What’s an ‘A’ Worth?
For many parents, paying children for getting A’s in school seems like a great way to motivate them. Sometimes it works. But it’s not always that simple.
Paying for A’s can actually discourage some kids from working hard. It can create frustration and resentment among kids with siblings. In fact, if the ultimate goal is to encourage the character traits that will help children fulfill their potential throughout life, paying for A’s can fail.
“It comes down to knowing the child and what they are working through,” says Dan Keady, a certified financial planner and director of financial planning at financial-services firm TIAA-CREF.
Facts of Life
Almost half of parents pay kids at least $1 for getting an A, according to a July poll conducted for the American Institute of CPAs, a New York-based professional association. Among those who pay, the average reward for an A is more than $16.
“Paying for grades is one way to prepare them for adult life,” says Mark DiGiovanni, a certified financial planner in Grayson, Ga.
“One of the big facts of adult life is that you do get paid for performing well,” he says. “So this is a way of showing young people that when you do something well, you can get financially rewarded for it. And when you do something poorly, you don’t.”
But sometimes it gets complicated. One danger is that students will see the value in schoolwork only when there’s a cash payout. “The downside of using money as a motivator is that it discourages true learning and changes the purpose for learning,” says Neal Van Zutphen, a certified financial planner in Mesa, Ariz.