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Parents: Here's Why You Shouldn't Pay Your Kids for Good Grades

By Motley Fool Staff – May 28, 2018 at 11:30AM

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Beth Kobliner, author of "Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You're Not),” reveals five common ways that our instincts lead us to teach our children the wrong lessons about money.

Many times in parenting, we are given a single piece of advice, though it may be phrased in a variety of ways: "Go with your instinct." "Trust your gut." "You'll know in your heart what to do." The problem, sadly, is that quite a few of those instincts are way off base when it comes to matters of money. What we really need is to know when we should stop trusting our intuition.

So, for this episode of the Motley Fool Answers podcast, Robert Brokamp and Alison Southwick invited New York Times best-selling author Beth Kobliner into the studio to give all the moms and dads in the audience some great tips on how to raise financially savvy offspring -- specifically, tips that run counter to what your first instincts might be.

In this segment, she explains why money is the wrong way to motivate children to bring home good report cards. And the pitfall here is not the one that you might expect.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on May 15, 2018.

Robert Brokamp: The third flawed instinct is "paying my kid for a good report card is the best motivator."

Beth Kobliner: I thought this was interesting, because the Association of CPAs did a poll that found that 50% of parents say they give their kids money for good grades. Have you guys ever done that?

Alison Southwick: I got money for good grades growing up.

Kobliner: You did?

Brokamp: We sporadically reward them, especially at the end of the year. But we try not to tie it too closely because in any given year one kid is doing better than the other with curriculum.

Kobliner: Right. "Oh, you paid him $100!" There's this great professor who I've met with a couple of times. His name is Roland Fryer from Harvard. He's awesome. He did these randomized, controlled studies on does it work? And the answer is it doesn't really improve grades at all. It doesn't improve test scores. What you're doing is taking away, to some extent, that internal motivation of kids wanting to do well.

My guess, Alison, is you wanted to do well. You did well, but do you think you were doing it for the money?

Southwick: No, I don't think so. I remember I got $4 for an A and then I don't remember what I got for any other grades, because I never got any other grades. No! But I imagine it would have been stepped down, so like $3 for an A and $3 for a B. And the difference between $1 [between an A and a B] isn't going to make a huge difference, but my family didn't do an allowance, like you're saying, so that was really my only moneymaker as a kid, was a good grade. I was internally motivated to succeed...

Kobliner: Sounds like it.

Southwick: ... but I would not have turned away from that money. I wouldn't have turned it down.

Kobliner: It's interesting. Of course, here are these studies, but every family is different. Some parents say, "Oh, I do pay my kids for chores and that works great." If that works for you and it's not a stressful thing, then no problem. But it was interesting to know that these studies showed it didn't really work. And to me it made it kind of clear, just like with chores. When you're paying kids for things that you ultimately want them to do as part of responsibility, or as part of being a good student because you know that will help you in life, then the external motivation of money probably won't really do it for the long haul.

Southwick: It didn't put me over the edge, necessarily.

Kobliner: Exactly.

Southwick: I would have done it anyway.

Kobliner: Exactly. Get an A+. If you got $10, then we're talking.

Southwick: Well, maybe.

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