Should I Reward My Child’s Academic Success?

academic success rewards for grades girl celebrates

Without a doubt, inspiring kids is critical for their academic success. If children feel their achievements go unnoticed, they are less likely to excel in the future. On the other hand, if children are only rewarded when they achieve high letter grades, this can send a variety of mixed signals. To help give students the tools for success, it’s important to find a happy medium between no rewards and constant rewards. Most importantly, learn the proper ways to reward children for academic success – but don’t worry, it’s easier than you think!

And, if your child needs some extra help succeeding in school, you can always consider an after-school enrichment program for English or math!


What Can I Do to Reward Academic Success?

Avoid a Transactional Model

It’s fairly usual to pay kids a certain amount of money for getting good grades, yet this actually discourages student advancement. Because youngsters are more likely to focus on external rewards than on learning, “bribing” your children for good grades can actually reduce their academic achievement over time. The biggest incentives for academic success are actually free.

Another method to avoid is any sort of emotional consequence. Withholding attention or affection for poor grades sends negative messages to children. Children can develop a sense that their parents’ love is conditional, which many psychologists agree can be detrimental to academic success.

According to psychologist Jim Taylor in The Washington Post, “If parents send frequent messages of love, happiness, and excitement when their children are successful and frequent messages of withdrawal of love or anger, frustration, and disappointment when their children fail to live up to their parents’ expectations, the kids will make that connection.”

It’s crucial to keep in mind that parents should help their children develop and learn that they will be loved regardless of their academic performance while celebrating academic success. Let’s look at some more encouraging incentives for academic performance now.

Offer Praise to Reward Academic Success

Praise is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reward academic success. Be honest and sincere and tell your child how proud you are of them. Be sure to point out how their hard work paid off—with a good grade! The focus should be that the reward is a sense of achievement, not material goods. Children are most inspired by a sense of achievement and independence. Praise can enable intrinsic (internal) motivation rather than extrinsic (external) motivation, which has lifelong benefits.

Like Emily K. wrote in our previous blog post about homework, verbal praise will help replace the “What do I get?” attitude with a “What can I achieve?” attitude! We love enabling students to do their best at A Grade Ahead.

Ask Questions and Encourage Reflection

Unknowingly, many parents display a noticeable pause when they receive a report card that contains a grade that is less than perfect. Even if most of the grades are As, a report card with a B- or a C (or worse) can be discouraging! Children are already aware of the grade, so it’s important to first praise the good grades. If a child received an A in one class, ask him or her the most interesting thing that he or she learned. More than that, help your student continue to perform on this level by asking some other questions:

  • What was your favorite part of the class?
  • What do you think helped you get this grade?
  • What can you do to keep your grade this high?

Then, if you get to the section on the report card with a poor letter grade, transition the questions to, “What was the hardest thing about this class?” This can be a great opportunity for both you and the child to determine what could be improved. Try some of these questions to encourage self-reflection:

  • Did you miss homework assignments?
  • Did you get enough sleep before tests or assessments?
  • Did you study adequately?
  • Did you ask questions on subjects you didn’t understand perfectly?
  • What would you do differently a second time around?

Treating both high and low grades with the same inquisitive, questioning nature will help children realize that grades are an outcome of their efforts. The vast majority of children (and all humans) are naturally motivated and will want to succeed! Helping children understand their areas of growth will help them prepare for the future rather than feel reprimanded for “messing up.”

Post Good Grades on the Fridge

Displaying your child’s top grades on the fridge (or another location!) may seem dated, but it’s a simple, affordable, and rewarding incentive. Posting a good report card on the refrigerator for everyone to see offers kids something to be proud of instead of providing them something of material value. It is simple to provide intrinsic motivation and reward in this way. They witness daily the results of their own labor. Children will be proud of the outcomes of their own acts rather than the presents they get, which is the most important aspect for ongoing success.

Expand Your Child’s Freedoms

Rather than transactional-type rewards for good grades, as your child succeeds, try expanding some of their freedoms. This will contribute to their sense of independence and responsibility for their own actions. When they succeed in taking initiative over their own grades, you could try giving them more freedom over homework schedules, curfews, bedtimes, chores, or other household rules!

This can challenge kids to make the right decisions and is another form of praise for positive academic performance. (It’s also a great way to continue building that intrinsic motivation that we’ve been talking about!)

An excess of rules can cause children to feel as though they aren’t capable of succeeding on their own, which will hurt both academic and behavioral growth in the long run. This way, children feel they have more responsibility. This will actually increase their level of motivation and intrinsic value over their own lives—ultimately resulting in better academic success.

Give Your Child a Say

Giving your child a say in the reward they receive can increase its allure. Think about developing a reward “menu.” Change the incentive if your child seems to be losing motivation after a few weeks, but be sure to first discuss it with them.  Be specific about the choices your student makes. Having clear expectations, even making a written list can increase the likelihood of success.

What do you think of these ideas? Have you used any of these rewards for academic success for your own child? Get a conversation started in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Original Author: Brenna Waugaman, Writer and Teacher at A Grade Ahead

Revised by: Pamela Crum, Lead Teacher at A Grade Ahead

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