Growing up, I knew kids who were paid for their grades. An A was worth $X, and a B was worth a little less, and so on. My parents briefly flirted with the idea of paying my siblings and I for our grades, but realized it didn't really motivate us all that much.
It was unnecessary in my case, since I'm internally motivated to do well. My siblings on the other hand just didn't care about the money. They used it as an excuse to do poorly, since if they didn't care about the money, what was the point? In fact, only one out of the five of us were effectively motivated by money to get good grades.
Now that I have a child of my own, I'm trying to figure out how to motivate him to do well in school without turning to money.
Truth be told, my son has some of the same characteristics I do, in that he's internally motivated (although to a lesser degree, I think) to do well, just for the sake of doing well. But he still likes to have a goal, and my husband and I think he should be rewarded.
But we have a hard time using money as a motivator for everything. This is why he isn't paid for helping out around the house, and why we're reluctant to pay for grades. So we came up with a different system of motivation.
Rewarding Without Using Money
Our son loves to travel (it's my fault; I take him on trips frequently). So we decided that, instead of using money to bribe him into performing well in school, we would reward him with experiences.
When he does reasonably well, we buy him some new books and take him out to dinner at a restaurant of his choosing. We are perfectly satisfied with a few B_s sprinkled amongst the _A_s in his report card. And as long as he stays out of trouble (we emphasize his citizenship grade), we don't care if he gets straight _As or not.
He recently came to me at the beginning of middle school with a proposal: If he gets straight _A_s, he wants to be able to go on a day trip.
We live near New York City, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia, so he reasonably figured out that straight _A_s should be worth such a trip. We agreed with him, and so far he's studied and applied himself really well. So, now we're planning to take him on a day trip.
Creating Better Money Values
Instead of bribing your kids with money in order to get good grades, how else can you reward them? What are some other more important characteristics they should learn instead of always using money as a motivator?
Work with your kids to come up with a plan that makes sense for the whole family, and figure out how you can help them work towards their goal in a more creative way.
I hope this new strategy helps my son see the value in experiences as well as things, and equates hard work with being able to have fun later — and do something he can enjoy.
Yes, in the end, a day trip to Washington, D.C. will probably cost me more money than if I just handed my son $20 for each A. However, it's not about the money as much as it's about helping mold values and priorities.
I hope my son will learn that value in life isn't always about how much money you have, or earn. Sometimes it's what you experience, and who you meet, along the way.
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