Should Kids Get Paid for Good Grades?
Paying kids for good grades can be a helpful solution!
In high school, I had my first part-time job at a small, local shop. I was so excited. It allowed me to save up for my first car (a cute little hatchback), empowered me with my own spending money, and instilled in me a sense of purpose.
I would work any chance I got. I flew there immediately after school and spent my weekends helping stock shelves or ringing up purchases for customers.
I made $7 an hour.
But soon, my attention was focused too much on this part-time job. Things like studying and finishing essays were getting left until the last minute.
Lucky for me, I was a good student. I would scrape by on talent, will-power, and caffeine-inspired late nights. But, finally, my dad intervened.
He told me he was proud of my work ethic but also reminded me of one key fact:
“Being a student is your number 1 job. It is your full-time job. Everything else is extracurricular.”
This really struck a chord with me. It helped me shift my priorities, find some balance and establish healthy boundaries in my life.
Now, my dad didn’t pay me for my grades. But how he framed education caused something in me to shift.
I now understood that the 8+ hours each day I spent at school should be considered my full-time job. This was my main focus from that point forward.
Paying your kids to get good grades is not the only way to incentivize or prioritize their academic growth. But it can be a healthy way to indicate to them why they are in school and how they should approach their work.
Even at a young age (in most places, a part-time job isn’t an option until at least age 15), you can instill a sense of purpose, work ethic, and accountability.
What if you could motivate your student to dive into their schoolwork the way I jumped into that part-time job?
Now, money for grades is a controversial topic. It can feel very black and white:
- Some people feel that paying kids to do what they are “supposed to do anyways” isn’t good.
- Some people think that money is an effective motivator, so why not use it to help kids perform better?
- Others argue that each parent/child relationship is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy.
Each person (child or adult) is motivated by something unique.
As a parent, it is wise to weigh all ideas. Keep your options open so that you can find a mutually beneficial parenting strategy that helps your kid grow as a student and a person.
If you are interested in the potential benefits of paying your child for good grades, we’ve collected the most important pros and cons to help you decide if this could be a positive solution for your family.
Pros of Getting Paid for Good Grades
Often children have lots of potential to succeed academically. If you notice this lack of drive in your child but know they are capable of so much more, you may feel frustrated!
Many parents aren’t sure how to tap into their child’s capabilities and full potential.
Some kids do well with a financial incentive. It may even bring out their entrepreneurial spirit to work hard and meet their goals!
An “academic allowance” gives them a tangible, real-world reward for their efforts and hard work. This can help some students be more accountable for completing homework and studying for tests.
They see the direct reward and can make choices and decisions about how they spend their hard-earned cash.
This makes sense as kids aren’t always able to see ahead to the long-term benefits. To an 8th grader, college and a career are in the distant future. However, being able to save up money for a night out with friends or a new video game is something they understand. It is gratifying and real.
Keep in mind that money should only be given when your student meets clear, measurable academic goals. “Good grades” could look different for each child, so you and your child must define them and name them.
This means that while the reward can be authentic, just like earning money for a job in the “real-world,” the consequences are just as real.
Natural consequences can help your child navigate the world and their studies in a direct, clear way.
In the real world, high performance typically results in better opportunities and pay. Those who advocate for money to reinforce good grades wonder why not start this practice when they are younger?
This can prepare them for the “real-world” they will all enter after their school days are over.
Cons of Getting Paid for Good Grades
How Can It Backfire?
There are downsides to paying kids for good grades. This is especially true if the practice isn’t implemented with intention.
The biggest drawback is that paying kids to perform well academically may mean they are only motivated by a financial reward.
Internal vs. External Motivation
Part of school is learning to develop intrinsic motivation. Many teachers will agree that they hope students will eventually work hard and want to do well as a way to embrace knowledge.
Prove to themselves that they are capable, and develop lifelong skills and habits that will set them up for future success.
Some parents worry that if they start rewarding their child for grades, it will instill a sense of entitlement. There is concern that kids might start requiring compensation for all tasks.
This can be troublesome if the tasks are daily, necessary tasks that you expect of your child without reward or praise.
If boundaries are not set and reinforced, this method could backfire. They could push back for money as a reward for simple tasks such as brushing their teeth.
It’s a fact: certain things in the real world do not receive compensation.
You may level with your child and explain that you don’t get paid for tasks like putting gas in your car, going grocery shopping, or taking out the trash.
We simply need to do these tasks and responsibilities even if we don’t get the recognition we think we deserve. Draw a clear boundary for your child early on.
How Much Should You Pay Your Child for Good Grades
The amount of money you choose to pay your child will vary from family to family. It is wise to consider your overall budget and finances to make a responsible, realistic decision. If you have more than one child, the cost will be higher since you’ll want to offer the incentive fairly to all of your children.
The amount you choose should be something that you can sustain over a long period of time. It would be best if you named the price.
It is best not to permit negotiation so that you don’t feel pressured to pay beyond your means or agree to something you feel uncomfortable in hindsight.
Make sure any commitment you make to your child is something you can follow through on.
Consider how often you will use payment as an incentive.
Will you pay your child:
- At progress report and report card time?
Ensure that you clearly outline the amount of money you will reward your child with and how often so that you can budget appropriately. This will also help your child manage their expectations while meeting yours.
Some experts suggest a tiered or decreasing system. You may attribute a certain dollar amount to a specific number or letter grade.
Alternatives to Money
Sometimes it can be as simple as expressing your pride. Please don’t assume your child knows how you feel about their effort and grades. Communicate and often!
Take the time to celebrate their successes, no matter how big or small. Psychologists suggest helping your child develop a growth mindset over a fixed mindset by praising their work ethic and commitment to learning. It can also boost their self-confidence.
Saying, “I see you put lots of energy into this project,” is more meaningful than, “you’re so smart.”
Developing a growth mindset can help your child remember that our ability to learn is flexible and develops over time.
Saying your child is “smart” or even that they “aren’t good at math” implies to them that things are “stuck” as they are, and no matter what your children do or don’t do, they cannot change their intelligence.
This is false.
Acknowledge their efforts, the growth potential, and wins as often as you can. This will develop internal motivation and a positive self-image.
Take Them Out to a Celebratory Dinner
Acknowledge and celebrate the big moments with a night out for a meal. Not only is this a great reward, but it is also a memory!
Coming together as a family to acknowledge, love, and recognize your child helps them feel a sense of support, encouragement, and community.
Invest in a Tutor and Other Academic Supports
Now, let’s be frank.
Your child is most likely NOT going to beg you for a tutor or additional work to help them get ahead at school. Most kids would much rather you put the money directly into their piggy bank instead of the hand of a tutor. However, hiring professional help can actually be a big motivator in the long run.
Registering your student for academic support communicates to them that you are willing to invest in them. You see their potential and believe that they can do it with the right guidance and help.
Make a Plan and Take Action
After considering the pros, cons, and alternatives to using money as an academic incentive, sit with it for a bit. If you co-parent, talk to your partner about why you think this motivator could work for your family dynamics.
Then, prepare to discuss it with your child. Set firm “non-negotiables” in advance, but then allow them into the conversation to have some ownership of the process. You will need their commitment and buy-in for this to be successful.
If money doesn’t feel like a good fit, try implementing some of the other alternative incentives outlined in this blog, such as a celebratory dinner at your child’s favorite restaurant.
Just that fact that you are exploring ways to help your child meet their full academic potential demonstrates that you are a caring, loving parent!
We would love to hear how your experience goes putting any of these suggestions into practice. Please let us know down in the comments how you incentivize your kids to get good grades!