Should You Punish For Bad Grades?

Our series continues with a look at the flip-side of paying for grades.

I've been following your columns on paying for grades [part 1, part 2, part 3].

I think the concept adds an appropriate level of incentive if done correctly. When I put my own plan into effect, I sat my children down and explained that I expected good grades (which for the most part they got anyway). Their "job" was to perform well in school, which I knew they could do based on test scores and previous grades.

I told them they would earn a certain dollar amount for A's and B's, but the dollar amount would be reduced proportionately by any grade of C or below. I also made it clear that anything below a C would result in grounding. The youngest child got a D on an interim report card, and that message got across a lot more clearly when she had no access to television, phone or the Internet for one week.

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I think my system works, as indicated by my kids' grades and approach to school. My ultimate goal, of course, is to get them into the proper habits of studying and learning.

You've come up with an interesting combination of financial incentives and nonfinancial consequences. Given that your children did well in school anyway, I'd venture to say that taking away your daughter's Internet access had more of an effect than paying for grades.

Also, parents have to be careful when "punishing" kids for getting a grade of C or below. In an online post, one woman recalled that she and her brother were always happy on report-card day because they got paid for their A's and B's. But, she wrote, "my younger sister, who got mostly C's, would start to cry on the school bus on the way home because she really did try to do well."

If parents are going to give an incentive, they should reward effort and improvement as well as the result.

Societal pressure

I have lived in westernized Asian countries, and I can't imagine that students there would study only if they got some sort of monetary reward. There is pressure in those countries to get good grades, but it's not about money. We live in an increasingly competitive world. If we Americans have to dangle money in front of our kids to get them to study, I don't think our country will be able to keep up.

Little did I know what a hornet's nest I was tapping into when I offered my own opinion on paying for grades (I don't like the idea). Ever since then I've been inundated with responses, both pro and con. Thanks for contributing your unique perspective.

Janet Bodnar
Editor-at-Large, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Janet Bodnar is editor-at-large of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, a position she assumed after retiring as editor of the magazine after eight years at the helm. While editor, Bodnar was honored by Folio as one of its Top Women in Media. She is a nationally recognized expert on the subjects of women and money, children's and family finances, and financial literacy. She is the author of two books, Money Smart Women and Raising Money Smart Kids. As editor-at-large, she writes two popular columns for Kiplinger, "Money Smart Women" and "Living in Retirement." Bodnar is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and is a member of its Board of Trustees. She received her master's degree from Columbia University, where she was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics Journalism.