Grown-ups get rewards for well-done work — employees receive year-end performance bonuses, raises, sometimes even vacations. Shouldn't your kids benefit in the same ways? 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 a C up 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.