Is offering to pay for high academic achievement an effective way to motivate your child?

When your student grows up and has the ability to obtain superior employment or a lucrative career because he is well-educated, he will be monetarily rewarded. In the meantime, equating good grades with opportunities to “cash in” is a mistake.

There is a psychological component to the correlation between learning and grades. When a child starts school, there is an unspoken agreement established between the educational system, the teachers and your child. The child pays attention, performs to the best of his ability and is rewarded for his efforts with grades. The child quickly realizes, the more effort expended, the better the grade. The priority is to learn; the reward is the grade.

The parents’ role is to use the grade merely as a reflection of the progress the child is making in his educational journey. Putting too much emphasis on grades, using rewards and punishment, transfers the grading system out of the educational arena into the realm of parental discipline.

The report card belongs to the student. It is a reflection of the student’s achievement or failure. It has nothing to do with parental performance. Parents often brag about their child’s grades, or become angry if the child does not perform to their expectations. A child cannot be rewarded or punished into learning. You also cannot “buy” good grades.

Once parents begin to interfere with the learning process by attempting to “control” the child’s grades with inappropriate response, such as promising rewards of money, a cycle of dysfunctional learning behavior is created. The emphasis is no longer on learning to the best of the student’s ability. The focus suddenly converts to getting good grades to “please” the parents or obtain the promised reward. When the reward is withheld for less than stellar performance, the child loses motivation and getting poor grades is often the resulting act of rebellion. Learning is out of the equation, as grades become a power struggle between parent and child.

Ways for parents to avoid interfering with the student’s learning process, and allowing grades to be their own reward:

View the report card strictly as a progress report.Be supportive if your child’s grades indicate he is struggling. Your child’s efforts are best measured by the conduct grade. If your child has good conduct, he is probably performing to the best of his ability. Contact his teacher and ask for suggestions on how you can help your child.

Be objective. Point out how proud a child should be of himself if he achieves high grades, as opposed to how proud you are, making it clear the grade and the accomplishment belong to the child.

Stress to the child the most important grade is always the one for conduct. If a child excels in conduct, i.e. behaving in class, turning in assignments on time, participating in class discussion, then the academic grades will truly reflect his capabilities and be the measure of his ability they are intended to be.

Celebrate your child’s achievement of good conduct with whatever reward you deem appropriate; such as, a new outfit, a desired video game, a special outing, or whatever gives the child pleasure. Always stress the reward is for good conduct.

If you have multiple children you will find the above tips prevent the inevitable sense of unfairness toward one over another. All children cannot perform academically at the same level, but they can have equally good conduct.

By starting right at the beginning of your child’s educational journey allowing his grades to be between him and his teachers, and continuing in the same consistent attitude throughout his school years, you will be rewarding your child with a gift more valuable than any amount of money. You will be allowing him to possess his own achievements and sense of self worth.

Your child will grow up to be a highly productive individual, who will surely achieve great things because he is self-motivated.