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Paying Kids For Grades Now Could Hurt Their Careers Later

Topics: Career Advice

Educators and researchers agree that parental involvement in education helps students enjoy school more, stay in school longer, and get better grades. Nothing helps students grow and flourish quite like the power of schools and parents teaming up to support their learning.

However, when parents pay their kids for good grades, they might actually be doing more harm than good. It could hinder kids’ educational experience and even negatively impact their professional progress when they grow up.

Here are a few points to consider:

1. Paying cash for grades undermines the value of the learning process.

Learning is a process, and it’s important to help students understand this. Paying kids for grades gives the impression that we only learn in order to produce a product like a high score on a test, a good grade on an essay, or passing a class. This attitude can lessen the depth of a child’s engagement throughout the learning process. That engagement, in and of itself, is a huge part of what kids learn in school. Should a student be praised for an “A” that came easily over a “B” that they had to study hard to earn? What would they learn from that experience?

Students learn to work hard in school, and they also learn that hard work, and deep levels of engagement, have value. If they don’t learn this during childhood, it might be hard to acquire and apply that understanding later in life. Other skills and traits are also developed through engagement in the learning process, like intellectual curiosity. Emphasizing cold, hard scores on final products above these invaluable life skills isn’t doing kids any favors. And, it won’t help them later in life.

2. It helps to be motivated by something beyond money.

Yes, we go to school so that we can grow up and be happy and contributing members of society. Yes, we go to work so that we can earn the paychecks we need to live. But, it’s not best for kids to be motivated primarily by money. A totally different level of intellectual curiosity and engagement emerges when students enjoy learning for its own sake. When they learn to really love learning, it helps them soar. The alternative, being motivated by cash for grades, fosters a “what are you going to give me” attitude. And, parents might find kids start to expect something in return whenever they put forth any effort.

Something similar to this is also true for professionals. If you love your job, if you engage with it for reasons beyond earning your paycheck, you’ll likely work harder and ultimately earn more too. Creating a situation where money is the main motivation for hard work in childhood sets kids up to feel the same way as adults. And that could hold them back.

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3. It doesn’t work anyway.

It’s certainly easy to understand the temptation to pay kids for good grades. In some states, privately funded programs have started giving students cash for good grades or high test scores. The practice has sparked debate among parents and educators alike, but it’s also provided everyone with the opportunity to really examine the impact of the practice. It turns out that paying kids for grades doesn’t work — at least, not for very long.

While there may be a short-term uptick in scores and grades following the implementation of a policy like this, the effect doesn’t continue for more than a couple of months. Extrinsic rewards, rather than intrinsic ones, actually undermine motivation. They don’t inspire it. It’s better to help students develop the mindset and tools that will serve them well over the long-term, rather than trying to pay them for grades. In the end, it doesn’t work anyway.

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