Rewarding Good Grades

By Kristen Castillo

June 6, 2012 5 min read

Your child gets good grades on his report card. Do you reward him? How?

Some parents give their kids cash for good grades; others reward with electronic gadgets, movie tickets or activities.

Still other parents want to reward their children's report cards with praise.

"What a kid is looking for more than anything is that you're proud of them," says Kenneth Goldberg, a 35-year professional in clinical psychology and author of "The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers."

You can show your child your pride with a high five, a hug, some uplifting words and some quality time together.

"Kids need support and encouragement when learning," says Brian Bonner, the California State PTA's vice president for parent involvement.

*Celebrating Achievement

"A report card shows the progress a kid has made," says Bonner. "You can't always expect perfection, but you can expect progress."

How you recognize that progress is up to you.

"Rewards can be given without actually calling it a reward," says Goldberg, who suggests telling a child you want to "celebrate" with him.

For example, Goldberg says you tell your child, "'Let's go have ice cream,' or 'Let's go see a movie,'" he says. "This is an accomplishment worth celebrating."

*Choosing Rewards

The reward you choose has to be something the child values, such as a visit to a favorite museum or extra time watching TV.

"The best rewards are the ones that work," says Goldberg, who explains rewards will change based on the student's age and interest.

He also reminds parents to be flexible. "Be ready to continually adjust the reward system," Goldberg says.

While money can be a motivator, say $20 for each A and $10 for each B, the burden of rewarding good grades with cash can be stressful and expensive.

"Parents need to recognize our resources and limits and follow them," advises Bonner.

So if you're willing to reward grades with money, save up.

*Be Involved

Don't wait until you receive your child's report card to know what's going on with grades, good or bad.

"Report cards shouldn't come as a surprise," says Bonner. "Parents need to be involved with their kids' progress and learning throughout the year."

Intervene right away if you see your child isn't doing well at school, so the student can get academic help.

Trying to reward a struggling student can backfire, since most students with poor grades simply don't understand the work.

"Rewards work on the assumption that a child could do the work if he just tried harder," says Goldberg, who recommends parents talk with the teacher about what's going on in the classroom to see whether the problem is a lack of understanding the material.

*Finding the Right Reward

It's not just parents who offer rewards to celebrate student achievement and keep them focused on their studies. Some restaurants and stores honor students who have good grades by giving them free desserts, snacks and activities.

Students in the Athens, Ga., area are motivated by "Report Card Rewards," a program that gives good students swim passes.

"The whole idea is to recognize kids who've done well academically," says Cathy Padgett of the Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Department, which has been running the program for a few years. "All kids love to go swimming."

Students in kindergarten through 12th grade are eligible for the program.

"With all A's, a child gets one free summer pool pass," says Padgett, noting that kids with A's and B's receive 10 free swims.

"Parents see it as a great opportunity," she says. "Plus, it's free."

*Reward Reminders

--Build your child's confidence throughout the school year by recognizing his progress.

--Realize that while self-motivated kids don't necessarily need rewards to do well, they love positive attention and rewards, too.

--Don't worry about spoiling your child. Your child is "earning" the reward by earning good grades.

--If your child doesn't earn good grades and therefore doesn't earn the reward, find ways she can do better next time, like by studying with a tutor or doing extra credit work.

--Reward children with praise, but never ridicule them.

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