For most kids, the start of the summer break begins with an end-of-term report. Though the focus is on the kids, the reports are addressed to the parents, and most diligent mothers and fathers feel they should respond to the grades and comments contained within these report cards. Yet what is the most effective way to bolster good grades, and improve bad ones, and nurture lifelong learning? RoosterMoney has dug into some recent research, to guide you through the different ways to respond to those report cards.

💯 Don’t always pay big for grades, at least not for young kids

It might seem natural to give a child a big boost for a good grade, and maybe even withhold cash for bad marks, but think twice before you ping that pocket money across. There is lots of sound psychological research that suggests paying huge rewards in return for high grades doesn’t work too well. 

You see, some psychologists like to divide kids’ interest in learning into a couple of different types: intrinsic motivation, or a natural curiosity when it comes to, say, reading or science; and extrinsic motivation, or an interest in completing a task just to get a reward.

Intrinsic motivation is strong quite early in children, while extrinsic motivation often takes longer to develop. Plenty of academic studies have indicated that intrinsic motivation works better than extrinsic motivation, and, in some instances, while rewards may boost a child’s motivation in the short term, it can actually damage intrinsic motivation in the long term.

🕵️‍♂️ Go for rewards that support their natural curiosity.

While shooting over some cash might seem like the easiest solution to grade boosting, there are ways to nurture a natural love of learning.  Dr Sarah McGeown, Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology, at the University of Edinburgh believes recreational reading can boost intrinsic motivation, though the kids have to be into the books, and shouldn’t have titles forced on them. Maybe create a Books Pot in Rooster Money where you can set aside money for your child to spend on books they like. Remember, it can be anything, from William Shakespeare to Marvel Comics?

👩‍🏫 Talk about the subjects they don’t like

We all understand the need for a decent education, but school kids might find it harder to figure out why they have to work away at subjects they dislike so much. Rather than dismiss your child’s dislike of school, talk to them about what they don’t enjoy, and perhaps find ways to demonstrate learning’s advantages.  “Students who find learning important, even if they don’t enjoy it, will bring about the same kind of positive outcomes as you see with those with high intrinsic motivation,” argues Frederic Guay, Professor of Education at Laval University in Canada and an expert on motivation and wellbeing. 

💪 Reward the effort, not the grade

We might think of grades as the one thing to aim for, but acknowledging and supporting a child’s hard work and consistent interest might be just as important. If your son or daughter has tried particularly hard at a subject they find difficult, or feels they have truly triumphed in a particular class, it might be wiser to give them a boost for this, rather than wait until the report comes.

🏁 Think of the end of year report as a new beginning.

School reports will often indicate a student’s level of engagement and effort, as well as their end-of-term grades. The ‘A’s get parents’ attention, but the other information might be more important. A sense of support and nurturing environment, alongside a space to develop and a feeling of self control, all contribute towards good learning outcomes. The summer break might well be a good time to get into a new field of interest, such as stargazing or bug collecting, vegetable growing or ancient history. Maybe set aside a special Pot in RoosterMoney for fun learning, and discover a smart, new enthusiasm together.

If the kids are older, and the subjects are harder, paying for grades might work a little better. 

Finally, if your children are approaching the end of their school days, or are studying tough subjects which may not pique their natural curiosity, a simple reward might be the way to go, regardless of end-of-term reports. You’re unlikely to simply buy grades, but it might be a good way to give them an extra push, if everything else is in place.

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