How About Paying Parents for Their Kids’ Good Grade? This Guy Is Really Thinking Like a Freak

(Photo: woodleywonderworks)

(Photo: woodleywonderworks)

In  Think Like a Freak, we touch briefly on paying schoolkids for good grades — which, much of the time, isn’t successful. This inspired a note from a reader named Gary Crowley, who describes himself as “an economics major in college many years ago”:

Hey Guys,

Loved Think Like a Freak.

One thought: Why don’t we trying paying parents for kids getting good grades??? If the parents are motivated to make money, from someone else’s hard work, then they’ll make the kids work harder and want them to stay in school.  I think paying the kids doesn’t take  advantage of the leverage of a parent over their child.  Just a thought.

As a child in the feudal system of a blue-collar Irish-Catholic East Coast family, my Dad took great pride in and took the credit for his beautiful lawn. This would be the same lawn that his children did all the work on. Haha. Don’t see why it wouldn’t work for grades. And I’m sure the parents would be just as proud, even if they’re getting paid.

Gary’s note may also be referring to a brief passage in Think about the parents of schoolkids:

[M]aybe, when we talk about why American kids aren’t doing so well, we should be talking less about schools and more about parents.

In our society, if someone wants to be a hairstylist or a kickboxer or a hunting guide—or a schoolteacher—he or she must be trained and licensed by a state agency. No such requirement is necessary for parenthood. Anyone with a set of reproductive organs is free to create a child, no questions asked, and raise them as they see fit, so long as there are no visible bruises—and then turn that child over to the school system so the teachers can work their magic. Maybe we are asking too much of the schools and too little of our parents and kids?


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  1. Tim says:

    Yeah this won’t impact grade inflation in poor neighborhoods AT ALL.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3
    • Rob says:

      Mandate a curve, problem solved.

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      • Voice of Reason says:

        Two things that you could do (or do both):

        1: Provide the bonus money only for the students in the top 25% of their class, and extra for the top 10% of their class (hence grades are only relevant to where they fall in comparison to others).
        2: Base the payments off of examinations administered by independent contracted 3rd party proctors with no prior affiliation to the city or children.

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  2. Edo Sebastian Jaya says:

    I think it can be a great idea and worth an experimental investigation!

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  3. Eric R says:

    I think the problem is that the small incentives that might motivate a grade school kid with no or little income will be meaningless to most adults.

    A $50 bonus to a kid for improving their GPA a full grade letter would be a motivation to them. $50 to most adults to spend even one hour a week teaching their kids, not so much. And would an hour a week even be enough to make that kind of difference?

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    • Dan says:

      Eric, you are making the assumption that the improvement in grades will come from parents teaching their kids at home. Parents being interested, and expressing their interest, in their kids good grades is likely enough to improve the child’s work ethic and thus grades. A small incentive is likely enough to make the parents interested and to make them express that interest to their children. It’s so crazy it just might work!

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      • Halvor says:

        And not to mention the cognitive dissonance that small incentives create. This idea is definitely worth exploring further.

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    • pawnman says:

      For $50, I’d certainly devote an hour a week to teaching my kid. But then, I’m already helping her with homework for free, so I may be a bad example.

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    • pawnman says:

      I think you underestimate the incentives. People will stand in line for hours to get something free, even if they could buy that something for $20 and a couple of minutes. I can easily see parents upping their level of involvement if they thought they would get paid for their kids’ work.

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  4. Jonathan says:

    Incentives are always fun examine because they are complicated. Remember to consider
    motivational variables in individuals (e.g. personality, upbringing, culture, etc.). Variables could potentially be a.) perceived value in a “good grade”, b.) perceived value of the reward (e.g. money), c.) motivational aspect of the parent (intrinsic vs. extrinsic). I am certain there are others. The motivation aspects for rewards/incentives are key to a successful program. If you look at the blue-collar, Irish-Catholic on the East Coast having pride in his yard as an example, does he have pride in his yard or is his pride in the yard the anti-shame he would feel having an unkempt yard. Is it “OK” to shame parents? Having a similar background to your writer (sans a yard), the shame my mother would feel if her children didn’t bring home A’s was a greater motivator for her than money, although family vacations would have been more Beach less State Park if she was paid for our grades.

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  5. Chaim shmulevitz says:

    I can’t imagine an economical model where your idea would be feasible (maybe in India)

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  6. L.e.b. says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 13
  7. JMauldin says:

    I have a hard time incentivizing something that should be done based on its own merits. If we continue to “pay” people for doing things that are in their own best interest we are not solving the underlying problems that cause them to not want to do the thing itself. We also create “incentive” for people to demand payment for other things they should be doing anyway.

    Slippery slope and all that…

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    • Blaine says:

      This is a genuine serious question. Not rhetoric.

      Does it actually matter what motivates someone to education? If someone doesn’t see the inherit value to understanding and comprehending the world intitially… Wouldn’t they, when armed with that knowledge be grateful once they have it?

      Does it matter if someone takes school seriously simply because they are paid to do so?

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    • pawnman says:

      So, to take this to its ultimate conclusion, should we stop paying firefighters, police, and medical professionals because taking care of a fellow human is something we should do anyway, not because we are motivated by money?

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  8. JimFive says:

    Any incentive for good grades is equally an incentive to cheat. It’s much easier to do the homework than to teach the kids how to do it.

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    • Enter your name... says:

      In general, incentives should be based on things you have control over, like “Did your kid do his homework every day?” rather than “Did you child score in the top 50% of the class?” But this will lead to parents doing the homework (possibly making the child copy out the correct answers so that the handwriting is correct).

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    • plusECON says:

      You can’t cheat for your kid on her test…

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      • Enter your name... says:

        But you could tell him that it’s a good idea.

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