Pay for grades: How to reward without going overboard

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Some parents reward good grades with cold hard cash. But what do experts think of the practice?

"Money can be good, especially for older students,” says Sarah Kiefer, Ph.D. in the University of South Florida's College of Education. "That money helps them feel a sense of freedom, a sense of status, respect and responsibility. Those are all markers of adulthood that our teens are striving for."

But Kiefer warns to be careful. A strong reward can have undermining effects.

"What happens is, kids are doing something they really enjoy, but then you give them the reward for it. They actually shift their reason for doing it," she explained.​​​​​​​

Kiefer said to make sure a strong motivation is established before dishing out the dough. That way, they are still doing it because they want to.

"The reward is kind of a cherry on top," she pointed out.

Cash rewards may not work for every child or every family. Consider other choices, like free time, a dinner out, or an experience. But Kiefer says, even with kids who are motivated by money, praise is king when it comes to rewards.

"Praise is highly rewarding. It makes kids feel valued, feel seen, and feel a sense of respect," she said.

Rewards come down to knowing your child, their goals, and motivations, and knowing what will propel them to a bright future.