When money is used to reward children for activities that should have inherent value, they tend to lose interest in the activity as well as long-term motivation. Also, monetary reward can reduce creativity and encourage unethical behavior such as cheating.
There is an exception. When a task is repetitive, boring and doesn’t require creativity, such as pulling weeds or vacuuming, then paying money can increase productivity (although paying for chores is another topic.)
Giving a child money for good grades reduces the child’s sense of achievement and ownership. Money becomes the motivation — not learning, meeting the challenges of school, or improving oneself.
Three Elements to Motivation
In his book “Drive,” Daniel Pink shows that there are three primary elements to motivation in all but the most repetitious monotonous work: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
1. Autonomy: Allowing people maximal autonomy in figuring out how, when and with whom to accomplish their work increases inventiveness and performance.
2. Mastery: Mastery is approached through engagement, effort and practice.
3. Purpose: Inspiration is personally acquired; it can’t be supplied by other people, though it can be diminished. When people find a purpose greater than their own self-interest, their drive intensifies.
When your child gets good grades, the learning and the grades themselves are generally reward enough. Much of the purpose of schoolwork is to teach a child how to plan, analyze, and think creatively. Schoolwork also teaches two of the most important keys to a fulfilling and happy life:
– the ability to delay gratification and
– the ability to tolerate frustration.
Schoolwork should convey knowledge and encourage children to set goals and achieve them. The inherent appeal of learning and achieving goals are undermined when the purpose of schoolwork becomes making money. In contrast, achieving good grades without being paid for them allows children to have ownership over their accomplishments and to feel pride in their own autonomy.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD