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Rewarding report cards

It’s final report card season around the country. Some will be good, and some will be… not so good. Should you reward good report cards?

Girl with Report Card

My father used to reward report cards by taking the family out to dinner at the restaurant of the child’s choice. In retrospect, I think we would have gone out to dinner pretty much regardless of
the report card, but it was still a nice acknowledgment. I had friends, however, who had different rewards. One received cash based on letter grades, while another was taken shopping for outfits
based on the number of As. Others had virtually no reward system at all.

I struggle with whether to reward good report cards. While I want to recognize and positively reinforce my kids’ efforts, I worry about making the process all about the reward at the end, not the
process of learning or the personal effort for that achievement. I don’t want to over-reward a report card and send mixed messages.

What is more important? The process or the goal?

The decision to offer rewards ties in with how you view the school experience. If you believe, for example, that it’s all about the result, rewards can be a great way to encourage the desired
results. But if you believe that school is as much about the process of learning and the effort put into that process, rewards for report cards can send a mixed message.

I personally fall on the “process of learning” end of the spectrum. I expect and encourage my kids to give their best effort at all times — and so far, the resulting grades have been fine. When
the report cards come home, I try to praise the ongoing effort over time as much as the result. So far, so good.

Every kid is different

That said, every kid is different. What works to motivate one kid to do her best might not work with her siblings — and this is where rewards can get even dicier.

Some kids need that carrot at the end of the term to keep themselves motivated. When one child in a family needs that incentive, but another child does fine without it, is it fair to offer the
incentive to one but not the other? Is it fair not to? This is when I would be likely to toss rewards out the window altogether.

In this situation, if you feel rewards are warranted and needed, maybe the reward could be an experience for the whole family rather than a specific thing. Maybe a reward the whole family works
toward, such as a day out at an amusement park or, yes,  a nice meal out as a family.

Keeping it subtle

In our family, we’ve chosen not to specifically and overtly reward report cards. But, on an individual basis, we do something special with each of our kids after report cards come out. I’ll make
sure that I get time with my older son to do something he’s really wanted to, even if it’s just adding some money to an iTunes account he can access. The kids never know what this reward will be,
but they do know we’ll acknowledge their efforts in some way. So far, there hasn’t been much comparing of those acknowledgements; they seem to know it’s a personal thing. For the time
being, we’re finding this an acceptable balance between rewarding the process and rewarding the outcome.

However you choose to acknowledge your child’s school efforts, I think the most important acknowledgement is the one that comes from your heart — the moment when you say, “I am proud of your
efforts, and I love you,” is worth more than any cash outlay, outfit or dinner out.

Tell us: Do you reward your child’s good grades? Comment below!

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