Motivation for Good Grades

By: Jodie Lynn

"It's not fair! All our friends get paid for good grades. Jeff gets $15.00 for each A!" How many times have parents heard this complaint? Sorry ... in my household, we don't pay for any type of grades.

I'm proud to say, so far, everyone has kept on the honor roll and is now motivated to keep up the good grades without money. Here's a few hints:

Push up their self-esteem for making the grade by using incentives and encouragement!

A night out

Reward with a special night out at a favorite restaurant of your child's choice. Write the names of suggested restaurants on slips of paper. Place in a bowl, shake, and let them each draw one out. The kids have to vote on the winner. We now have Planet Hollywood in our neighborhood, and of course everyone wanted to go ... before we knew it, Hard Rock Cafe also rolled into town. In our family, these are perfect examples of: "We'd like to go -- but the crowds and prices are a bit much!" So the prospect of dining at one or the other was a big incentive for the kids. In fact, they came to us with the names of the restaurants on slips of papers -- before report cards were due!

The allure of the silver screen

Choose a movie to go see. Vote on a current movie or, if you have two or more children, let each child pick out one each week until each one has had a chance to go to the flick of their pick. My children are responsible for their own homework. Can't believe it? It's true! By the time your child is in the fifth grade, it's time to let them taste responsibility -- mistakes and all. But it's the reports and article assignments that they need encouragement on. To ensure a little enthusiasm and "get going" energy, I cut out promo pieces of various movies and hang them on the fridge as a visible incentive. After the report is completed, the movie picture is taken down and the report is hung up in its place. Honest: We don't go to the movies very often, so this is really a special treat!

Toot their horn!

Make copies of report cards! Send out the copies to relatives: grandparents, cousins, friends, etc. Everyone loves to see what wonderful progress the kids are making and how successful they've become. For older kids, add in groovy phrases; i.e., "way too cool," "awesome grades," "de-bomb," etc. For younger children, paste or tape copy of report cards onto a piece of bright construction paper and place inside a frame. Buy the frames at the dollar stores to keep cost down. This is a grand self-motivator to the kids as each relative calls and talks with them about their accomplishments. One pair of grandparents sends a special card in the mail to each child -- no matter what the results of the grades.

Or let the proud kids call grandparents and other relatives as soon as possible so that they can personally tell significant others about their grades. This encourages them to want to make good grades for themselves -- and it promotes self-esteem.

A star in their own home

Hang your own copy on the fridge! Think the kids don't like this? Think again! I now have younger and older children -- and they all love it! Sometimes of course this can egg on a competition -- which isn't all that bad, as long as it stays healthy. Respect your children's individuality; and as long as each child is proud of his or her A, B, or C grade, be proud yourself as well. So you have a child who tries his hardest in tough subjects -- and still comes out with a lower grade? It's not the end of the world. Offer to help him with his chores to allow extra studying time in the troublesome area.

Small signs of encouragement

Tell them they should be proud of themselves! Smile and give the "thumbs-up" sign! This combination will say more than a thousand words. While teaching school, you'd be surprised how many kids had no idea what I was doing when I displayed this small symbol of encouragement. During conference time, I tried to explain why we needed to get this back into our families. OK, you caught me ... yes -- I think kids get way too many "things" these days. From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely think parents need to think simple is better. The more we give -- the more they'll expect and want. When will it end? It won't! (Especially in the cash department.)

A quiet moment

Praise each specific subject. Talk about each subject in a private moment with each child. If there's an area that seems to be a little weak, consider looking for a way to help out. When my oldest son's grades were taking a nose dive in Spanish, we found a high schooler to meet with him and tutor him. This not only pulled his grade back up -- but he made a new friend who could answer to other "teen stuff" concerns.

Eye on the future

With older kids or teens, you might want to explain how the colleges will be looking at these grades. Take a trip to a local college and introduce your kids to a counselor or specific professor who will tell them how the college interprets grades and why they are so important. One of my children is interested in writing. We allowed him to attend a weekend field trip to a local college in the journalism department, where he learned many new and exciting things. The professor encouraged the kids to ask questions, and of course they asked him about money. He told them a few stories and then ended with: "Writing and reporting is a very competitive area. That's why it's good to make extra efforts to ensure achieving the best grades possible."

Need I say more?

The power of a hug

Give plenty of hugs -- teens included! Parents often incorrectly assume teens are getting too big for a hug, when in fact they may miss them. While volunteering at school one day, I asked a group of teens what was it they wished their parents would do more often. One very shy guy admitted that his parents had stopped hugging, and he missed it. The others piped up and agreed. Don't let their size fool you! Even if they say, "Oh Mom, I wish you'd stop hugging me," they're probably not implying, "Don't ever do it again."

After you go through this list, other special activities may become clear to you. Be creative about your own family ideas -- and be positive! Sing, clap, and yell for all of their hard work! You are building your child's pride while enhancing your own self-esteem. After all, when you see your parenting has helped your child grow in his abilities and self-confidence, you can't help but be proud: Positive thoughts generate positive actions. Remember -- parenting is tough, so don't forget the humor!

© 2004 Jodie Lynn

Jodie Lynn is an internationally syndicated parenting/family columnist. Her latest book is Mommy-CEO: 5 Golden Rules (It's not just for moms!) Please see for more details and check out new Mommy-CEO hoodies, caps, calendars, etc.- items for the real CEOs!

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