Giving your child or children money for achieving good grades definitely isn’t a new concept, and there seems to be no age limit. Some parents continue to give their children extra monetary bonuses for getting good grades, even while in college. But is this really an effective and healthy way to motivate in the long term?
Is it wrong to teach kids that if they perform well they will be rewarded with cash? After all, isn’t it true that if they perform well in their jobs later in life, they are more likely to be rewarded with raises and promotions? Is it good to show kids that rewards will come to those who meet or exceed expectations?
There is definitely validity to this argument, and studies show that a reward system can improve performance and behavior in children — in the short-term. If you start rewarding your child for getting good grades or keeping up their room, you’re likely to see an improvement right away. This may seem to validate your reward system.
Although, long-term studies show that a reward system can be detrimental to children, too.
By paying your child to get good grades, or for performing any other type of good behavior, you are essentially bribing them to do what they ought to be trying to do anyway. Setting up a reward system may actually train children how to do just enough to get the desired reward. And while that sounds great on the surface, there are deeper affects at play here.
Through a reward system, a child is learning how to do what’s needed to get that reward. Over time, they may tend to loose some ambition because they are going to get a certain amount of money at each goal they reach. This system may not teach them to go above and beyond their normal duties at home or academically. It’s important to help them stay outside the box and learn to love learning and desire self improvement. Otherwise, they’re just following the minimum goals and doing what’s necessary to get the prize at the end. You aren’t encouraging them to do well for the value of doing well — you’re teaching them to do well for cold, hard cash.
The reward system can also backfire on you spectacularly. At any time, the child may decide the money is no longer worth the effort and stop caring about their grades and chores entirely. You also may be unable to stop providing rewards once you put this system in place. You’ll be forced to continue to reward the child to keep them motivated. They may even ask for more money as they achieve good grades as they get older. So, be prepared.
The Rewards System
These tips are not to say you shouldn’t reward your child for good performance at school. You should. However, there are many ways to do this that don’t involve money. Verbally reward your child by praising their effort and hard work. Perhaps give them a special privilege or take them to an event or a favorite place as a surprise reward. Don’t hold out the promise of a reward; provide one as a true reward once something has been achieved. This way, you aren’t bribing your child, but truly rewarding them in a healthy way for a job well done.