Should children be paid for getting good grades?
It’s a tough question, Mark Weichel said.
Weichel is assistant superintendent for teaching and learning at Westside Community Schools. He’s also the father of four children.
They are not rewarded financially for their academic performance.
“I want them to know I value improvement and effort,’’ he said. “I want them to learn what they are doing in class. I want them to have study skills.’’
Anna Sully Sparwasser, a counselor at Beveridge Magnet School, takes a different approach. She rewards her three children for good grades — just not with money.
If a parent-teacher conference goes well, the family might celebrate with a popcorn and movie night. Or maybe a surprise trip for ice cream, which is a big treat for her kids.
She’ll tell them that they stopped because they did great in school, and she’s proud of them.
“That’s my own parenting,’’ she said.
Weichel and Sully Sparwasser do agree on one thing: Doing well in school is their children’s job, just like their parents have a job.
The expectation is that they will work hard at that job and do their best, Weichel said.
His two older daughters might even freak out, he said, if he offered them money to get an A on a test. It would add a lot of pressure.
Instead, he wants them to focus on the fact that they’ve done the proper preparation and just need to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
But Weichel said he wouldn’t chastise parents for paying their child if they believed it was motivating. Every child is different, and maybe sparking that motivation to study will make it become a habit.
But Sully Sparwasser said sometimes rewards can backfire. One parent promised her child a cell phone for good grades. Once the phone arrived, the student’s grades plummeted.
“It becomes this battle,’’ she said. “That’s hard.’’
She worries that payments for good grades may not be a good way of preparing a child for the real world, where a good effort is expected at all times if you want to keep your job.
“Every kid is going to have strengths and weaknesses,’’ she said. “They may not always get A’s, but as long as it’s their best.’’
But what do you do if your children aren’t doing their best?
Instead of punishing a child for low grades, try setting clearer expectations about studying and grades, Sully Sparwasser suggests.
“My husband and I ask our girls to be prepared, turn in your work on time and always do your best,” she said.
There are consequences for poor grades, though.
If a grade does not reflect a child’s ability or isn’t his best work, then parents need to address it. A negative consequence at home is only one option.
“I think it’s more important to figure out what is going on for the low grade,’’ she said. “If the grade is not a student’s best work, then more has to be done, and that may involve staying for extra help after school, increasing homework time at home or cutting back on other activities in order to spend more time on studying.’’