Should you pay your children for good grades?

Posted at 3:30 AM, Dec 13, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Jennifer Buccholz and Kate Rich both have three children, but vastly different opinions about the contested parenting practice of paying them for good grades. 

To Rich, it's a simple way to motivate the students in her family and introduce them to the principles that will govern their adult lives.

"We go to work and get paid and that's our motivation to go to work," she said. "Why not start out, even when they're in school and getting grades?"

To Buchholz, it's a kind of contamination. Children shouldn't need a paycheck to work hard at school, she said; they should do it because it's the right thing to do.

"That's part of our expectations," she said. "You go to school and you'll learn."

It's a heated topic, and sources ranging from the New York Times' parenting blog, TIME magazine and the Huffington Post have all weighed in on the practice. Lucy Allen, a regional clinical officer with mental health care provider PsychBC, said she tends to side with the Times, the Post and Buchholz: Children who are materially motivated might not develop the same curiosity or love of learning as children who are not.

"If you're putting the motivations always outside of them, it's very hard to expect them to do the right thing at the right time when there's no outside motivation to do it," Allen said.

However, she said some forms of reward-based motivation can be effective. Recognizing a student's good performance with stickers, gold stars or a point system can help instill good long-term study habits without bringing money into the picture.

The best way to get results remains making sure their classes are inspiring them to learn, she added.

"There are only a few things you should get out of school that are crucially important, but one is a love for learning," she said. "If that isn't happening, you need to question the environment early on that the child is learning in."