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Yesterday on Facebook, a friend of mine launched what turned out to be a lengthy conversation about paying kids for grades. Her position was that kids should feel pride over grades and get a small reward, something like ice cream, but not be paid big bucks for academic performance. About a third of those who joined the conversation agreed with her. Another third argued that kids should not be paid huge amounts, but that token amounts ($5 for an A; $3 for a B) were ok. The final third got angry with the other two thirds for being judgmental about their own parenting decisions and defended the payments as a reward for hard work or a motivational tool.

Hey, it’s Facebook. You know judgment is going to enter the picture.

The discussion has lead me to consider my own feelings on the matter. I never got a dime for grades. But honestly, I don’t remember peers getting paid, either. Plus, I was so hyper-competitive academically that I don’t think I cared about the cash; I just cared about the grades. What about for other kids, though? Is it really the end of the world?

I’m thinking not. If an easily distracted student is motivated to try harder by the promise of a new something or other or money for a new something or other at the end of a semester or year, I’m not going to judge. At least not out loud. I’d prefer the payment be small or something like an experience so as to not breed greed or entitlement, but one person’s token is another person’s splurge.

So will I be paying Simon for his grades?

Hahahahahhahahahhahaahhahahhaahhaahhah! A-hahahahahhahahhaahahahhahh!

No. Let me count the reasons why:

  1. He’s already plenty motivated to do his best. In fact, we’re still working on his learning that it’s OK to make a mistake.
  2. What the heck would he do with the money anyway? His peers would be buying—I guess—Lego or computer games and the like. It was hard enough to shop for Simon for his birthday and the holidays. The last thing in the world I need is another circumstance that requires shopping.
  3. To combat his perfectionism, I try hard to not talk about grades. I think I’ve only ever let Simon see his report card once. Usually I just tell him I’m proud of him for doing his best and praise him for his good behavior and effort. Still, he’s keeping score of who is the best at what in his class, and he worries that he might fall behind. Here’s a taste of what that sounds like:

“Mama, did I get any NIs (Needs Improvement, a primary grade) on my report card?”

“NIs? No. You did just fine. Do you think you got any NIs?

“I was worried I might get one in math.”

“[Internal hysterical laughter. Math is his best subject.] In math? You? Why ever would you be worried about that?”

[Holding back tears.] “Because I don’t think I did my best in math workshop this time. Sometimes when my friends are being loud and not doing what they are supposed to do, it’s hard for me to concentrate. So I’m not doing my best.”

“Well, honey, it can be hard to concentrate when it’s too noisy. I understand that and don’t think you should feel bad at all.”

“[Rallying] I have a plan. How about I ask Mrs. Thomas if I can skip recess and do math workshop then? I don’t like recess much anyway, and that way I can get more work done.”

Does that sound like a kid I should be paying for good grades? I laugh (and cringe), but the tendency for self-punishment is no laughing matter. Maybe I should take a page out of my mom’s book and offer a reward for coping with an off semester or subject.




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