Many parents have wrestled with whether they should pay their kids for good grades. Some look at a little cash as an extra incentive to excel, while others believe that it sends the wrong message to children about the value of both money and education. However, studies suggest that there is a golden middle path that is motivating and teaches children lifelong financial lessons.
‘School is your job’
Many parents who support the idea that paying for grades is productive argue that school is a child’s vo0cation. It’s a kid’s job to learn as much as possible to prepare for the endless education that is life. As such, paying for performance is like an employer compensating an employee.
The opposing side to this argument, however, is that not all jobs in life net monetary rewards and that children should strive for good grades simply for personal growth. Does withholding cash for grades prepare children for the joy of unpaid internships, where experience is its own reward? Or are such jobs nothing more than volunteered slavery to a corporation, where the game of “paying your dues” obscures the truth that labor is being exploited?
Pay for good grades programs have been instituted in a number of public school systems to good effect, reports the New York Times. Yet controversy has remained. While Urban League President Darwin Davis praised such efforts for mirroring the reward systems of U.S. capitalist society, Manhattan Institute fellow Sol Stern called it “an insult to every hard-working parent.”
Never work for free
Teaching children they should be properly compensated for hard work and achievement is one of the ways parents can help instill an entrepreneurial spirit. In short, the lesson is that if you’re good at something, never do it for free. Yet for such a principle to sink into a child’s mind, it must be accompanied by knowledge regarding the value of money. Here’s a crash course in teaching kids the value of money, courtesy of Money Crashers:
- Cash is king. If you’re dealing with teenagers, do not give them gift cards or prepaid debit card as a reward for grades. The tangible feeling of handling dollars and cents as they purchase the things they want will help them understand the finite nature of money and help them visualize what it’s like to develop a savings.
- Get a job. In addition to earning money for good grades, if kids need more money, they should find part-time employment. For younger kids who aren’t already receiving an allowance, this could be doing yardwork for neighbors. For teenagers who are old enough, it could mean a paper route or other part-time job. The sense of accomplishment gained from earning money goes a long way toward teaching kids to value it.
- Teach kids about giving. Doing good in society can take many forms, donating time and/or money. Developing a healthy sense of selflessness early in life can help a child build an appreciation for money, education and the value of life in general.