and networking opportunities. Some “jobs” serve not as money-making opportunities, but as character and experience builders. For example, personal growth is one of the main benefits of learning in a classroom with fellow students, which should be payment enough for children.

Another “pro” argument is that the promise of money for grades increases the students’ drive for success and good marks soon follow. Salespeople often get bonuses for high sales numbers, so why not apply this same philosophy to your student in hopes that the potential for income increases effort? One argument against this line of thinking is that kids do not understand the importance of earning money and often don’t really need their own money. If the money does not matter to them, the grades won’t matter. Thus, the promise of getting paid as a reward for good grades is not really a reward. The same argument can be applied to a child that you pay to do tasks around the house. If it comes to a choice of earning $5 to mow the lawn or continuing to play Halo, the kid may not care about the money; he would rather continue his game. To be effective, you must first teach your children how to handle money.

This practice can also get the parents into a bad mindset of thinking money is all that matters to the kid. If a student is struggling, will these parents do everything in their power to have a conversation with teachers or assist with the child’s homework? Would the parents take away driving privileges and time away from friends? Or would they simply threaten to stop paying the kid money? Is the threat of lost money truly enough to entice the student to buckle down and do what is necessary to turn things around in school?

Interestingly, schools themselves have started to pay students for earning good grades. Here’s a story from a N.Y. Times article that tests this out:

New York City students could earn as much as $500 a year for doing well on standardized tests and showing up for class in a new program to begin this fall, city officials announced yesterday. And the Harvard economist who created the program is joining the inner circle of Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, according to an official briefed on the hiring.

After the proposed payment plan for students, over 200 schools experimented with it in New York City. With apparently moderate success, other cities have adopted some of the same ideas. And don’t think these plans only apply to the students. Standardized tests can also teachers and school officials monetary rewards. Perhaps in the future, it will not even be up to the parents whether or not to pay students.

The debate over rewarding kids with money for good grades is an argument that could go back and forth for years with no “right” answer on either side. My personal feelings are that paying your children for good grades could potentially work if it’s in combination with other incentives and education by the parents. The child needs to know why he is being paid for good grades and why a good education is so important. To make the financial incentive worthwhile, you also need to teach your children the important of savings and how to manage their money. Whether you believe it’s counterproductive to pay students or it’s a great way to get them to study hard, paying kids for good grades is a hot-button issue that has valid issues both for and against.

Where do you weigh in on the issue?

(photo credit: The Ritters)


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Categories: College & Education, Kids

“My kid’s job is school. So why shouldn’t I pay her for good grades? After all, I get paid for the work I do.”

As someone who works with parents, I hear that a lot, and as a parent of two teenage boys myself, I completely understand. We have high hopes for our kids when it comes to their future—meaning, at a minimum, that we’d rather they not live in our basement into their thirties. We desperately need a way to get our children’s minds off the latest video game and onto their algebra test, so we promise a cash reward or a new toy for performance.

But no matter how much we want it to, money can’t buy smarts, motivation or school success.

In fact, it can’t even buy good grades for very long. Though you may see initial improvement, numerousstudieshave shown that over time, rewards dampen excitement about a task — exactly the opposite of what we’re going for.

Rewards also foster a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. If the reward is money for good grades, it sends the message that the reason to work hard in school is to enrich your wallet rather than your mind. It also puts the burden on parents to continue dangling carrots in front of their children as motivation. And if the child doesn’t enjoy history, is a $20 payout required rather than the standard $5 for an A?

Children who are rewarded for good grades start to feel entitled to a payout, which robs them of the ability to cultivate a love of learning and a sense of responsibility for their own education. That A grade we paid dearly for actually does nothing to guarantee the future success we’re banking on. Instead, parents need to help their children develop the school skills they need to succeed now and down the road. No-bribe strategies like these work:

Put studies before screen time. While a few children may beg to be quizzed on their spelling, most need a push to pick up good study habits. Stick to a consistent, no-excuses, “When-Then” schoolwork routine. Tell your children, for example, “When your homework is done, including reviewing for upcoming tests, then you may enjoy your media time for the day.”

Refuse to rescue If you have a frequent forgetter, it may be time to institute a No-Rescue Policy when it comes to homework. Tell children in upper elementary school or above: “You’re really growing up, and you’re old enough now to manage your own homework. I’ll no longer be reminding you about homework or delivering it to you at school if you forget it. Now, what are your ideas for keeping track of your assignments?” Set them up for success and then put the ball squarely in their court, even allowing them to fail. They will reap greater rewards from learning important life lessons about responsibility than from any cash payment.

Emphasize the action, not the A When commending your children, use encouraging words that focus on the effort or behavior that led to a good result, rather than the result itself. So if you see your 14-year-old studying her biology notes every night before a test, say: “You’ve really worked hard to prepare for your test. You must be proud of your effort.” If she gets a good grade, use the opportunity to highlight her hard work rather than the outcome. And if she doesn’t? Encourage her to keep trying, and remind her that persistence will pay off in the long run.

Be helpful, but not too helpful If “Mom, I need help!” is code for “Mom, please do it for me!” it may be time to establish a Help Policy. Tell your children, “I’m happy to help with homework between 6:30 and 8, and only after you’ve completed everything you know how to do and you can explain your thought process for the questions you can’t figure out.”

Make it their job — not yours Not every child is going to be the head of their class, and chances are they’re not going to follow in our footsteps or pursue all the dreams we have for them. While it may seem like parental misconduct to let our children take age-appropriate responsibility for their own education (and fail sometimes, too) letting children manage their own homework, studies and grades, for better or worse, is the best way to prepare them to navigate life’s ups and downs and become who they want to be.

Our children’s success, on their terms, is not something we can put a price on. Paying for grades without helping children cultivate life skills like dedication and accountability will only prepare them to rely on payouts and other external motivating factors down the road. Instead, when we inspire a love of learning, cultivate good habits and allow them to plot their own course, they will truly flourish.

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