As the school year starts, I want to ensure that both my children get good grades and have good study habits as well. Which means, I need to start saving. No, not for tutors (although we have those too) but to bribe.
I have no problem with bribing my kids to get good grades, or for finishing a hard project.
My daughter, Rowan, is entering grade 10, so it’s an important year. My son, Holt, is entering grade one, the start of getting homework and learning about study habits. Interestingly, my daughter loves school but needs to work hard to get good grades. My son, although he is only six, doesn’t like school, but seems to be inherently smart when it comes to math and reading. So I have one kid that loves school, but has to work at it, and another kid who doesn’t like school, and I think he’ll be lazy when it comes to homework. I can just tell.
The notion of bribing your kids to get good grades, or rewarding them with cash, when they do get good grades, is a hot topic. Many, many experts disagree with bribing your kids with cash, but, from my own personal experience, it does work. Really well!
When I was in high school, good marks came easy. I could whip up an essay within a couple hours. Before any exam, I would just stay up and cram. I loved learning. Two of my brothers, however, had to work to get good grades and didn’t love learning. Until my mother told them she would give them $20 for every A and $10 for every B on their report cards.
When I heard my mother was doing this for my brothers, I immediately demanded equal rights for getting good grades too. Since I really did get all A’s, my parents shelled out a lot of money to me, when report cards arrived. $20 back then was a lot of money. I would make more than $100 sometimes. And, yes, my brother’s grades magically improved. They were aiming for B’s because $10 was enough for them, and for my parents. We all won (especially me!) All my brothers went on to good universities. And I don’t think they would have gotten there if my parents hadn’t bribed them to get grades.
Recently, in the U.K. this debate came up on a morning show. An “expert” named Jane Evans said children need emotional reasons to do well, not financial ones. She said bribing kids with cash for good grades, “equates to dog training it’s very similar to what we would do if we were training a dog. If you sit, you get a reward.” Um, yeah, and dog training works. I’m not saying I think of my kids as dogs, but if dogs get rewards for being good, and are scolded for bad behaviour, why can’t I reward my kids for getting good grades?
This self-described expert continued, “I’m very opposed to bribing children of any age for anything…I am a previous briber. I did start off going down the Supernanny route, which is all about rewards, consequences, praise but it just felt very disrespectful to my son.” Um, what? Are you even a parent these days if you haven’t bribed your kid…weekly?
My brothers and I certainly didn’t feel ‘disrespected,’ when we were given handfuls of cash at report card time. We loved it!
She suggests that what works is giving the child an emotional reason why. Saying, “I’m on your team, we’re going to get through this together,” is much more effective. I’m sorry, but in 2018, our kids are praised and given medals for just showing up to activities. We praise them constantly. They already know we’re on “their team.”
I think bribing kids, especially ones who have to work to get good grades, and those who are smart, but are lazy when it comes to homework and studying, is an incentive (as well as bribery.) So what? Even an article, called “Why you shouldn’t pay children for grades,” in the New York Times, says, “But no matter how much we want it, money can’t buy smarts, motivation or school success.” I disagree.
I have no problem bribing my children to get good grades.
Sure, money can’t buy smarts, but if it buys motivation, it will lead to good (or better) grades, and motivation to study. “Children who are rewarded for good grades start to feel entitled to a payout, which robs them of the ability to cultivate a love of learning and a sense of responsibility for their own education.” Again, I disagree. Why?
Here’s the candid truth: Some kids love school. Some kids hate school. And some kids are ambivalent about it. Some kids love learning. Some kids don’t. And some kids are ambivalent about learning. But, as parents, we all know how competitive it is now to get into a good university, so whether they love learning or not, they need good grades.
So, yes, I’m more than happy to give my children cash or some other form of bribery, so they get good grades and study. My brothers didn’t love learning or school all that much, but they upped their studying habits for tests…not because they “loved” learning, but because cash is king! And, yes, all my brothers have great careers.
In another interesting article, a professor at Rochester University told The Sunday Times: “If a parent were to say, “‘I will give you this if you achieve all this’, the child is likely to do it for that reward. It also means that subsequently, he will think, well, the only reason to learn is to get the reward. If I am not getting the reward that I want, I am not interested in learning. And if a child decides the money is no longer worth the effort? The parent is out of luck.”
Well, I think you’d be hard pressed not to find a kid who likes getting cash, or another sort of bribe, including a gift card to their favourite store or concert tickets or even a meal at their favourite restaurant.
What I think the experts are missing is that, sadly, you can’t force a child into loving to learn. You can encourage them as much as much as you want, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically going to love to learn or want to go to school, for that matter. Kids are a crap shoot. Some of our kids love to learn. Some of our kids will go through the motions, putting in the bare minimum, no matter how much we try to instill a love of learning.
And I’m not the only one who doesn’t see bribery to get good grades as a bad thing, no matter what any expert says. Some of the comments after Evans went on television, basically dismissed her. One tweeted, “Parents punish bad behaviour, so why can’t they reward hard work and good behaviour.” Another said, “Can’t even reward kids anymore.” And another: “It’s only a bribe if you pay up front, otherwise, it’s an incentive. Teaching children that they need to earn their money through hard work is a great life lesson!”
And it was in my family. Getting $20 for every ‘A’ on a report card didn’t make me slack off or feel entitled. No, no, no. I wanted the money. So I made sure I got good grades. My brothers wanted money, so they, too, were motivated by cash.
So, bribery when it comes to grades? Yay or Nay?