Family life

Rewarding kids for good grades: Yes or no?

One mom wonders if she should reward her kids for good grades at school.

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Photo: iStockphoto

We’re in the home stretch—the last four weeks of school are rolling out, with sunshine to line the path, as if on cue. My girls are wrapping up grade two and senior kindergarten. Last year, Anna was shocked to learn that there isn’t a graduation event at the end of every school year (“Really? Not again until grade 8?!”). Avery will get to climb up on stage and smile (hopefully) for a photo in her mortarboard. She told me she wishes she could stay in kindergarten forever. I feel the same. Having two grade-schoolers is going to make me feel old. But pretty proud, too.

One thing Avery doesn’t know much about yet is report cards. I try not to make a big deal of them. Anna is always eager to look at hers, but gets bogged down by all the complex explanations that describe things she’s not sure she did. But I consider myself lucky that I have two girls who are very interested in learning and enthusiastic about school, and who have had teachers so invested in them and committed to making their school days full of exploration and discovery.

Read more: Why report cards get an F>

My parents give my girls a little bit of money “for passing.” It seems such a quaint phrase now, in a world where everyone passes, but the idea is that they can go out and buy themselves a little something to reward themselves. I remember when I was growing up that if we all passed, we got to go to Dairy Queen and choose whatever we wanted. Anything. What an amazing treat that was (I’d always pick the banana split or whatever looked the biggest). I hear about other parents who give money for grades—so many dollars for every A, etc.—or buy their kids something they’ve really, really wanted, depending on how that report card looks.

I can’t remember what we did at the end of the school year last year. Avery did her JK year at preschool without any official “last day of school,” so I think I was concerned about only making a big deal of Anna. So we haven’t started any official tradition, but maybe this year we should. But what? I’d like to celebrate them and all of their hard work this year, but also don’t want to focus too much on actual grades or “passing.” Maybe we’ll just head to Dairy Queen. It clearly left me with good, chocolatey memories of the end of each school year.

Do you do anything to celebrate the end of the school year? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005. Read more of her Tracy’s mama memoir posts and tweet her@T_Chappell.