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Can I Buy an “A”?

Written by Jamie Anderson, Parent Contributor | October 5, 2011

I have never paid my children for good grades. Not because I have any philosophical disagreements with paying, rather I have never felt I wanted to afford the cost. I also don’t pay my kids for chores, yard work, or child care. My motto is, we’re a family and we work together. This past school year, however, around mid-term, several of my children were underperforming and I decided that I needed to motivate them. So I offered a financial incentive for report cards with all “A’s” in the 4th quarter.

Instead of a renewed interest in putting their best into their school work, I was met first with argument, then with a studied indifference and finally a rejection of the offer. Not surprisingly, I was entirely puzzled. I had wanted to motivate and encourage and believed a little cash incentive would do the trick. Wrong!

Robert Ramsey, in his book, 501 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Success in School, says, “#15.You can’t buy school success. Don’t pay your child for doing school work. It won’t produce a better student, only a spoiled brat.” I’m not sure I entirely agree with his statement, but needless to say, I couldn’t “pay” my kids to do better. They didn’t want it. Now you may say, these kids probably already have too much. Let me tell you, we are not that kind of family.

So, this time, Dr. Ramsey was right and I couldn’t “buy” school success because my children rejected the offer. I don’t really understand why they rejected it. Perhaps they didn’t want the burden of trying to get all “A’s.” I don’t know. What I do know is, I didn’t simply offer cash and leave them to their own devices. I employed other methods all along the way of encouraging them. I provided rides so they could attend after-school labs and study periods. I suggested they talk with their teachers during down time to ask more questions and to seek clarification. I offered to proofread and provide any supplemental material. I did everything I could think of to be supportive.

In the end, the children who were struggling the most at mid-term did not produce all “A’s” in the 4th quarter, but they did improve their work and their grades. And after all, that’s all I really wanted.

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