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MintFamily with Beth Kobliner: Should You Pay for an “A?” Part 2 — Parents Weigh In

good grades

Money, for sure, is a great motivator. The topic of paying kids for good grades, however, is controversial. Some parents say it’s akin to bribery. Others insist it’s similar to handing out annual bonuses for a job well done; it’s just an additional incentive to motivate you to work hard.

I was delighted to get a number of compelling (and quite brilliantly argued) comments to last week’s post on this topic.

However, it was surprising that readers were split 50/50 on the question of whether grown-ups should reward children for good academic performance. I was assuming most people would be against it.

“Pay for an A” — Yay or Nay?

Mary Gresham, a psychologist in Atlanta, GA, writes: “Paying for grades actually reduces the motivation to do well. Engaging with children about their schoolwork, not in a lecturing, criticizing way, but showing a true interest in their learning is much more motivating.”

Sounds right to me. But Salvatore Dziekan in Torrington, CT says: “I think that if I had a child and established that school is his/her job, I’d be happy to pay him/her for doing well.”

Hmmmm. That’s certainly, a logical point.

My favorite comment is from Michelle Pinsky in Ashland, VA who says: “Blah, I hated this model. My parents DID make it work, but on much lower terms. It was $5 for an A and $3 for a B.

C’s were no money, and D’s and F’s, I had to pay THEM. That being said, once I started getting good grades consistently, the money stopped.”

Talk about giving new meaning to the term “grade inflation!”

As I reported last week, the American Institute of CPAs (and those people would know!) found in a national poll that the average price paid by parents for an “A”: $16, plus change.

I do believe that the real answer is complicated, and what works for some families just doesn’t make any sense for others. Beyond that, your decision may boil down to knowing your own kid.

Parental intuition can be priceless on topics like these, so if your child is going through a particularly hard-to-motivate stage—think: the early teens—then it may make sense to offer some sort of temporary financial boost to engage him.

(If that is the case, I suggest describing the reward to your child as a temporary fix, noting that you know one day he will be motivated by the desire to do a good job simply to feel the satisfaction of having done it well.)

Pulling the Plug

And while I understand the logic, one lingering question for me is this: At what point do you pull the plug?

No matter where your kid is displaying excellence—in calculus, on a summer job as an ice cream scooper, or by demonstrating that he is a good person—at some point, our children need to learn to pat **themselves** on the back when they’ve done a good job.

As a parent, I know that once you see your child self-motivate, you know he is that much closer to finding success and happiness in all phases of his life.

Please keep writing and telling me your thoughts on this one. Next post will be the third and final one on this topic: What does the research say? Does paying for grades really result in higher scores? Stay tuned.

© 2012 Beth Kobliner, All Rights Reserved

Beth Kobliner is a personal finance commentator and journalist, the author of the New York Times bestseller “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties,” and a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability. Visit her at bethkobliner.com, follow her on Twitter, and like her on Facebook.