How Much for an A+?
Grownups get rewards for well-done work — employees receive year-end performance bonuses, raises, sometimes even vacations. Shouldn't kids benefit in the same way? They're not equivalent situations, most experts agree. School-aged children should get pleasure from just learning and discovering. They should learn to feel that academic success is the result of hard work and that there's a reward in the work. But that doesn't mean you should never reward or praise them.
Here are some tips on how to recognize your child's efforts:
- Be spontaneous: Kids who are aware of grade-incentives lose interest in the task twice as fast as those who didn't know a reward was coming. So have dinner out to celebrate a good report card or the completion of a tough project. But don't promise it in advance — and don't do it for every success.
- Praise effort, concentration, and hard work: Make a point of emphasizing (and celebrating) progress over absolutes: The child who pulls up a C to a B probably worked as hard, or harder, than the one who coasts to an A every time.
- Teach your children that their brains will get stronger and work better the more they use and challenge them — just like their muscles.
- De-emphasize grades: Students who focus on grades tend to lose interest in learning for education's sake. Instead, note your child's efficient use of her time, praise her careful preparation for a test, or commend her for putting all her work away when she finished it. Together these are all tasks that make her a better student. Help her see that while grades do still matter (for college admission, for example), it's education that will really fuel her long-term success.
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