Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: If the goal of school is to do well, it seems only natural to reward our kids when they come home with report cards awash in A's. But is it really such a good idea to give gifts or money? Some experts say no.
"It's far better to reward the process than the product," says Ann Dolin, author of "Homework Made Simple" and founder of Educational Connections, a tutoring and test-prep company. Here are some smart tips:
Reward Positive Change
If your child has struggled with procrastination in the past and you notice that lately he's been coming home and doing his homework right away, praise him for the change. Or, if your child usually struggles to complete her assignments -- or even do them at all -- and she starts finishing her work, tell her that you've noticed the change and reward her for it.
Praise the Kid, Not the Grade
For some kids, good grades come naturally. For others, they're a real struggle. It's not uncommon for parents to have one child who regularly comes home with straight A's despite terrible study habits, and another who gets C's even though she burns the midnight oil. By rewarding your children for developing good study habits and working hard, you take the grades out of the equation. It will help the struggling student feel good about herself, even if her grades don't yet reflect her efforts. And it will help the star student develop a good work ethic, which will help him throughout life.
Many parents pay their kids money for good grades. But Dolin says that promising a cash reward for grades that won't be earned for weeks or months is too abstract for most kids -- and she's not a huge fan of offering money as a reward in the first place. ("The best reward is praise," she says. "I would start with that.") If you're bent on giving monetary rewards, try offering smaller bits of cash when your child shows good study habits (e.g., when he completes his assignment without arguing about it).