Do You Pay to Make the Grade?

By Olivia Pitkenthly
Pay to Make the Grade

The start of a new school year brings hope that this year will be just as good, or even better, than the last. However, as the year carries on, are they still motived to do well in school?  You want to motivate them to study for tests and complete homework assignments. For some kids, the feeling of accomplishment is rewarding enough. Others need an extra incentive, something they can actually hold in their hands.

Most parents see school as their child’s job, and if parents are paid for doing their jobs, why shouldn’t their children get paid as well? According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 48% of parents financially reward their children for good grades. The average price for an A is $16.60.

Harvard economics professor Roland Fryer studied nearly 40,000 students in lower income schools throughout the United States to determine the efficacy of financial rewards. He paid ninth grade students in Chicago $50 for every A they received on their report card, but the results were minimal. By the end of the year, the average GPA had risen from 1.9 to 2.0, and test scores for state reading and math did not change at all. Unfortunately, though the kids had a reward to strive for, they didn’t have the strategies to succeed.

Amy McCready, parenting educator and founder of, wrote that paying for grades fosters a sense of entitlement. “If the reward is money for good grades,” she wrote, “it sends the message that the reason to work hard in school is to enrich your wallet rather than your mind. It robs them of the ability to cultivate a love of learning and a sense of responsibility for their own education.”

One way to cultivate learning is to have older siblings teach younger siblings. Younger children are required to read every night as part of their homework. Have big brother or sister sit with the little ones and help them pronounce unfamiliar words.

This activity will create a bond between them, give the older children a sense of responsibility and motivate the younger ones to work harder to impress them.

For older children, limiting screen time is a good motivational tool. If your child is failing a certain subject, let her know she won’t have access to her iPad until her grades improve. Same goes for socializing with friends or anything else that might be taking away from your child’s study time.

Remember to tailor the motivation differently to each child. While working toward free time with friends will work for one child, choosing a favorite dinner may work for another. Also consider each child’s individual capabilities. If your child is completing his homework every night, studying hard for every test and still earning a C as a final grade, that may be the very best he can do. Recognize his strong efforts, not just the outcome.

If you decide to go the monetary route, websites such as and can help your older children (and you!) develop a savings plan and learn how to be financially savvy.

10 Alternative Rewards

  1. A trip to the zoo, beach or favorite attraction
  2. Kayaking or floating down a lazy river
  3. Making their favorite meal or dessert
  4. Purchasing a new book, toy or board game
  5. New item of clothing
  6. Dyeing a piece of their hair in their favorite color
  7. Tickets to a sporting event or production
  8. No chores for a week!
  9. Treating child and best friend to a movie
  10. Sleep over with a friend