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Should Parents Reward Good Grades?


I am in Week 2 and I am already seeing improvements in my daughter! We have a long way to go, but she didn’t get this out of control overnight. So I have a question daughter just came home with 100% + bonus points on a Social Studies test that she normally wouldn’t have studied for and would have probably gotten a C or D. Molly is almost 14 and in 8th grade. She calls to tell me the good news and then asks me what her reward will be. I was not sure how to answer that. I told her she should just be happy with her performance (which she is), but she still keeps pushing for a reward. Should I give her something? She proposed we eat out at her favorite restaurant. I didn’t want to make the reward food, since she is overweight already.

You advice is appreciated.




Hi J.,

Typically we neither reward good grades nor punish bad grades.

Why? Because a built-in reward/consequence system is already in place.

The "reward" (after receiving a good grade) is the satisfaction a child feels by being successful ...the consequence (after receiving a bad grade) is the disappointment a child feels by doing poorly. Even though they may not admit it, all children feel a sense of disappointment when they receive a bad grade -- although they talk themselves into believing that the 'D' or 'F' is no big deal.

Another reason we don't reward good grades is because the parent's "reward" is usually a poor reinforcer. For example, if you said, "I'll take you out to eat if you get 100% + bonus points on your Social Studies test" you think she would work hard to get the grade? I don't think so.

You DO want to reward her, but with acknowledgment and praise -- not with over-indulgence.

When can you use "eating out" as a reward? She can earn the money to buy her own meal by doing extra chores.

Having said all this, if she brings home a great report card (e.g., all 'A's and 'B's), then it's O.K. to "pull a surprise" (i.e., you can take her out to eat -- but with no reference to the grades).

Mark Hutten, M.A.


Unknown said...

Sorry, but I disagree. Some kids need a bit of motivation. For this girl, I'd have 2 charts. One with smiley faces for good grades and a sad face one for bad grades. Give her a reward once she gets to ten smiley faces, but take away electronics if she gets more than two bad grades in a week. Since this is the first time, I might reward her with something small like a new lipstick but tell her if she wants another reward she needs ten smiley faces.

Ester said...

This is an opportunity to do something fun with your child. Your child is asking to be acknowledged for a big improvement in her grade! Celebrate! Reward her with a choice of activity she enjoys. If you don’t want it to be food related give her 2 other choices of an activity you can do together.

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