Your child comes home, eager to show you his report card. Do you: A) pull out your purse and hand over cash, B) take him for some ice cream or C) pat him on the back and tell him how proud you are?
Ask any parent, and you'll likely get a different answer each time. While there is no right or wrong way to reward a child for good grades, many parents and child experts have strong opinions about whether rewarding kids for a good report card — specifically, with cash — sends the right message.
"In order to become life-long learners, kids must learn at a young age that it simply feels good to do well — that the reward for doing well is the feeling of pride in oneself," said Dana Obleman, author of Kids: The Manual. "I worry that if there is always an external reward, like being paid for doing well, the reward will not become internal. We all know that internal rewards are much more powerful for reinforcing a behavior than anything we get in return."
For financial coach Ozeme Bonnette, receiving money as a child to perform well on report cards served as an incentive for her to excel in school.
"When my report card came each quarter, I got more money for As than I did for Bs, and I was not paid for Cs," she said. "Those standards were set because my parents knew what I was capable of."
She says children thrive when parents find the appropriate triggers.
"Rewards seem to work much better for most than punishments for the wrong behavior," she said.
Not on board with giving your children money for good grades, but still want to reward them for their success? Here are a few ideas on how you can give your child accolades for their hard work.
Hop in the car and take the kids to get some ice cream or a cool sweet treat, such as a Sonic limeade. Not only will the trip reward them for their good grades, it will serve as a fun family tradition each time grade cards are handed out.
Do your kids enjoy a particular TV show or like playing video games? Bonnette suggests giving them extra time to play or do whatever they enjoy — whether that's playing outside with friends, watching TV or playing video games.
If your child has been begging for a new toy, grade card time might be the perfect time to reward your child. Parents can hand out coupons, entitling kids to a toy or their choice of restaurant, movie or family activity.
Rewards must have meaning and interest to the child, says Dr. Fran Walfish, a family psychotherapist and author.
Planning a family trip to Disney World, or simply a day trip with just Mom and Dad, can bring a family closer and serve as a nice break from work for both the child and parents.
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