United States of Motherhood: Homework and Rewarding Good Grades?!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Homework and Rewarding Good Grades?!

Both my boys had interesting homework this week.

First up was Eldest' task to make an edible cell--entirely edible. Ah chocolate frosting nuclei, jello as cytoplasm, sprinkles ribosomes, and licorice Googli bodies:

Then came Li'l Man's geometric shapes homework. He made some pretty fantastical shapes all by himself:

While both projects charmed the boys, there seems to be a theme of late of bribing the kids with sweets to hold their interest.

Did I mention in the same Science class, Eldest replicated the earth's crust with PB & J with candy and marshmallows last trimester?

And that his Language Arts class has a teacher-directed basketball pool with candy reward for every won match up?

Or that everyone school wide receives a root beer float at school for making it on the honor roll at lunchtime? Every trimester?

Or that the bus driver frequently gives out candy for good-behavior.

Speaking of honor roll, Eldest rocked his grades this trimester-- 3 A's and 3 A-'s. He mentioned hopefully that his friends were getting money, treats/desserts,and/or gifts for their report card.

This really irritated me. I asked him why? What ever happened to pride in accomplishment? He went from a great trimester last time to outstanding. Why not be happy with that?! Aren't the A's the reward?!

Why do kids need bribes for getting good grades? We are cheapening their pride and making them expect more. A pat on the back should be enough. What are they going to expect in high school?

And college? Hopefully, a well-paying job, but maybe they'll expect a car from the parents if this keeps escalating.

Does anyone else see a problem with all these sweets to bribe for learning and cash flowing to compensate hard work?

Right now, Eldest feels like he's being punished because he's getting better grades, but less rewards from us.


Amelia said...


That homework looks like it's for parents. How do kids manage who don't have parents prepared to help them with this stuff and buy the ingredients and what have you? Must be tough for them. :(

Dana said...

Well, we don't do money for grades, nor do we do money for chores. There is an expectation of contribution in our family. As a child, your primary function is to get good grades. It isn't hoped for and no bribes are given - it is expected. Chores? Well, there are things that need to be done in this house and each of us contribute to the family working together as a whole. No one will pay you to load the dishwasher when you are 25 and no one will pay you to load the dishwasher when you are 12.

Scout's Honor said...

Amelia: Yes, definitely homework for parents, and since it was assigned while I was sick, there I was helping him late the evening the night before it was due. Now I'm busy sewing a full, long-skirted, puffy sleeved, pinafored, bonneted outfit for my daughter to wear for her third grade pioneer days. The kids get 5 points a day for being in costume. Hmmm.... Sounds like the parents get 5 points which in our community of helicopter parents is par for the course.

Dana: Totally agree. Our kids have chores that are just expected as part of being a member of our family. I do pay extra for heinous chores like scooping dog poop--but only if it is done regularly--which it isn't. sigh. And Eldest is still working off that $67 extra cell phone bill when he went on a shopping spree of ringtones, texting, and games. He gets paid $5 per dog wash or extra menial chore. Still owes me $47. It's slow going when the kid is always busy with silly jello projects and swim practice.

Leslie said...

Yes, I think handing out candy and cash for doing what is expected is a problem. If kids get a reward for doing what they're supposed to, then to challenge them further, the rewards have to get bigger and bigger, and it just denigrates the work.

Great job on those school projects, though. They're very creative.

Whit said...

I'll probably reward my kids, only because I'm a believer in rewarding good behavior over punishing bad.

Amelia said...


I always rather hoped Mr. Honey enjoyed punishing bad behavior.

Sigh. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled on here from the internet.

Just want to say that you are an amazing mother. I am jealous of the attention, education & love your kids recieve everyday. They are going to grow up to become very successful human beings.

When I get married, I'd like my wife to be a mother as good as you.

JamaGenie said...

Definitely "NO!" to teachers/schools rewarding grades with sweets when so many kids are already overweight.

But in our house, a C or below on the grade card meant automatic grounding for 9 weeks until the next grade card came out. Instead of a reward for doing what he/she was expected to do anyway, they learned slacking off has unpleasant consequences. Proud to say this punishment only had to be invoked twice. ;D

Sheila said...

I don't think bribery ultimately works. You reinforce the idea that whatever they're doing has no intrinsic value and isn't fulfilling. Not a good thing when it comes to hard work!

I wrote a column about this very thing a while ago. Read it here.


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