My son loves report card day. Not because he’s on some early waiting list for MENSA (though he is smart as hell), but because he knows that report card day is damn near like Christmas. Thanks to my father and sister-in-law, good grades have become synonymous with new toys. Making the honor roll means being able to walk into the store and pick out anything he wants. Though his picks are usually within reason, you figure report cards are three times a year, plus the miscellaneous gift for a score of 100 on an exam. Justin brought home all “A”s, so you could just see his eyes light up as he rubbed his hands together.

So I guess I wonder, when do you cross the line from bribing and giving incentive… to straight up bribing your kids? When I was growing up, I never got toys or money for good grades. I had to be happy with a pat on the head and “keep it up” from my Dad. Which sucks in a way cause I was dang near a straight-A student through most of elementary school and would have caked off! But oh well.

Dr. Virginia Shiller, a clinical psychologist and author of Rewards for Kids, ( recommends that parents reward their children for short-term (e.g., grades on a project or test) rather than long-term progress (e.g., end of semester report cards). In doing so, parents turn the focus to those small things, like effective study skills, that will have lifelong benefits to the child.

Dr. Shiller also suggests using incentives other than cash and material items. For example, consider planning a special trip or allowing your child to have a friend sleep over. Or maybe they get to sleepover at a friend’s house and you get a night off – Win/Win!

If your kid needs a little more incentive to do well in school, you can always use the Cosby method:

Looks like Justin’s been doing pretty well since starting first grade!

Justin’s a good kid – the biggest reward of all is not being these kids!

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