Should Parents Pay For Good Grades?

Red apple and A Plus sign

There is and has been a swirling cloud of controversy surrounding whether or not parents should reward their children for earning good grades in school.

To me, it is normal and natural for a parent to want their child to do well – in school and in life. I believe that smart parents find ways to reward behavior they want to encourage. The carrot is better than the stick, in old fashioned terminology!

My parents rewarded by brother and I for good grades. They paid for good grades, we paid for bad ones. I remember getting a quarter for every E (excellent work) and although I never had to pay it, there was a penalty for any grade below average. We rewarded our sons for good grades – through high school. My brother and I excelled in school, as did both of our sons.

That said, it wasn’t the money that caused us to get good grades, it was the parental focus, support and involvement in our academic life and their recognition of our academic achievements that led to our academic success. Monetary rewards for grades were just one aspect of that support, involvement and recognition.

According to a survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAS and published on their site in August 2012:

“Nearly half of parents with kids in school, or 48 percent, also pay their kids for good grades. The average rate for an A: $16.60.”

Which means, that more than half do not pay for grades, but it is a small margin, so the debate is on!

The Pros and Cons of Paying for Grades

First The Cons

Parents who object to paying for grades feel that their students are expected to study hard and shouldn’t have to be motivated by money to do so. They relate it to paying for demonstrating courtesy.

Parents who object to paying for grades feel it is ineffective, paying for the final outcome isn’t helpful when the process involved to get there isn’t rewarded. In fact, some studies, done long ago and outside the family environment show that rewards (of any kind) for work done may actually hurt intrinsic motivation.

Parents who object to paying for grades consider it bribery, and bribery, at least according to Beth Kobliner of the Huffington Post in “Should You Pay for an ‘A’? How to Motivate Your Child — Part 1” is bad. She says:

“Offering some unrelated incentive–an iPhone for an A- in honors math or a pair of Beats headphones to boost a grade to a B+ from a C in Algebra 1–is artificial, at best.

After all, isn’t the point to get your kids to work hard for the satisfaction of a job well done? Isn’t a good grade, and all that goes along with it, a reward in and of itself?

At worst, bribery is downright dangerous. (Will it lead to your kid expecting to be paid to get out of bed, do his homework, study for the SATs?)”

If extended beyond the family, as it is being done in some areas, it can lead to conflict for the teacher. In Houston, TX a privately funded effort is paying both the student and their family when the student improves their grades. The NEA article claims:

“Many teachers also say paying students for grades leads to practical problems in their classrooms, including pressure to inflate grades and conflict with students and parents.”

In other words, parents yell at the teachers if the teacher doesn’t give a good grade!

Now The Pros

Parents who pay for grades believe that if used as part of a fully supportive in-family system with the right expectations and intermediate recognition of successes, it works. It worked for us. Would we have gotten good grades without the pay? Probably – because it was part and parcel of a bigger system, but it was a nice little incentive and acknowledgment of our effort.

Parents who pay for grades believe that it reinforces parental priorities. Lets face it, parents are responsible for raising kids and every day in every way they use positive and negative rewards to do so. Paying for good grades merely reinforces parental expectations of good behavior.

Parents who pay for grades believe it can provide incentive. Per Reuters article As school starts, parents pay up for grades:

“I don’t see anything wrong with paying for performance,” says Clare Levison, a certified public accountant in Blacksburg, Virginia, and a member of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “It’s gone on for a long time in corporate America. I think it can be an effective incentive, as long as you’re using it as a teachable moment to tell them about budgeting and saving.”

Parents who pay for grades feel it helps prepare their child for performance based job rewards. How many of those parents who won’t pay their kids for good grades, get merit increases from their company in their salary each year? How many CEOs get bonus or stock rewards for increasing company bottom line financials? It is part of life.

Parents who pay for grades feel it is one way to help teach their child money management. Kids need to have available money of their own, so they can make their own mistakes, so parents and kids can have discussions and practice sessions on spending, saving and giving. Providing financial rewards for good grades is one method of getting some money into a child’s hands so they can start learning these things.

There is no doubt in my mind that rewarding achievement of good grades is an acceptable parental behavior.

There is no doubt in my mind that parents who pay their kids for good behavior of any kind WITHOUT parental involvement, support and encouragement along the way, will not accomplish their goal. I also do not believe that pay for grade programs administered outside the family will succeed, because they will lack that system of parental involvement, support and encouragement.

BUT, paying for grades within a full system of expectations, ongoing support, encouragement and recognition can provide added incentive for success.

Where do you stand on the pay for grades debate?


Should Parents Pay For Good Grades? — 21 Comments

  1. Honestly I think good grades should just be expected and should not be paid for. I do like how you had to pay your parents for bad grades though.

  2. I think it really depends on the incentive given,sometimes they need more than just verbal motivation to do what they should do as students. Parents must plan ahead, so that the incentive they’ll give will be something that their child will be able to use in the coming school year or something that will take their attention from their study.

  3. Tough call. I didn’t get paid – but I did receive the other things you did (help, encouragement, etc.). I do like the idea of paying your parents if you get bad grades though!

  4. I will be paying for grades. I don’t know about $16, but they will get something. I think that it makes the child more engaged and by doing that it keeps me engaged. If I don’t have some incentive to keep up with their report cards, I might forget and not make it a focus. If my kids are promised maybe $5 I know at least one of the kids will alert me that it’s report card time and help me focus on helping the stragglers and high five-ing the achievers.

  5. When I was younger, (like under 10 years old) I remember that my parents paid my sisters and I for good grades. $5 for an A, $3 for a B, or something like that. But this didn’t last long for whatever reason, and for most of my academic life, we were not rewarded for our grades. Both my sisters won scholarships, we were all in the top of our classes, and all went on to graduate University and then some.

    I don’t think I’ll be offering rewards to my kids when the time comes either.

  6. I think that it depends a lot on the child and on the family. Some children are more intrinsically motivated, and get good grades because it makes them feel good about themselves. Others might require outside influences, like getting extra privileges or being paid. Regardless, I agree with what you’ve said about parental involvement- it is what’s most important, above everything else!

    • Good points Kayla, each child is so different, even coming from the same parents and growing up in the same home!

  7. My parents didn’t pay for good grades, and we choose not to as well. What my wife and I emphasize is work ethic and the perspective of doing the best that they possibly can in everything they do. The grades just take care of themselves.

    that being said, we have a local movie rental store that gives free rental for each ‘A.” We do bring their report cards in for them to cash in on that. 🙂

  8. I don’t see anything wrong with rewarding your kids for a job well done. The school year is long and kids put in a lot of hard work, so why not reward them for a job well done. What is the difference between this and getting a bonus at work? Remember that the “pay” does not always have to be monetary

  9. I think rewards are important but not monetary in my opinion. Also teaching children to be satisfied only with the feeling of accomplishment is very important in our instant gratification society.

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