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Do You Reward Your Kids For Good Grades? (Or Punish For Bad?) (Video)

By daniellesmith |

Photo Credit: Stock Exchange Kikashi

My sweet girl is a smart one.  So says the somewhat braggy mommy.  But that doesn’t mean she won’t have some subjects that come more easily than others.  And therefore some that are a bit more challenging.  I won’t tell you I believe either of my kids will sail through their classes with straight ‘A’s'…..  but I CAN tell you I won’t be tolerating ‘F’s’ either.  So, where is the middle ground?  Don’t be a smart-aleck and say, ‘C’s’ because we don’t want report cards filled with those either….

Now that my oldest is in 2nd grade — and she is seeing ‘letter grades’ for the first time — we’re talking about A’s and B’s for the first time.  And we’re really addressing what those grades really mean.  And the effort and significance we (her parents) have always associated with them.

She has been doing fairly well so far, but an email from her teacher today prompted this video.  And now I want to know….do you reward or punish based on grades?



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About daniellesmith



A decorated public speaker and a masterful listener, Danielle Smith can engage and entertain both online and live audiences alike. She is the founder of Extraordinary Mommy, the author of Mom, Incorporated: A Guide to Business + Baby , and a lover of all things video. Read bio and latest posts → Read daniellesmith's latest posts →

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19 thoughts on “Do You Reward Your Kids For Good Grades? (Or Punish For Bad?) (Video)

  1. Megan Harris says:

    I’m 16, and my mom always rewarded for good grades, and punished for bad ones. I am dyslexic, so the punishments were less severe, and the rewards were a bit better than my sister’s (who got skipped ahead a grade). Like I get a magazine if I have A’s and B’s and 2 or less C’s, but if I have an F then I get one of the four wrestling shows I watch weekly taken away until it goes up.

  2. goddess says:

    Depends on the child, their effort level, and their capability in each subject. Mileage varies.

  3. Voice of Reason says:

    We go out for dinner on report card day to celebrate effort. I have a son in grade 2 and a daughter in kindergarten, so it’s easy now for us to see that our kids have a good attitude towards school and are trying their hardest; I don’t know how long it will remain this simple!
    I was a good student and bit of a pleaser. To my parents it was all about the grades but, as an adult, I see grades in a different light. To me they are one piece of the puzzle in how we interpret performance… and performance isn’t necessarily all I’m interested in. What’s important to me is attitude, effort and fostering a love of lifelong learning in my children.
    I don’t know if my approach will get them into the best universities, but I believe it will help them develop into happy, intelligent people who don’t give up at the first sign of failure.

  4. daniellesmith says:

    @Megan – thank you so much for commenting – I love that you are here b/c you have a completely different perspective. Does the system you have with your parents motivate you? I was always encouraged to succeed, but put a lot of pressure on myself….

    @goddess – I completely agree, but know many parents start ‘somewhere’, so was curious to hear what experiences had felt promising….

    @Voice of Reason – we are so similar – my small people are also 2nd grade and Kindergarten – just flipped – my daughter is older. Like you, we are starting small – (I was ALSO a pleaser) and I agree completely on the topics of lifelong love of learning, attitude and effort.

  5. Mike Peterson says:

    The only job I’ve ever held where my pay was dependent on my production was in sales, and that wasn’t something I was terribly good at, so I got out of it in about a year. In other jobs, I’ve worked more hours than required, put in more that the minimum effort and done good work, but it was because I liked my bosses and enjoyed my job. Since kids don’t get to choose whether or not to go to school or who their teachers are going to be, I’d hesitate to reward them based on how well it works out.

    I had one son who was a persistent underachiever and another who was a top honor student because that was who they were. Certainly, I did extra things to keep the underachiever on task, but I didn’t focus on his grades so much as his overall performance — getting things done and getting them done on time. Twenty years later, they are both very successful adults, each having found niches where they love the work and are extremely good at what they do.

  6. daniellesmith says:

    @mike – I love how you explain this. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment and share. It sounds like you have done a fantastic job with your sons. I hope to be able to leave a similar comment about my small people someday.

  7. goddess says:

    Ahh- well I can say this- we don’t pay for good grades. We do a big family dinner out at the end of the year to celebrate a good school year.
    Now the youngest must get As and Bs, or he forfeits all screen time til the next interim or report card. The daughter would probably get that at 2 Bs or more, since she’s a straight A student. The oldest was also not permitted Cs.
    Now we’ve celebrated the hard-earned B+ in Calculus, while not really paying a whole lot of attention to the easy A in Spelling or Religion. We’ve also overlooked Ns and Cs in penmanship if the effort was taken to do the best.
    So in other words, if one of my kids struggled and busted their butt to get that C, the rules would be bent and it would be celebrated for effort and perseverance!

  8. Wendy says:

    We don’t reward or punish for grades. We have always expected full effort. Some things – like your daughter’s test – are just more difficult for some kids. What we have emphasized is responsibility and independence in keeping on track with assignments, studying. We’ve also always expected that homework be completed before goofing off after school. (with some exceptions :) That said, we’ve had some guidelines. Incomplete assignments – not turned in or finished – do have a penalty. We take a privilege away for some period of time. Phone, whatever. Through middle school, no electronics on school nights (or after school). That means games, tv, etc. Once they hit high school, they’re given free reign. However, at that point, if GPA is not kept at the agreed upon level, that privilege is rescinded until the GPA is back up. So in other words, do your work, do it as well as you can, and you can have some teenage freedom. If you can’t manage, we pull back in.

    I feel I need to add that my guys are good students and are extremely capable of succeeding in the classes they’re taking. I say this because I often find that the kids who get frustrated and/or are not learning the material for tests and homework are sometimes in classes that are not best suited for them. There are opportunities for honors, GT, AP… and if it’s a match? Great. But I know a lot of parents who work to get their kids moved up and it’s just tough for those kids sometimes. I want my kids to love to learn and that can’t happen if they’re overwhelmed and frustrated.

    I know I’m many years ahead in the school system, but we’ve had essentially the same strategy since elementary school. Good luck!

  9. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    We don’t punish or reward for grades (or much of anything else, for that matter.) All three kids are academic high achievers. I’m not sure I can pinpoint why, exactly. I think our expectations have been high because we know they are capable and intelligent. I’m not sure what I’ll do if someone falters at some point, but we’ll probably take it on a case by case basis. My kids do go to an alternative school that focuses more on process than grades. The oldest is in high school now (after coming through the alternative school) and she is taking honors classes and getting straight A grades so far, but it’s very early in the school year here.

  10. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    I want to add that I wouldn’t send send a young child (K-2) to a school that assigns a large amount of homework and/or has regular tests and quizzes. The purpose of assessments in the primary primary grades is to detemine the level of mastery in order to determine what still needs to be taught. All this sounds very old school parochial to me. I understand that some people seek out (and pay for) this style of education for their children, but it’s really counter to my educational philosophy.

  11. daniellesmith says:

    @Goddess – I love that you celebrate the collective successes of your children -(dinner at the end of the year) and recognize their individual strengths. We, too (my husband and I) have already discussed a preference for higher grades (A’s/B’s) in traditional subjects (Math/Reading, etc) vs Penmanship. Thank you so much for your comments.

    @Wendy I really appreciate your comments – I love to learn from other parents. It seems as though you have been able to balance giving your children the freedom to take responsibility for working hard with letting them know that you expect them to work hard. That, truly is what I hope we achieve in our home.

  12. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    “I love to learn from other parents,” Now that’s the funniest thing I’ve read all day. ;)

  13. Roxy says:

    I was paid for my report card, but only for A’s. It was my idea because I knew it mattered to my parents, but it was tough for me.

    I gotta say that for a kid who only wanted to play, this was the perfect motivation.

    Eventually getting A’s became fun and a personal goal. Knowledge was empowering. The money was just a bonus.

    I don’t have children yet, so I’m not sure what I’ll do with them, but it’s great to read the above comments to learn what other parents have done.

  14. Jenny says:

    My 15 year old step son, who lives with us full time, is incredible intelligent, but not very commen sense smart. Math has alway been easy for him, so he tends to excel in those classes. But he doesn’t like to do homework, hates to study, and has alway waited until the very last moment possible to do projects. In the past I have “hovered” over him to ensure that he does what he needs to do in order to get those good grades. But over the last couple years we have tried to relinquish control back to him. F, F, F, C-, A (that was math). I know he is more than capable of getting good grades, but he just doesn’t care. There is nothing was can do, say, or ground him from to make him do better. Now we are back to square one where we are hovering, checking his planner, e-mailing teachers…. For us rewarding/punishing has had zero affect.

  15. Jen M says:

    my family is struggling with this right now. My 4th grader is very self motivated, GT, straight As and a few Bs. He does need some assistance with managing his time and meeting deadlines, but not much. My 2nd grader couldn’t be more different! His reaction to the “new” grading system is “I don’t care if I fail.” He doesn’t want to read and he doesn’t want to do anything other than play video games. He also is extremely stubborn and punishment doesn’t work. Instead, we work with his teacher to set goals at school and at home. When he accomplishes them, he earns smiley faces – that equal 10 minutes of computer time at home. He is totally motivated by positive reinforcement. I don’t want to ignore my other son, so we will be letting him earn something special for his efforts too.

  16. Jen M says:

    I wanted to add to my earlier post that the biggest thing I’m concerned about with son #2 is fostering the love of learning. He just doesn’t have it for most subjects. Any advice on how to get him to care about learning and doing his best?

  17. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    “Any advice on how to get him to care about learning and doing his best?” Maybe he isn’t in the right school for his particular needs.

  18. Michelle says:

    I have 6 kids ranging in academic levels from special ed to advance placement. But the rule is the same for them all. C’s and up are non-negotiable. D’s and F’s show that the child is not completeing assignment/not turning in homework more often than everything else. I don’t care which kid it is, if homework is not getting done, then the child needs fewer distractions such as TV, computer, and game systems. If there is a particular academic need that means the kid is getting poor grades in spite of finishing homework and trying their best, then it is time to spend that gaming time in tutoring sessions. For the one who was advanced placement (and is now in her Junior year at college at a perfect 4.0 every semester) never needed to be told to spend time on her homework. She was rather obsessive without me having to say a word. In fact, I have been known to confiscate her books to make her get outside once in a while. For the one in special ed, I used his gaming time as an incentive to get him to do what he could. Since his work was more scaled to his ability, the “C” rule still applied.

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