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. Jessica says:

    Roland Fryer has done some interesting work designing incentives to improve student performance. You can check out some of his work here

    One consideration when paying for grades is that children and parents often don’t actually know the correct steps to take in order to improve grades. Is it through improved attendance, completing homework, or reading more books at home? There is a process of steps that lead to the desired outcome. We have to figure out which steps result in the greatest improvement, then create the incentive

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  2. Gary says:

    Chronic absenteeism is correlated with poor performance in school and it has long term effects.

    Rather than paying for grades which can be gamed, pay for getting the kids to school.

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  3. Sab says:

    I used to teach middle school in the inner city. My first assignment every year was to ask the kids to write the following: what grade do you want in this class, and why? There were only ever three answers. 1) I want an A because my parents will give me such and such reward if I get an A. 2) I want an A because my parents will give me such and such punishment if I don’t get an A. 3) I want a D so I can pass the class. I never got B or C or F as an answer. So yes, if you can get the parents motivated, the kids will respond accordingly.

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  4. Aida Prado says:

    I have tried incentivizing my son to bring up his grades with money. My deal was for every A he would bring home he would get $20, B $10, Nothing for a C, I would deduct $10 for every D, and I would deduct $20 for every F. The first nine week term was successful with my son earning $60. He had earned one A, four B’s, and one C. It seemed though that after that my son lost interest and his grades slipped. Mind you he is not failing but most of his grades are C’s and occasional B’s. Now just so you can have all the facts I am very involved as a parent and help my son everyday with school work/projects.

    I have no idea as to why he is not motivated to get this money I am offering him. It very well may be that he is 14 and more into getting a girls attention versus being a great student. He is also an only child. We are lower middle class, but we are getting by pretty well. I have do not know what else to try right now. All his teachers tell me that when he applies himself he is a straight A student. It may very well be a stage, at least that is what I am hoping for. He also has consequences for dropped grades but he does not seem to care.

    In this particular case if someone gave me a cash incentive to help get my son’s grades up, I don’t know if there is anything else I could do. I was already trying to do everything in my power to help him pick up his grades. A parent can do all they can for their child but at the end of the day the child has to be the one to decide to succeed to the best of their potential.

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    • Voice of Reason says:

      Maybe you could try a scared straight program with your son:

      Take him around a really ghetto disgusting looking neighborhood in the inner city, and a really lame white trash trailer park, and let him know that this is the lifestyle that you can expect by getting C’s and D’s.

      Then take him to really awesome areas where people are rich and having fun, wearing suits, drinking, smoking cigars, and getting with really hot women and let him know that this is what happens when you get really good grades.

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  5. Renato says:

    I don’t live in GA but to my best understanding, isn’t this how the Hope Scholarship works? College at UGA is paid for if your kid gets a B average. Apparently there is some gaming that occurs between teachers and parents. All hearsay but worth studying.

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  6. Adrian Meli says:

    Have not heard this idea before-can imagine a lot of unintended consequences!

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  7. Rodrigo Augusto says:

    I’m a Brazilian teacher, and we have a national programa gere tua tis very similar to This idea, but situação One huge diference: the goverment pays some money to the parents to keep their children going to school. As a professional in the area i assure you : its not working… The name of the project is Bolsa Familia . You guys shout take a look at it. Cheers from Brazil!

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  8. Tovet says:

    Parents really shouldn’t be paid. To me, that’s kind of selfish of the parent. It means that the child’s success is the parent’s success? SO NOT RIGHT!

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