When my children were younger, I would take them to the toy store to celebrate when they received their report cards. Their grades were irrelevant, and they always received an E for effort. Now that they are older and academics are more important, the question arises: Should children be rewarded for excellent grades with money or gifts?
There has been considerable disagreement regarding using cash as a reward for children, such as a chore allowance. Most data suggests that cash incentives may be effective in the near term, but their effects are not long-lasting. The primary worry is that the external reward does not foster internal motivation, which is essential for sustaining effort and achieving long-lasting success.
Discover whether monetary rewards are suitable and what alternatives you might offer your child.
Problems With Rewards
A growing body of research indicates that an emphasis on effort rather than outcome is associated with higher tenacity and confidence across all types of tasks, including academic ones, which frequently results in improved learning and performance. However, rewards may not always encourage children in the same manner.
In 2010, researchers conducted experiments with financial incentives for first-year college students. They discovered that rewards had a favorable effect on high-ability students but a detrimental effect on lower-ability kids’ achievement. According to academics, external rewards may be detrimental to intrinsic (internal) motivation.
Another 2021 meta-analysis of student motivation concluded that motivation based on a desire for rewards or the avoidance of punishment does not improve performance or perseverance. Instead, it was linked to lower happiness.
Are Rewards Corruption?
Your inquiry raises one of the most frequently asked parenting questions: Is using a rewards system with children bribery?
As a psychologist, I have received training in behaviorism, which is a key component of treating kids who come to therapy for help with problem behaviors. Behaviorism involves using rewards and punishments to shape desired behaviors.
Notably, bribery and behaviorism are not the same. In bribery, the reward is given prior to the desired conduct, but in behaviorism, the reward is given after the behavior as reinforcement.
How does this affect the everyday life with children?
The most prevalent criticism is that by employing rewards, we transmit the message that they “get something” for performing tasks that are simply a part of life. Sadly, this may be the case if we do not employ rewards effectively.
One of the keys to effectively employing behaviorism is to address an issue rather than simply giving children toys and prizes throughout the day when they brush their teeth, do their homework, etc. Target problems may include completing or submitting homework assignments.
Alternatives to Grade-Based Rewards
It appears that you wish to recognize and support positive academic performance; thus, I propose that you consider your objectives in further detail.
The following questions may assist you in identifying your objectives:
- Do you wish for your children to achieve particular grades?
- Do you wish to impart the qualities that good grades reflect, such as a strong work ethic and the value of education?
- Is the situation amenable to behaviorist intervention?
Recall that behaviorism targets a problem behavior with rewards in order to shape a new behavior. Hence, if your children struggle to perform well in school, there may be more effective techniques than monetary rewards for grades.
Reinforce newly developed behaviors.
As a first step, figure out why your child is having difficulty in school. Is a youngster not completing homework assignments because he or she is unable to comprehend the content or vice versa?
After recognizing the problem, consider the reinforcement frequency. Incentives are most effective in short-term increments.
For example, if a youngster completes their schoolwork for a week, they receive a trip to the dollar store. Younger children require more frequent rewards for reinforcement to work (this is where stickers come in. However many youngsters require more persuasion than stickers).
In addition, the size of the award should correspond to the behavior: the shorter the increments, the lower the prize. No massive Lego sets are required for a successful school week.
Customize your strategy.
Consider what your children will need to succeed in school. Depending on the child’s strengths, this may take a variety of forms, and a singular emphasis on “high grades” may overlook essential methods to honor these strengths.
Perhaps they battle with procrastination, so they receive incentives for completing jobs early. This retains the emphasis on the learning experience as opposed to the final grade.
Rejoice with experiences as opposed to material interests.
Your inquiry shows that you wish to hold a celebration at the end of each semester. As an alternative to cash or gadgets as a reward for good grades, I suggest planning a pleasant family outing and moving the focus from financial gain to great family experiences.
My family has a yearly custom of dining out on the first day of school. Although this is not a prize, it is a tradition that ushers in the anticipation and excitement of the following grade level.
Rather than focusing on grades, your family may prefer to celebrate the school year’s conclusion by celebrating hard effort and personal achievements rather than specific grades. This particular outing is more memorable and significant to the majority of children than a new item.