Why I Pay for A’s: Using Money to Encourage Academic Success

We all want our kids to grow up to be hard working, creative, loving, honest and personally responsible adults before they leave our nest.

With 5 children ages 3 to almost 16, and 18 years of marriage, we’ve had our share of medical issues, unforeseen crushing household financial struggles as well as parenting successes and failures.

One area that we haven’t struggled in, however, is having our children perform well at school.

Why? How?

Well, apart from teaching them healthy habits so they are set up for successful schooling, we “Pay for A’s”.

I know. I know. It can be tricky to talk about how we use money in parenting.

My hope is that you’ll come away from this post feeling empowered to help your children learn important life skills as they “earn” their A’s both literally, and financially.

I hope that you share the perspective that teaching healthy beliefs around money are paramount toward living as a responsible, honest citizen in this world. If not, I highly suggest you consider it at this time.

Teaching Our Children About Money

Money is what creates choices for us. These choices affect our money earning capacity and experience we will have in life.

Our children must understand how to earn it, where to earn it and how to manage it. It will be the fabric that they create their life experiences by.

Although my husband and I both are employed by well paying jobs now and enjoy a comfortable life, we both grew up in poverty (my husband more so than I).

We had to change a lot of our own beliefs about money to learn to increase our earning capacity and manage our money well to be at the capacity we are enjoy now.

But how to teach our kids about money? We honestly didn’t know. We felt from what we did know, that we had a few options:

  1. Do we pay them an allowance as some other families have chosen to do? That just seems like free money.
  2. Do we incentivize them with money to achieve high academic marks at school? Is that risking the child believing that a grade less than an A is “good” or “worthwhile”?
  3. Do we pay for household chores? That doesn’t feel right either.

Children Are Capable of Academic Success

When it comes to money for grades, we had a change of perspective when our eldest was just turning 8 years old. She was in 2nd grade and came home from school not feeling ambitious enough to finish a simple math worksheet.

She came to us and said, “Why do I have to do well at school? The teacher tells me good job even if I don’t do my best. How do they know what my best is? I don’t think they know. I don’t think it matters if I finish this worksheet or not.”

My husband and I pondered on this incident and decided that for a teacher to respond to a child in this way, the school systems must be overburdened with politics around emotional health and government regulation regarding how they can communicate to a child regarding their effort.

This means that teachers can’t be totally honest with kids without infringing on someone’s lawsuit about how they talked to their kid that felt harmful.

If this was true, we decided that we better take a stronger role in teaching our daughter about giving a full effort all the time, and WHY she should.

We both knew that if our kids learned to earn high marks at school, the habits gained to do that would help them do their best on ANY assignment at any time of life. Habits they learn while in the many daylight hours at school really do affect the child’s life.

If the teachers weren’t going to acknowledge when our child wasn’t doing their best and when they did, then we would.

We’ve been inside the schools as volunteers. We found that there is no material that is so difficult in the k-12 system that a child, who has not been deemed learning disabled, can’t learn and earn the highest percentage of correctness on aligned assignments.

Most school systems use the letters A, B, C, D, & F to assign the percentage that the child understands correctly. An “A” is usually 90% or above, a “B” is 80%+, a “C” is 70″+ and “D” is 60%+ with “F” signifying that they aren’t moving forward with more than 50% correct responses to what is asked to show growth and knowledge retention after instruction.

We decided that our children were totally capable of retaining 90% of the instruction. Not only that, but they could learn good study habits and good testing skills. We would from then on ask them to do their VERY BEST on everything.

As parents, we’ve seen these kids grow from the get-go. If anyone knows what they are capable of we do! And the kids know that we know it too.

Paying for A’s

We felt that by asking our children to do their best in school they would also learn time management skills to get projects, papers and other assignments done on time.

In the same process they would learn good work ethic and how to be creative when they struggled.

At the bottom of our parental discussion on this matter, we decided it would be a good practice for us as parents to “Pay for A’s.”

We felt that the skills that our kids would earn through striving for that top percentage at school were life skills. Teaching life skills is how our kids learn to leave the nest and become contributing citizens.

Let’s connect this! How do we as adults earn and keep great employment? At the very bottom of all the reasons we could come up with, these seemed the most basic.

We retain earning opportunities when:

  • We work hard
  • We have creative ideas
  • We are doing our best
  • Managing our time well and
  • We are serving others/contributing

It just made sense to “Pay for A’s.”

We presented this plan to our daughter and she LOVED it. She had been asking how she could earn more money, and with our belief in her ability to get A’s, she jumped on this opportunity.

Through the years we had offered her a few opportunities to earn money from household chores but never felt right about it. Here’s where I explain #1 and #3 from my list above regarding the choices we felt we have to offer our kids earning opportunities.

The Issue We Had Paying for Chores

I mean, can we be real here? Do we as adults earn money from doing chores? No. Keeping up with the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming and decluttering are just part of living a healthy human life.

Why would we pay our children for those things? In fact we started to see our two oldest start to feel entitled to money ANY time they had to do something that they didn’t like to do when we paid for a few chores.

So we stopped that practice early. We have a chore chart that the whole family follows and it works well.

Why We Don’t Offer Our Children Allowance

We also don’t offer our kids an allowance. To us offering an allowance is like offering “free” money – and that is not something that they will find as adults.

In fact a large percentage of couples who offered their children allowances report that their children consistently ask for money as adults with no work tied to it.

You see? What we choose to offer money for as parents when they are young, builds a belief system in our children’s minds.

We must be cautious, but diligent about how we teach our children about where money comes from.

How We Pay for A’s

We choose to pay for “A’s” as a way for our children to earn money.

Sure, we offer some opportunities to earn in other ways since they only get report cards every few months. We do pay a very small amount for chores that we have deemed “really hard”.

Chores that aren’t just day to day living items needing to be kept up. We also pay for childcare while we are working or out on our non-negotiable weekly date night.

So how much do we pay per A?

We offer $5 per A.

Not earth shattering. But it’s enough!

How This is Working for Our Family

Our oldest is going to celebrate her 16th birthday this year, and she has been working hard in school to maintain her 4.0.

Yes, for scholarships, but she is constantly budgeting her “grade money” that will come in when she gets that report card.

As our oldest has earned A’s and gotten money for it, the other kids have simply followed suit.

We’ve definitely gotten to know that each child learns differently and their path to retaining and performing at that 90% level is not going to look the same. Some have needed tutors during difficult seasons.

One in particular has had to study harder and longer that the others.

But, man, seeing my 16 year old be bold about how to earn an A in her class with her teachers has been inspiring. If she doesn’t understand something, she does NOT hesitate to ask questions, or set up a meeting with the teacher to be sure she is understanding the rubric and materials.

She has gone on to set up her own volunteering opportunities at the local hospital, enrolled in the State University for dual enrollment classes, and more. Her confidence in her ability to do hard things has skyrocketed.

Our 12 year old also doesn’t hesitate to communicate with her teachers about her materials.

Overall, they both don’t hesitate to talk with adults and get what they need to feel like they are in position to succeed.

Our 10 year old son? He isn’t as motivated by the money for grades but he still strives for it. He still is aware that that little extra study time, or that responsibility to turn in his reading minutes on time or get that project done first instead of last creates opportunity for him to earn that scooter or lego set faster.

And the 6 year old? He is totally motivated to do well! Just recently he asked me to set him up with a paper that shows his money savings so he can plan for it and budget for the items he wants to save for. At 6!

This is working! This little shift in where we chose to help our kids earn money to learn to manage it has positioned them to win in life so much more than we could have hoped for.
Are you positioning your children to win?

That is the question I ask myself often as a parent.

Whatever it is that I’m facing as parental choice, if I look at it with this question, “Am I positioning my child to WIN at life/school/friendships/being healthy with this choice/system/opportunity?”

And then make my decision based on what will help my child to WIN and it almost always turns our really well.

I ask again, are you positioning your children to WIN?

Leave a comment below!

Robyn Whitworth is a mother to 5, and married to her best friend. Having faced death, endured trauma, and experienced drastic lifestyle change for health reasons, Robyn has a unique perspective on the struggles we face, physical health, creating systems to sustain good energy, positive parenting, and learning how to find perpetual Joy. She has over 1000 clients across North America and has enjoyed working from home coaching, teaching, and presenting online since 2013. Check out Robyn's blog Healthy Mompreneur.

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