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!
What Can I Do to Reward Academic Success?
Avoid a Transactional Model
Paying children a set dollar amount for receiving good grades is very common, but it actually limit inspire student growth. “Bribing” your kids for good grades can actually decrease academic success over time because children are focused on extrinsic rewards rather than actually learning. In fact, the best rewards for academic success are free.
Another method to avoid is any sort of emotional consequences. Withholding attention or affection for poor grades send 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.”
When rewarding academic success, it’s important to remember the role of parents is to help children grow and learn that they will be loved no matter what grades they get. With that said, let’s explore more helpful rewards for academic success!
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 him or her. 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
This may seem old-school, but displaying your child’s best grades on the fridge (or another place!) a cheap, easy, and effective reward. Instead of giving something of material value, posting a good report card on the fridge for everyone to see gives kids something to feel proud of. This is an easy way to enable intrinsic motivation and reward. Every day, they can see how their very own hard work paid off. Instead of being proud of the gifts they receive, children will be proud of the result of their own actions, which is the most vital factor for continued 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.
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!
Author: Brenna Waugaman, Writer and Teacher at A Grade Ahead
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