Pay for Grades?
I’ve heard many theories on paying kids to get good grades. After all, aren’t they supposed to? This is a tricky topic for a lot of parents; however, I have a pretty simple philosophy on this, along with paying for chores. In my most humble opinion, I say “yes” to grades and “no” to chores. Here’s why:
Running a house takes work that is rarely fun. Okay, maybe if we all could channel our inner Mary Poppins, we would love housework. If the clothes flew back into the drawers with a nod or a wink, even the kids would enjoy it-and they would do it. Unfortunately, spoonfuls of sugar only make us fat and slightly amped to do unpleasant chores before the sluggish crash sets in.
My theory is that once kids are old enough to understand that they are making a mess, they’re also old enough to clean it up. I’m not talking about the toddler’s wide-eyed “oops” when the milk spills. I’m referring to kids who know perfectly well where the hamper is, when they are almost out of clean socks, and when they’ve developed the fine motor skills to operate the television remote (usually better than anyone else in the house). At this point, our little cherubs are living, in the fullest sense of the word, in the house we pay for and they can contribute to the upkeep of said house. If the trash needs to be taken out while I am cooking dinner, I don’t feel that I should pay for that “favor.” In fact, it isn’t really a favor-it is a necessity that helps whoever is working to prepare a meal get the food on the table sooner.
Really, it comes down to respect. If our kids grow up respecting that running a household is filled with unpleasantries, they will also respect dear old Mom and Dad for what they are doing day in and day out to provide all those comforts of home. We don’t have a chore list, per se, but I do expect my kids to react (whether they want to or not) when I ask them to do something like taking out the trash, feeding the dogs, or folding some laundry. And, no, they do not get paid for it. Neither do I.
I recently read an article opposed to paying for grades. I whole-heartedly support rewarding good grades appropriately. By appropriately, I mean by their age and their perceived value of the reward. A candy bar means than a twenty dollar bill to a six year old.
When the kids where little, I used treats that weren’t attached to money. For instance, if they did well in school they would earn a reward that usually benefitted the entire family, such as a movie night, an ice cream sundae feast, or a round of mini-golf. Before they knew the value of cash, the point was that their efforts resulted in something fun. And, they got all the kudos of treating the family to that fun time. “Good job! You worked so hard and now we all get to go bowling!”
Now, with teenagers who have a mighty homework load, extracurricular activities, and all the pressures that go along with high school, I fork out the dough. My theory is cut an dry: schoolwork is hard and working hard deserves recognition.
High school is the ticket to college, and college is a warm-up for holding a job. If you go to a job and put your best effort into it, you hope to get rewarded. At the very least, you get a paycheck for punching that clock every day. When I watch my highschooler get up at 5 a.m., go to school until 3, and then come home and study until bed, he is working much harder than most adults going to their 9-5 job. I expect my kids to treat school like a job, with the sense of seriousness as if their livelihood depends on it (which, if they want a good career, it really does).
The long term goal is, of course, college. But to a teen, life is here and now. Four years away is like a lifetime, and it doesn’t have that sense of urgency as something that can be obtained right away. This is why I have no problem offering a cash pay-out for good grades. We don’t waver on how much. It is cut and dry, predetermined in writing at the beginning of the school year. They earn a set amount for each ‘A,’ about half of that for each ‘B’, nothing for a ‘C’ (who gets rewarded in the real world for being average?), and anything less takes money out of the pot. Ouch.
Why does it work? Well, for starters, besides birthday money, this is their only source of income. Unlike other windfalls they may come across that we earmark for college, we don’t put any restrictions on their “grade” money. It is theirs to spend as they wish. After all, they earned it.
The funny part is, neither of my kids want to spend that money. They now have big ticket items in mind (drums, designer clothes, cars), and they know that it will only take a couple more really good report cards to have enough to buy that treasured item. Not only are they motivated to do well in school, they are learning the value of a dollar.
They now have more pocket change than I do, but they are frugal and selective in how they spend that money. Many long hours of studying went into bringing those bucks; they aren’t about to part with those bills easily. In this economy, that is a lesson we should all wish we learned in high school.
Sorry kids, this deal only runs through high school: no cash reward for good grades in college. Tuition is enough.